Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Gospel According to Nemo

This is really more of a "sermon appetizer" as it is likely material for an upcoming sermon (September). These thoughts came together while reading a book, so I thought I'd throw them into a slideshow which I can watch later when it's time for sermon research.

Monday, July 20, 2015

How Should Christians Respond To The New Rules About Marriage?

 I wrote this post the day the Supreme Court ruled regarding marriage. I didn't publish it until now because I didn't want to be part of the massive rush of people using the decision as click-bait. Over the coming weeks, I may post more of my thoughts on marriage, the supreme court and the Christian life in America.

You can no longer live with your head in the sand. The Supreme Court has ruled that American marriage can now mean two people of the same gender contracting with one another for life.

As Ayn Rand said, "You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality."

Reality is that marriage, as defined by our government, is no longer what it once was. It is broader and more inclusive than many ever thought it would be. Is this a quantum shift in the life of the church? What does it mean?

  • Will pastors be mandated to perform homosexual weddings?
  • Is the tax-exempt status long enjoyed by churches at risk?
  • Can churches be sued for denying membership or leadership positions to those in same-sex marriages?
  • Are people going to flood out of churches that are viewed as less inclusive?

My suggestion is that it doesn't matter. You should be informed and you should be aware because this is the culture in which you live. But this decision by the SCOTUS shouldn't change anything about what you do.


If you performed same-sex marriage ceremonies before, keep performing them. If you didn't, don't start.

If your membership was open to those who were in homosexual marriages, leave it open. If it wasn't , don't open it now.

If your leadership positions were filled by some with gay spouses, allow them to continue. If they weren't, don't fill them now.

I can only assume that any decision your church made regarding gay marriage was made after intense prayer, study of Scripture, and seeking the counsel of many you consider trustworthy. Whatever conclusion you reached is no less valid because of a ruling by the government, regardless of whether that ruling affirmed or contradicted your position.

One of two biblical passages is applicable to you today:

Romans 13:1-7 says:
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."


In Acts 5:29, Peter told the rulers in Jerusalem:
“We must obey God rather than human beings!

Whether you are comfortable submitting to the government's definition of marriage or you are convicted to obey God rather than men; you should be convinced in your own mind that you are remaining faithful to God's Word. 

If your position has changed because the government says it should, you never had a biblical position.
If your position has changed because your friends say it should, you never had a biblical position. 
If your position has changed because your family says it should, you never had a biblical position. 
If your position has changed because anyone other than God says it should, you never had a biblical position.

So, now that the Supreme Court has ruled, how should the church think about and talk about gay marriage? Exactly how you thought about and talked about gay marriage before the Supreme Court ruled.


Addendum: It's possible that you haven't had these conversations or addressed this issue before. Now you must. But don't reach a conclusion because it's convenient or popular among your parishioners. Do the work, spend time in prayer and find a conviction that you can hold when standing in the presence of the Almighty God (otherwise, it's not much of a conviction is it?)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Real Question About Planned Parenthood's Disturbing Harvest

Posted this on Facebook today. I may park it here for a couple days but it might not be a permanent post. 

I'm going to wait and see how this Planned Parenthood thing plays out. It may not be as bad as it looks, or it might be worse. We'll see. 

However, the idea of it got me thinking today.  Assuming that virtually everyone is troubled by the idea of a black market for "baby parts".  I imagine even the most ardent pro-choice people are disturbed by this rumor. 

I have a serious question, though. If you are pro-choice and this bothers you, why? I won't assume to know your assumptions, but it seems to me that some rational inconsistencies exist for those who would abort a fetus but be opposed to selling it. Please help me out. 

(Of course if your discomfort with this story is based on your opposition to capitalism, no need to explain; you're being perfectly consistent)

See the disturbing video here. http://youtu.be/jjxwVuozMnU

Don't Be Stupid!

"Stupid is as stupid does."
People aren't stupid because they look stupid or sound stupid. Someone who is different or unique isn't necessarily stupid. It's impossible to know if someone is stupid without knowing how they act. Stupid people are those who do stupid things.
Perhaps it's not even appropriate to say someone is a stupid person. Maybe it's better to simply say, some people do stupid things. Even the Bible says this!
Proverbs 12:1 says, "To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction."
When was the last time someone corrected you? How did you respond? If left to ourselves, most of us would reject or avoid correction. Why do we dislike correction so much?
  • Sometimes we hate correction because we don't want anyone to say anything bad about the people we love, and most of us love ourselves more than anyone else.
  • Sometimes we hate correction because it hits too close to home. We all have dark parts of our life that we try to hide from everyone around us. When someone corrects us, we wonder if maybe they have seen our dark side and so we avoid them so they won't see more.
  • Sometimes we hate correction because we hate the person giving it. Everyone is messed up, right? So why should anyone have the right to tell me how I am messed up?
  • Sometimes we hate correction because we don't believe it. We tend to think the worst about our enemies and the best about ourselves. As a result, we have a hard time believing those who might see parts of us that need correction.
When we hate correction or avoid it, we are acting stupid.
It is stupid to hate or avoid correction
The Benefits of Correction
Correction is one of those things that doesn't feel great at the time, but is still good for you. Embracing correction is one of the first steps we can take if we want to walk the path that leads to life.
We understand the value of correction in other areas of life. Health requires correction. You go to a doctor, take medicine, work out with a trainer all to correct your body and keep yourself healthy. In sports, winning requires correction. The best coaches correct the technique of individual players and the tactics of the team. Teams and players who accept correction are winners.
Receiving correction well is the first step to improvement in all areas of life.

How to Receive Correction

Below are 7 ideas to consider the next time someone corrects you. Following this process when receiving correction can enable you to make the best of correction. Even when part or all of the correction may be wrong.
Graciously
Your response should be a gift the person is glad to receive. Regardless of a person's intentions or accuracy, if you graciously listen when they offer correction, you will set yourself up for improvement. Even if your improvement is simply learning to be more gracious.
Humbly
Recognize and confront your pride before it seizes control. When corrected, the most natural response is often to interrupt or respond in anger. Why? Because we are full of pride. When God confronted Cain about his inappropriate offering, He warned him, "if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master." Beware of your pride! It will control you and keep you from receiving helpful correction.
Peacefully
Avoid the urge to counter-attack. No matter how you feel, one-upping someone only escalates the tension.
Openly
Choose not to be defensive or make excuses. The correction you are receiving might be way off... or it might be spot on. You'll never know if you close yourself to the truth by being defensive and making excuses
Honestly
S Search for the truth. The correction you receive might be 99% wrong. There might be only a sliver of truth in it. If you want to grow, you'll dig through the junk to find the diamond!
Evenly
Accept your guilt; avoid your shame. Don't despair because someone corrected you. Find the balance. Guilt is saying, "I've done something wrong." Guilt is helpful because it reminds us of our need for God and our need for a savior. Shame is saying, "I am something wrong." This is a lie (guilt comes from the Holy Spirit; shame comes from the devil). No matter how many wrong things you have done, you are made in God's image. You have great worth as a person. You are so important that Jesus was willing to die for you to free you from your guilt!
Actively
Do something about it. Once you've received correction. Once you've considered it. Once you've found the truth. CHANGE WHAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED!
If you're a goal setter, set a goal (list-maker. add to list)
If you're a journaler, write about it
If you're a reader, find a book that will help you
If you prefer accountability, talk to your accountability partners about it
JUST DO IT!

Seek out correction

If you really want to grow, try this. Find someone you know and trust and ask them one of the following questions:
  • "What changes could I make in my life that would make me more like Christ?"
  • "What is one thing I could do differently that would make me a better person?"

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Church Is A Team Sport (A Collection of Quotes)


Several years ago, I came across a book called Church is a Team Sport. Written by Jim Putman, it was essentially a mashup of church philosophy and ministry memoirs. I didn't finish it, because it slowed a bit in the middle, but I really enjoyed the beginning.
(I've noticed over time that many books start great, but fizzle in the middle and at the end. I think it's because the author puts their great idea out there, explains it and then has to create enough filler stuff to get the publishing houses to bite. Like sermons, books should be short and to the point. That said, it could also be a me-problem. Maybe I just have too short an attention span)
I wrote down some of my favorite quotes from the book, and recently came across them. I'm always interested in thinking about how to be a better team builder, so I re-read them. I figured you might enjoy some of these also:
  • "When I speak of church, I mean a body of believers working as individuals and together as a team to achieve the Lord's goals."
  • "some say, 'Well then, a small group can be a church.' I agree, it can be, but a lot of small groups working together with accountability, organization, and good coaching can do more for the kingdom than one small group can. A team of focused and organized people in a local area can do something together for and with God that could not be done as individuals or even as a small group."
  • "Either Jesus is a liar because the gates of hell are prevailing against the church. Or...the church that is being prevailed against isn't Jesus' church at all. Jesus did not promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against a church but that it would not be able to stop His church."
  • "As a result of a pastor's 'show' mentality, many Christians have come to believe their job is to attend the show."
  • "When the paid-player mentality guides the church, everything becomes a show... So the answer is to pay big money for franchise players who will give a great performance that will draw the thousands of kids and youth in their area. They scour the land to steal a great player from another team, while their best players are being scouted as well."
  • "if you love your people and help them grow in their relationship with Jesus and help them find relationships with others on your team, people will put up with less because they know they are loved."
  • "God's idea of a coach is one who creates a system that develops people into great players."
  • "A pastor can't do everything, but his responsibility is to make sure all the positions on the team are filled."
  • "Churches often have stated goals but behaviors that circumvent or work against them. For instance, we might say we want to reach the world, but we do things that keep us from being in contact with the world we want to reach. We plan an outreach, but it is really designed to attract people who already think like us (other believers). We don't know how to relate to lost folks, so we pray and expect that God will bring them to us."
  • "Remember the church grows by word of mouth. No one will bring people to something that will embarrass them."
  • "To create an effective environment, you have to break down every part of what you do and ask some important questions: Is this biblical? Will this move someone to where we want to take them next? Is this as relational as we can make it? Is this relevant and applicable to life? The answers to these questions depend on your target audience."
If you want to read the whole book, it's available on Amazon. Click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

11 Surefire Principles To Help You Seize The Day

A checklist can never guarantee a successful life. Too many unexpected things can happen. However, a set of principles by which you live can go a long way in helping you make the most of cards you are dealt. The following principles are all ACTIONS you should take every day. They are based on true statements about the nature of life. Live out these principles to take responsibility and seize control of your own life.

  • Your decisions have consequences. Don't be impulsive.
  • Danger exists. Think before you act.
  • You cannot control some things. Relax.
  • You can control some things. Work hard.
  • You don't have all the answers. Listen to others.
  • You cannot solve everything today. Be patient.
  • You need to solve some things today. Be decisive.
  • It's okay to be afraid. Don't let fear stop you.
  • It's okay to have regrets. Don't let regrets hold you back.
  • You don't need everything you want. Learn contentment.
  • Be grateful. Treat everyone with respect. Give more than you get.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Don't Be Stupid: Embrace Correction


Don't Be Stupid. Allow people to correct you.
“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:7,8)
What is your first reaction when someone suggests you have done something wrong? Do you argue? Become defensive? Pout? Or do you give them a hug?
It is very difficult to respond well to a person who corrects you. Even if we know they love us (and if we know they are right), it still hurts to feel we don’t measure up. Ironically, most of us regularly acknowledge that we are sinful people who have missed the mark God set for us. Yet, for some reason we are often more sensitive to the suggestion that we fall short of other’s standards than we are about falling short of the God's standard.
The Mocker
Four main characters play the starring roles in the book of Proverbs. The wise man, the simple man, the fool, and the mocker are symbolic figures who serve as representatives of different types of people and/or four behaviors to which we all are prone. Of these four, the mocker is the “villain”. According to Proverbs, the mocker should be punished, ignored, and “driven out”. One verse even suggests that God laughs at the proud mocker. Of all the wicked characters in the Bible, the mocker is one of the worst.
In Proverbs 9, the mocker is identified by his reaction to correction. His response is violent. He insults, abuses, and hates anyone who suggests he has done something wrong. Proverbs doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of the mocker, but it might be a fairly accurate picture of our response to correction.

Criticism

No one likes to be criticized. No one likes to be confronted. No one ever wants to be told they are not good enough or that they have missed he mark. However, our response to criticism (even when it may not be warranted), is a demonstration of our wisdom or lack thereof. Criticism is, then, an opportunity for growth; but only if we choose to use it well.

The Wise Man

It’s actually very simple. Love the people who criticize you. Welcome correction. Allow confrontation to shape you not to anger you. View criticism as a growth stimulant. Choose to appreciate those who correct you.
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1)
Reacting in anger to those who confront you is stupid. Don’t be stupid.