Thursday, March 3, 2016

Earning a voice without losing your voice

Where would we be without the right person, at the right time, saying the right thing about a certain wrong behavior.  We can point to William Wilberforce and the slave trade in England or Martin Luther King Jr. and the treatment of African Americans or even Mother Teresa and the treatment of social outcasts.  They, among many others, choose to address and judge culturally acceptable behavior as wrong. 

I will argue that what gave them that voice, is a combination of two things:  Their willingness to EARN that voice through their actions and their foundation being from something much greater than themselves.

Their actions not only prove how deep they believed in their cause, but their actions also go on to prove how ridiculous the cultural norm was that they were fighting against. 

What gave them even more of a voice and what, ultimately, led to great societal change, was the fact that their judgments were based on a higher authority, voiced in the Bible by God Himself.  It’s clear that they were fueled by a higher calling because in each of these cases, they continued doing what they did until they died, without ever seeing much (if any) cultural change.

What is that cultural change that needs to happen today?  We need an accurate, thoughtful, respectful view of homosexuality.  The church, then, needs to be on the forefront of promoting both truth regarding what the Bible says about homosexuality as well as unconditional love and compassion to all people . . . ALL people, because they ALL deserve it.

Yes, I agree, the church has lost its voice because we have NOT faithfully done either of the two aforementioned necessities.  We have not accurately portrayed the truth of Scripture nor have we accurately modeled Christ-like love.
I started this blog in early 2014 and have yet to post it after tweaking it here in May, 2015.  As I continue to revisit this topic and observe how society is handling it, my original premise, which is based on Scripture being the authority, will hold true:  The current societal norm regarding homosexuality will eventually be found out for what it is, a submission to what feels right through the path of least resistance as opposed to a submission to what's right.

Well, now in March, 2016, our country has neither submitted to God's authority nor is even interested in His authority.  We are embracing Presidential candidates who see no need for a personally involved God in any way.  As a church, and as a church leader, we need to wholeheartedly embrace the principles on which the first church was founded:  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name than Jesus, given to man, by which we must be saved (see Acts 4:12).  If you're not a follower of Jesus, I should do all I can to show you Jesus, NOT tell you how far off you are from what I believe or expect you to honor the Word of God.  If you are a follower of Jesus, I should discover, with you, what God's Word says about everything, NOT try to make the Bible say what I think it should say or allow cultural norms to determine correct biblical interpretation.

May we earn our voice the way Jesus did.  As He was approached by a self-righteous rich man who declared his own righteousness, Jesus knew how far he was from the Kingdom.  Yet, Scripture says in Mark 10:21, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him . . . "  There is a compassion and love for those who are "far off" that is missing from the Evangelical community.  By the grace of God, may we capture that and boldly live it out.  At that point, our voice will be heard more and the counter-cultural, life-giving message of Scripture will be heeded. . . only by God's grace.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voting and living . . . mutually exclusive?

It's Super Tuesday, the day after Leap Day, which also means that I get to enjoy another every-fourth-year activity - The Summer Olympics.  What do all of these things have in common besides all happening on the same year?  For our purposes here, they all offer a different view regarding what matters more:

1.  Having the right president.
2.  Showing up respectfully, on the international stage of athletics.
3.  Using our time wisely.

America was founded on principles of government which has checks and balances and has an organization that requires cooperation.  On top of all of that, every single person must do their part in order for America to be what American was meant to be - a truly diverse conglomeration of people all working together to create a place of mutual respect, under the hand of Almighty God.  Even if not everybody believes in God or even the same thing about God, the foundation must be respected, for there is no other foundation on which mutual respect can be built.

First, in full disclosure, I'm not even a citizen, yet.  Born in Canada to Canadian parents, I've lived in America since I was 4 years old and have no plans of leaving.  My convictions, though, are very American, because my wife and six kids are American and I pastor a congregation that votes and lives fully in America.  Mostly, though, I love the fact that we have a pretty good system of voting in leaders fairly often, thus revealing where we're at as a culture.  What do we see as important?  Where do most of this think we should be heading?  Well, we answer these questions by how we vote and, for better or for worse, we have to live with our decisions.  This is where the LIVING and VOTING come in.

Back to voting.  Maybe you have already written me off because I haven't chosen to become a citizen by now.  You have a right to do that, yet my influence on this country, or even in my little part of this country, is not dependent on whether I can vote, whether I vote, or, dare I say, who I vote for.  My influence is dependent on how I prepare those around me  and whether I'm faithful to my God when a friend asks me, as I enter the local coffee shop, "So, Paul, how should a Stearns County Evangelical vote?"

Voting steps to follow:
1. Know what you believe and why.
2. Know the candidates and what they believe.
3. Vote appropriately.

How Christian living intersects with voting:
1.  Be aware of your culture and why people vote how they do.
2.  Love and respect each and every person around you, just as Jesus would.
3.  Submit to the authority that is voted in, even if you didn't vote for them.
4.  Speak of Jesus, often and accurately, even if it turns out to be illegal.

The latter of the two lists, by far, requires the most energy and thought and conversation.

May I submit to you that, even though voting is necessary and important, living out what is behind our voting convictions matters immensely more than even convincing somebody to vote a certain way (or NOT a certain way).

Real change happens beyond simply "liking" our chosen candidate.  It requires living out our convictions, no matter who wins, whether our candidate is all they said they would be, or even whether our belief in Jesus Christ is poo-pooed by most of our country.

Be faithful in your vote.  Don't put much hope in the results.  Our hope is in the Lord.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Everyone Worships . . . But Whom?

Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns, recently made some overgeneralized statements regarding "millenials" and how social media has effected them.  He has received much criticism from, guess who, the sports media which has benefited greatly from the escalation of social media over the past few years . . . hmmmmmm.  But is there some truth to this part of his quote: "But the other thing is, I’m not a fan of social media. I tell my kids it’s like Fantasy Land. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations."?

To be sure, you're asking for criticism when you make sweeping judgements and when you're a rich person that is already viewed as someone who is out of touch with the real world.  Yet, where do the rest of us (meaning those who are NOT filthy rich or even somewhat rich like professional athletes) get our reality from?  One finds out rather quickly on trending search engine sites, news sites, or sports sites what the "real world" wants to pan off as reality (see,, or for examples, which I just did and promptly wasted 15 minutes that I'll never get back :-{).

Webster's 1828 Dictionary (arguably, the purist dictionary around), gives the following as the first two definitions of REALITY:

1. Actual being or existence of any thing; truth; fact; in distinction from mere appearance.

2. Something intrinsically important, not merely matter of show.

It takes research, personal knowledge, or insider information to get to the reality behind what the public sees and perceives about anybody.  All of these things take time and desire, which leads me to one final quote, from Bob Dylan: It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody.

When I spend my time pursuing MY reality, whether it's my job, my favorite team, my next paycheck, or even my family, I am deciding whom, or what, I worship.

When I spend very little (if any) time understanding and pursuing the BIG PICTURE reality of who made this world, who runs it, who owns it, and who is really in charge, I am choosing to ignore REAL reality and choosing to serve MY reality.

In response to Sarver, some ESPN personalities have argued that "millenials" are actually more aware of the world than any other generation because of social media.  What world are they more aware of, though?

The determining factor of how well people handle social media (millenials or not) has more to do with their grasp on REAL reality than their age.  So, I would submit that you make a point of knowing your Creator, the only God, the God of the Bible, the Author or REAL reality.  Yet, you can do what you want, "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served . . . or the gods . . . in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 from The Holy Bible).

Who do you choose this day?  How will you serve?