Thursday, December 19, 2013

When Actual Sin Meets Real Love

Why do we expect others to have the same exact ideas of morality as we do? 
Why are we surprised when a person who believes something different than us makes decisions that we don’t agree with? 

If we believe that what we stand for is the best way to go through life, what are we doing to try to convince others of this? 
  • Get angry when their actions are different? 
  • Make broad statements about their actions without addressing their belief system? 
  • Sit in our cozy holy huddle and thank God we are not like them?
  • Love them with the love of Jesus, never compromising truth, knowing that God, not us, is the one what changes hearts and minds?

I vote for the last one and my guess would be that Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty would to.  Mr. Robertson was recently fired by the A&E Network for stating his view that homosexuality is sin.  Though his choice of words could have been better, his words, when taken in context of the whole article, make two things very clear about his beliefs:
1.     ALL sin is wrong, whether it’s homosexuality, bestiality, or adultery.
2.     All people deserve to be loved and cared for and spoken to with honesty.

Here’s where a little biblical clarification needs to happen.  God does not equate sin with someone who has homosexual leanings – temptation is not the same as sin.  Rather, just like any desire that I might have to lie on my taxes or watch pornography, the desire to be with someone of the same sex is not a sin until you act on it.  Allow the Bible to explain this (from James 1:13-15):
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

When desire turns to action, whether mental action or physical action, we have crossed that line, said, “NO!” to God, and chosen to go our own way, which leads to death.  If you don’t care how the Bible defines sin that is your right.  At the same time, your belief doesn’t change what God thinks of sin, plus your belief communicates who your authority really is.

A&E had a perfectly legitimate case for doing what they’re doing.  If their authority is public opinion and money, then they should act accordingly.  Similarly, who or what our authority is will drive what we do.  What we do DOES affect others, no matter how we’ve chosen to spin it.  How we’ve chosen to spin it reveals where our loyalty lies.

Where is your loyalty?  Where do you get your right and wrong from?  What is sin and is it a big deal?  We need to each land somewhere.  Phil Robertson has landed somewhere, even if he hasn’t communicated it the way he could have.  The trick is using the whole of Scripture to guide our opinions on issues as well as drive our compassion for people.  This is why I’ll always stand for Jesus, because He did this perfectly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Prepare a Turkey

Preparation is probably the most underappreciated yet invaluable part of a great Thanksgiving celebration.  If you’ve ever been a part of a home anticipating a crowd, especially a crowd expecting a feast, football, and a place to fall asleep, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What I have observed lately, though, is a couple of instances of how to prepare a "turkey" of another sort – that is, a failure or a person that is inept.

Example #1 – My favorite football team, the Denver Broncos, are preparing some of their key players to live in fear.  Rather than trust players like Montee Ball and Trindon Holliday to bounce back, hold on to the ball, and do what they’ve been trained and gifted to do, the coaches decide to go another route.  Rather, because they had fumbled earlier in the game (and, admittedly, have had issues in the past) they put in people with less experience (CJ Anderson) or different roles (Wes Welker).  The result is two-fold – you get less reward on the front end because those aren’t the best at their position AND you put fear as the main motivation for Ball and Holliday.  I believe last night’s game was lost because of an inexperienced Welker NOT calling his teammates off in time.  He wasn’t as much a part of punting practice, he has other roles that he’s concerned about, and he has his former home crowd to deal with as well.  Now, Ball and Holliday are prepared to play in fear of the “one more fumble” that could cost them their job, rather than playing out of a love for the game and a confidence that they are capable of doing their job and doing it well.

Example #2 – One didn’t need to watch the American Music Awards to know that sex would be a theme and outlandishness would be the norm.  When the news programs the next morning use words like “gyrating” and “cybercat” you know the kind of feast our current generation is feeding on.  Current trends of living together, friends with benefits, and the acceptance of “soft porn” into the mainstream is exactly what we have been preparing for the last 40 years or so.  The results are obvious . . . the question is relevant – when will we stop feeding on impulse and start speaking to the heart?  According to history, we won’t, until the results get beyond our control.  Now, we are living in a world where we don’t know how to listen to things that matter or pursue things that are true because we’ve been fed falsities for far too long.

Yesterday, in our little town of 3500, a group of us pastors gathered the community for a Thanksgiving Prayer and Praise Service.  All but one of the churches was involved and an Evangelical pastor (me) was able to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in a Catholic church building.  About 100 people gathered from the different congregations as we tried to prepare them for a Thanksgiving with purpose.  Outside of the reality that Jesus is the only way for us to get to God (see I Timothy 2:5-6), Thanksgiving becomes a time where we just end up eating lots, thanking each other (or no one in particular), and never acknowledging the YOU that we are supposed to be saying THANK YOU to.

Today, we are each preparing for what's next by what we choose to focus on:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Have a GREAT Grateful Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 27, 2013

What Incites You?

Does anything incite you?
Does nothing incite you?
Something incites you!

After reading some comments and articles on the Los Angeles Dodgers' division-winning celebration in the pool at the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I found myself becoming very opinionated and a little peeved.  As with many sports-related issues that I love to read about, write about, and talk with others about, this one can be permanently filed away in the "It doesn't really matter in the long run" file.  We know this, but we still get emotional about many such matters, whether it's sports, politics, morality, or religion.

Since this is my first post since LAST football season, I'll be brief.

Before getting into what truly incites me, allow me to list three rock-solid truths that we must remember:
1.  Life will not go the way you plan.  We can't even predict what will happen in the next hour, let alone planning the rest of our lives.  Is planning good?  Of course . . . count the cost . . . plan ahead . . . live with purpose.  Yet, this truth will help each of us deal with surprises with much less surprise.
2.  Sin is a problem of epidemic proportions.  Not only will things not go as planned, but BAD things will happen through you, to you, and without your help.  Until Jesus returns and rescues those who are His own, we must all be prepared for the worst.
3.  Nobody is better than anybody else.  Ultimately, we are all in the same boat.  We all need rescuing.  Nobody has a right to say, "I deserve eternal life."

Second, let me share what incites me, most of all.  No, not what gets me excited each Sunday afternoon or when I read political articles.  This is something that, ANYTIME I start thinking about it, I feel overwhelmed and want to simply snap my fingers hoping it'll all change.  What incites me most of all is our continued belief and practice that God can be ignored and that we're OK on our own.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you."  James 4:10

  • God's plan will win out.
  • Our sin is paid for by God's only son, Jesus Christ.
  • Each of us need Jesus in order to be saved and live a full life.

Not just for eternity, but in the here and now, learning about, loving, and following Jesus is the only way to deal with whatever incites you.  He will give you perspective and, more importantly, He will give you life that is truly life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Using what you've got

As I ponder what happened to my beloved Denver Broncos (fan since the mid '70's), the name of my blog came to mind:

The Broncos, at least 3 times, left something on the field.  

At the end of each half they left timeouts and more than 30 seconds on the clock.  This was more than enough time for the Atlanta Falcons, the next day, to drive 41 yards (in 11 seconds, by the way) for their game-winning field goal.  Now, work with me here, we've got Peyton Manning (better than Matt Ryan), trying to set up Matt Prater (longer kicker than Matt Bryant) in mile-high altitude with at least two timeouts left.  Then, with a 7 point lead late in the 4th quarter, we had 3rd down and 7 yards to go, we left the 18 million dollar man that can throw 7 yard strikes with his eyes closed to hand off to Jacob Hester "just to be safe."  Yes, Dan Dierdorf, there was somebody else out their scratching his head (and throwing his hat and making a scene).

When it comes to "Leaving it on the field," you've got to use what you've got.  At the end of each game, at the end of each day, and at the end of THE Day, I must be able to say that I've put to use what God has given me for the purposes He's given me.

I get in a funk when I start complaining about all the things I DON'T have - a certain kind of talent or personality, enough time, enough money . . . you get the idea.  Even legitimate complaints (which very few of them are) should not be entertained because it's in God's very capable hands.

The fact remains that God has given each of us a task to do that is much bigger than ourselves.  In order to grab ahold of this task, get the tools to do it, and have a purpose each day of your life, you must trust God's only way to having a relationship with Him - Jesus Christ.  Check out, from Ephesians 1:3,4, what happens to those who trust Him and Him alone:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him.

Now, work with me here, are you (and I) willing to leave all of this great stuff from the Creator of the universe "on the field"?  First, accept Him right now by trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior (see Ephesians 1:7-10 for more info on that).  Then, you can start discovering how to use your God-given talents, personality, even material possessions for Him so that you leave nothing on the field.

If you watched the Denver/Baltimore game on January 12, 2013 the play that will get played over and over again is Denver safety, Rahim Moore, misjudging the flight of the ball and being out of position for the game-tying touchdown near the end of regulation.  Even though he clearly could have done a better job, at least he jumped his highest and seemingly gave it all - more than can be said for whoever decides when and how they should use two timeouts and their greatest tool - Peyton Manning.