Monday, June 21, 2010

Dealing with Public Sins

I recently watched a movie called “Hardball” about a guy in Chicago who agrees to coach a little league baseball team for money to pay a gambling debt. The team and league he coaches is in the ghetto of Chicago and because the movie is true to the setting with the language and violence I wouldn’t exactly call it a family movie. And I wasn’t crazy that the main character got out of his gambling debt with one last big gambling win. Gambling is never the answer to get out of gambling. However, in one of the practice scenes he is hitting infield/outfield to the team and one of the players is heckling other players every time they make a mistake. So the coach hits a line-drive at this kid who hits the deck getting out of the way of it. Then the coach says something to the effect of; “He just ducked away from that ball like a sissy and none of you guys have anything to say after the way he laughed at you? From now on, no one says anything negative to another player on this team!” This kid was publicly mocking others and was dealt with in a public manner. He never mocked another teammate I can tell you that!

When it comes to dealing with public sin we can learn a lesson from this story, to a degree. By public sin I mean someone who is living a sinful lifestyle for all the world to see and telling the world that what they are doing is okay. Of course I am talking about those who claim to be followers of Christ but defiantly live in sin justifying it. I am also talking about any sin that is put on public display and touted as the norm and no longer a sin. How do we properly respond to that?

Well with the individual you can try to deal with it privately. Calling them aside and reminding them that what they are doing is in fact not okay with the Scripture or Lord they claim to be a follower of. It they confess, repent, and ask God forgiveness then great, what a victory for the Kingdom! If not and they continue to make a public spectacle of their sin(s) then they must be confronted publicly. Why? Because they are taking this thing public and telling others its okay when its not, and those watching them claim to be okay need to see the truth. Now you need to make sure that if God is calling you to address this publicly that you have your own house in order so no one can accuse you of the whole, speck in your brother’s eye with a plank in your own thing. You must be willing to and have addressed your own shortcomings first.

A recent example of this is a Christian musician who came out of the closet about being a gay and having had a partner for several years. It’s one thing to admit a lifestyle choice but they are trying to promote it as okay with Scripture. They raise the point as to why homosexuality is the one sin the church seems to be harping on. “What separates that sin out from the fact that I am angry or mad at someone?” “Why is that so grievous to you that we have to sit here and have this conversation?” I would answer that and say this sin is being separated out by the homosexual community, not the Church. The homosexual community is trying to convince others that this is no longer a sin, but it is. It always has been and always will be. No one is trying to force the Church to accept angry violence as not a sin. But someone is trying to force this issue, and sadly, some churches have given in on the issue and no longer call it sin. Homosexuality is the example used here, but the message applies to any sin being lived and justified publicly.

The point here is not to publicly humiliate the sinner. But when the sinner takes the discussion onto the public stage it has to be refuted there. We can’t let them lead others astray without sharing the truth. The passage where Jesus says, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” (Matt. 8:1-11) is their favorite to throw at Christians. But, He was talking about physical punishment on this woman who was caught in adultery. He wasn’t talking to people who were just calling adultery sin; they wanted to kill this woman! He simply reminded them that if she deserved death, so did everyone of them. He never disputed what she was doing was a sin. As a-matter-of-fact, He Himself called it sin when He said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t stop them from calling it sin, He stopped them from condemning her; there is a difference.

So the point isn’t to condemn the sinner, but to lovingly call sin what it is and then try to lead the sinner into asking forgiveness, and repenting. But remember, you are only responsible for the stand you take, not the response they make; and to say nothing is to quietly condone it and condoning it is the least loving thing of all to do to a sinner.

Talk to me,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hope He Sees a Wasteland

Have you ever seen a movie where the hero or heroine stands atop some tall structure, I mean really tall and as they look around they see a vast wasteland? If you have, great; if not, maybe I’m just dreaming and if I am then Hollywood needs to pay me for the rights to make my dreams into a movie! That would make a great scene for a movie. Of course there is one minor problem with my ever being a movie writer, most movies seem to have more than one scene! They’re kinda hung-up on that detail.

What if Satan were to one day climb to the top of the tallest building in your town and look around? What would he see? I hope he would see a vast wasteland! Wouldn’t it be cool if someday he looked out over your town and saw a ginormous hole in his kingdom? Because to Satan all that is beautiful, full of life, and righteous is disgusting and offensive. People and places that are restored to a right relationship with God repulse him. True joy, happiness, love, and fulfillment of life are vile things in his eyes which see life and God through distorted and angry lenses. To Satan beauty is death, self-destruction, unhappiness, rebellion, enslavement to unhealthy “freedoms”, and lies that entrap people in sin that keeps them from a relationship with the righteous God. Some say Satan doesn’t love you. I say he loves you; he loves you to be unhappy, restless, hurting, struggling, dieing, fooled, and separated from God and the eternal benefits that come with having a relationship with the Almighty.

Maybe when you saw my comment about what I hope he sees you let-out a (high-pitched and drawn out), “Whaaat?!” But now that you understand how he sees, what do you think? Or how about if God were to look out over your County, what would you hope He sees? The same thing we hope Satan sees! Beauty, love, happiness, people who know Him and are known by Him, people treating themselves and each other like the priceless treasures that God thinks we are. People helping and loving people and introducing people to Him that don’t know Him yet. People who aren’t perfect battling sin because they haven’t been fooled into accepting it because, “That’s just who they are.” People loving enough to tell the truth about sin, but loving too much to judge and not help.

There are only two kingdoms in this world; Satan’s & God’s. We are all a citizen of one, and only one of them. The question is which one are you a citizen of? But there are also a couple of other questions; Which one do you live in? and Which one are you fighting for? See there is no middle ground here. Pretty much we live in Satan’s but if we are a citizen of God’s then we should be fighting for His. Remember being in this world but not of it? Not being of it goes beyond just not participating in the debauchery of the world it also involves fighting for God’s Kingdom. Matthew 11:12 clearly states that the Kingdom is methodically advancing, but what is not so clear is the rest of that verse, “the violent take it by force,”(KJV) “forceful men lay hold of it,”(NIV) or “violent people are attacking it.”(NLT) Either it means that people are trying to force their way in on their own merits; people are trying to forcefully stop the Kingdom from advancing; or there are people who are moving it along. Or it could be all three. I believe all three are happening. The Kingdom is advancing but with people trying to force their way in on their own merit thereby changing the requirements for citizenship, and with people trying to stop it with force; it is obvious that we need those who are citizens of it to be pushing it along or it will be going backwards. So now the question is are you one of those that are helping it to advance or one that is trying to stall or shrink it? You are either actively engaged in the battle to advance one of the kingdoms or you are a covert operative for the other one, you can’t be Holland here.

So, back to the original question, “Have you ever seen a movie…” Just kidding. The real question, “What do you hope Satan sees as he stands on the tower and looks around your town & county? If you want him to see a wasteland the next question is, “What are you doing to make sure that happens?”

Talk to me,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Veterans Day (a little late)

I know this post is post-Veterans Day, 11-11-09. However I would still like to say a great big, hearty thank you to any and all veterans who may be reading this or run into someone who does read this. So please pass my thank you on to any veteran you know and give them one of your own would you?

Why do I think veterans deserve our gratitude? Well, it is not because I am veteran of the USMC. I do not and would not go around begging people to appreciate me. Either they do or they don’t and that’s up to them. Besides if I had to pull it out of them would it be real gratitude anyway? Most of the time people think pastors and churches are so pro-military because they fight and die to give us the freedom to worship God. Well, that’s part of it, even though some of those freedoms seem to be in jeopardy right now. All though that is not the whole or even the biggest reason because quite frankly I am going to worship God and spread His truth no matter what the government and the laws may say. So whether I have the freedom to worship or not is going to change my devotion to God.

My main reason for appreciating the military is because of the warrior himself/herself. I served with some might fine individuals and my guess they would have been fine people even without the military. However there is one thing they did by joining the military that not all fine people do. They loved me enough to put their life on the line for me. They have put or are putting their life on the line for my freedom, security, and safety everyday. Some did/do it over here, and some over there. Some did in peace time, some have/are doing it during war/conflict. Whether peace or war time; whether stateside or abroad; they all have handed their fellow Americans a blank check with their signature on it and a letter that says this check is payable up to and including my very life! How can you not appreciate that?!

I remember a few years ago seeing a man by the name of Dave Roever(SP?) speak at a Promise Keepers conference. Dave has a few body parts missing and is severely disfigured from an explosion while serving in the Vietnam War. At this conference Dave asked all the Vietnam vets to stand and be thanked for their service to their country. After his message I saw Dave at his ministry booth and I went to speak to him. I told him how much I appreciated his service to country and now his service to God. I also told I was disappointed in something in his message. I told him that I was sorry that he, a Vietnam vet, had to ask his country to thank him and them for what they had done to protect us. I told you already that vets do not like to ask for gratitude; but also do not like to see our brothers be disrespected and unappreciated either because we know what they went through for their fellow Americans.

By the way, Jesus had something to say about that, John 15:13, “There is not greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”(NIV)

Monday, October 26, 2009

When Pancakes Go Wrong

You know; some days were just not made for writing. I could not come up with anything to write about. Then the moment I stopped trying, God sent it to me in an e-mail written by somebody else, I have no idea who:
Six year old Ethan decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk, and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Ethan was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad.
He didn't know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn't know how the stove worked! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky.
And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Ethan’s eyes. All he wanted to do was something good, but he made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him.
Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process!
That's how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend, or we can't stand our job, or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can't think of anything else to do. That's when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him...
But just because we might mess up, we can't stop trying to 'make pancakes' for God or for others. Sooner or later we'll get it right, and then they'll be glad we tried....
I was thinking and I wondered if I had any wounds needing to be healed, friendships that need rekindling or three words needing to be said, sometimes, 'I love you' can heal & bless! Remind every one of your friends that you love them. Even if you think they don't love back, you would be amazed at what those three little words, a smile, and a reminder like this can do. Just in case I haven't told you lately.... I LOVE YA!!! And never stop 'making pancakes.'
This is a great illustration of what John Wesley meant when he talked about unintentional sin. We do not always intend to make a mess but sometimes we do anyway; and sometimes we know we are going to make a mess and we still do it. Not everything we do is okay and will be swept under the rug with no consequences, but whatever your situation and no matter how you got there; if you will stop in the middle of it and cry out to God He will love you and forgive you through it all. The mess may still be there but at least now you have help to clean it up and the love of the helper!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Childlike faith

Have you ever noticed how children usually don't worry too much about what other people around them think about them? The just do what makes them happy no matter what other people think or say. But some where along the way they are taught dignity and become little adults. Afraid to express themselves because of what others may think. This usually causes adults to refuse to share their story of how the gospel has affected them due to fear of what others may think. King David though danced before God's Throne (Ark) in his underwear and when his wife chastised him for it he said, "I will be even more undignified than this!" Maybe David was living out that childlike faith that Jesus spoke of. So today's question, "Is there a connection between David's "shameless" display and living a childlike faith?" Watch this video and you tell me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Daddy's Shoes

Our children either make us old or they keep us young. I guess it depends on whether you are pessimistic or optimistic. It is kinda like the whole, “is the glass half-full or half-empty” thing. I remember someone asking my Grandpa from Oklahoma about the glass and in his typical OK cowboy simplicity he responded, “Well, it depends.” “What do you mean by ‘it depends’ grandpa?” “Well, are you filling the glass or drinking it? If you are filling it up then it is half full, if you are drinking it then it is half empty.” That makes sense but it misses the point of the question for us overly complicated thinkers. So are your kids keeping you young or are they making you old? I guess grandpa wasn’t too far off because it depends or whether you are raising them to be self-sufficient, thinking adults; or are you forcing them to be little carbon copies of yourself and get frustrated when they step one step outside of what you want for their life?
Anyway, that isn’t what I wanted to talk about at all. I just somehow got off on a rabbit trail that almost doesn’t connect at all to the main trail. No matter how you look at your kids one thing is for sure, they’ve changed your life in ways that will never be the same. One way they do this is they teach us stuff all the time. “Wait, that sounds backwards. I thought we were supposed to be teaching them!” Well, we are; but if we stop long enough to watch them they can teach us some amazing stuff without even trying. They can even teach you stuff by trying to if you take the time to ask them about their school work. Have you seen the stuff they are learning in school?
Anyway, back on the main trail. Kids can teach us a lot about life and our relationship with God if we would just watch them. After all the parent/child relationship is one way that God uses to describe our relationship with Him.
Check out this story I read, "One day a two year old was playing with her daddy's shoes on the floor beside the table. She put her feet in them, stood up, and tried to walk across the room. She didn’t even get one step before she fell on her face. She got up and tried again. She fell again. Now she is getting frustrated and after one more failed attempt she is full-blown mad! But she is not mad at the shoes, she is mad at her daddy! They were his shoes and he should make them so she could walk in them, so she is mad at him."
We do this to God sometimes don’t we? We try to play God in our own lives. We take over God’s role then we get mad at Him because we can’t make it work or because He won’t make it work for us. Here’s a newsflash; we aren’t God! Only God is God. We can’t even pretend to be God much less do His job, or wear His shoes. Those are some big shoes to fill. So why should He make it work for us when we steal His job? When we tell Him we don’t need Him and we can do it ourselves why should He step in and make it work when we have wrestled or lives away from His plan and tried to plan our own lives?
God tells us in Psalms to “be still and know that I am God.” He wants us to stop taking over His job and stop playing God in our lives and in our world. He wants us to just relax and trust Him to be God. Trust that what He does in our lives is what is best for us and if we try to take it from Him we are going to hinder ourselves and hurt ourselves far more than if we just let God’s plan run its course. God is sovereign enough that He will give up control to us if we insist, but He would rather that we wear our own shoes and let Him wear His. God has plans for you and for this nation/world. His plans are to prosper, not to harm. So if it hurts for a while then that is best for us. Change and growth can be painful but after the pain the improvement makes it worth it. So let Daddy wear His own shoes. Oh yeah, also pay attention to your kids. They can teach you a lot, after all, the Bible says “that a child shall lead them,” but only if those are the shoes God made for the child. Talk to me,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shades of Grey

Man, it has been a long time since I posted! I am sorry but I have two things to blame it on; me and myself. I get too busy sometimes and when I am not too busy I am too lazy. So I blame me for getting too busy and myself for being too lazy. Anyway, as a follow up to the Vote the Bible I had written an article in response to a question posed to me from that article. (In case you did not know, I write a weekly article for my local newspaper and this blog is usually that week's article) Here is the article I wrote in response:

“I do not believe there is black and white, just shades of grey.”-a quote for the 80’s movie Soul Man. This line was spoken by a Caucasian lady who was trying to “date” the main character whom she thought was African-American. As it turned out he was really Caucasian himself he had simply taken an overdose of tanning pills so he would qualify for an African-American scholarship to Harvard Law School. Later in the movie this same lady was trying to date a Native American and she said, “I do not see red and white, just shades of pink.” As the movie went on the main character meets and falls in love with the young lady he had beat out for the scholarship and she was African-American. She was also a single mother with little income and had to work at the school cafeteria to be able to still go to school there. Through this he gained a new appreciation for the hardships some people have to go through to build a better life but he also learned that when it comes to morals and ethics, there definitely is black and white. Meaning, there certainly is right and wrong and doing wrong isn’t made right just because it benefits the one doing it.
An earlier article about “Vote the Bible” brought some pretty good responses. One response in particular was from a very good friend of mine. I love it when this guy questions my writings or talks because it always forces me to think deeper than I had. I also love it because he does it in a very loving manner and isn’t arrogant or nasty about it. I like to think that we are both this type of friend for each other. I hope anyway that I give him plenty to think about in his spiritual journey.
Anyway, here is his response:
“It's a tough one man. I mean, if I'm going to be a critical thinking (meaning if I'm going to throw some seminary blah-blah at you), which interpretation of the Bible should I vote according to? Which denominational lines should I vote along? I know what you're saying. But I think the one problem with the argument of "vote the Bible" is that the Bible can speak a lot of different ways to a lot of different people. However, if that's what you're saying - listen to the individual way God speaks to you through the Bible, even if everyone doesn't get the same message from God - then I'm all for it. Hopefully I can still be your friend. ;o)”Here was my response back:
“Thanks for the comment and forcing me to think deeper than I have. I understand how the Bible can say different things to different people. I mean let's face it, the Bible is grey in a lot of areas. In those areas it is up to the individual to determine their own personal black & white positions. I have little problem with folks taking grey areas of scripture and making them b & w for themselves as long as they aren't nasty about pushing their personal b & w on others. However, there are also a lot of b &  w areas in scripture and I always have a problem with someone taking a b & w biblical issue and making it grey to suit their self. And it is there in the b & w areas of scripture that should be the standard by which we hold others, especially our leaders. There are also lots of directives or qualifications, if you will, for leaders in scripture and the intentions of the blog/article are to encourage people (one) to vote, and (two) to use God's b & w qualifications for leaders to make their decision. In the grey areas, I am always all for people listening to the way God speaks to them individually because I believe the grey areas are left grey for the individual ways God created us to come shinning through for His glory. Yes; we can still be friends and even ‘brothas from another motha!’ Love you man!”
While there are a lot of grey areas in scripture and this leaves open the door for someone to make it a black and white issue and force it on others; the real danger is when someone takes a black and white issue in scripture and tries to make it a grey issue in order to justify their own depraved desire. When God says this is the way it is then that is just the way it is and no amount of pretty language can change that. It is too late to use this logic on how to vote for America this year but it can be used in another vote; the vote that determines how you live your life. Do you want to live your life in a grey fog of uncertainty all the time or do you want the clarity of knowing right from wrong and living it everyday? The choice is yours! Just let me caution you on the grey, the problem with a grey fog is that you usually don’t know what is out there in it until it is too late and you have already hit or can’t avoid it.