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#SticksandStones#Words

Friday, September 18th, 2020

There is absolutely no doubt, and I mean NO DOUBT, that words affect us. Call someone a name and it sticks.  We used to say the old adage to make people think we weren’t affected by their words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  The only way I want to respond to that ditty is “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Someone has said the average American speaks about 700 times per day. If that sounds high, chop it in half (350). If that still sounds high cut it in half again (175). Face it, there are very few things we do 175 times a day, at least voluntarily. I’m sure I blink or swallow or breath more than 350 times a day but that is all part of God’s magnificent creation called the body.

Harmful words damage relationships and reveal a heart out of tune with Jesus.  Physical wounds often heal before emotional wounds. There are words said to us in the past which still haunt us.  Our heart flutters and our stomach turns when we hear them or think about them. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue holds the power of life and death.”

This Sunday my question is What about Words? (as if you couldn’t tell).  Prayers would be appreciated for this Sunday. Consider this quote by Ben Franklin: “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” ‘Nuff said.

#Forgiveness#Childhood/AdultTrauma

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my posts on Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World to do a far more enticing and exciting book. There is one thing for sure about old age: unless you write something down you are sure to forget it. It isn’t that earth-shattering but I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I saw this book for the first time. I don’t know if I was reading a book and it was mentioned, or was just passing by it on Amazon but I stopped, read the short blurb on it and decided to get it. Or I may have seen his book on The Uniform of Leadership, decided to buy it and saw this one right beside. No matter. 🙂  I just want to say one thing: GO BUY THIS BOOK!!

Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us

Jason Romano is with a Christian sports magazine called Sports Spectrum.  He also has a podcast that I have started listening to.   Before that he was involved behind the scenes at ESPN for close to 17 years. Before that he was an abused child-mostly verbally abused (never physically) by an alcoholic father.  It is quite a story.

I’m not going to tell you the nuts and bolts of the story. It is much too involved than I have time to get into here, but I will tell you that this is Jason’s story of struggling with his father’s alcoholism; his own response to it because of his Christian faith; and moving forward when those we love hurt us the most.

This is a FANTASTIC book for you or anyone you know who is struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you/them in the past by their behavior or even continuing to do so.  It took Jason lots of years to finally forgive his father and…well I can’t tell you how it changed things or if it did.  I guess you will have to read the book to find out.  🙂  Since I’m a sports fan, I enjoyed some of his stories of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden and their candid talk about their drug abuse and how it ruined their careers.  Both have found Christ and are doing their best to warn others of their path. But I want to make this clear: you do NOT have to be a sports fan to read this book.

I am buying an extra copy of this book to have in my office to hand out. I am that sold on this book.  By the way: have I told you that you ought to get a copy of this book and read it?  Warning: you may need some tissues handy.

#ThrowingStones

Friday, September 11th, 2020

Have you ever played darts?  I have played at it but have never played it for “blood.” I know there are tournaments all over creation for dart throwing, but I also know that just throwing darts can be big time in small venues, i.e. bars, etc. The goal, of course, is to hit the bullseye. But as you can imagine there are those whose aim is slightly worse than terrible. One dart may hit the round target but then the next one might be the wall or the floor.

That is a perfect picture of the way we throw stones at each other. Verbal stones have the tendency to hit all over the place. Sometimes they are deadly accurate, but sometimes it makes you wonder, “Where in the world did that come from?”  In today’s world, and even more sadly in the church, this idea of throwing stones is far too common.  It is almost like it is seen as “sport.”

The Bible is very clear how we are to treat each other, how we are to talk about others. In my new series (this is week #2) called Q & A, this sermon is entitled What about Stones? My Scripture is Ephesians 4: 25-32. The outline is extensive but simply follows Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus.  When I was in college I had never heard of a man named Francis Shaeffer when I read a little booklet written by him called The Mark of the Christian. His whole premise is that love was that mark. May that be true of us, especially in our words.

I would appreciate your prayers for me, for us, as we worship and study. Thanks.

 

#SoulCycle#Wellness#Prosperity(un)Gospel

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

I’m continuing with my discussion on this book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

Today’s installment is a bit more understandable than the last one here.  One of the most famous phrases used in today’s world is “It’s all about you.” “Seek your goals. Strive for the best. Do your thing.”  Now, understand I am not against setting goals and reaching for a dream. On the contrary, I think it is important to have goals and a place you want to strive for.

But I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.  No matter what an advertisement may say. No matter what an exercise lifestyle may tell you. Hence, the mention of SoulCycle. It is much more than physical transformation. It is more like a double whammy: material improvement and spiritual transcendence.  You aren’t just pedaling a bike to lose weight and become healthier in the process, but you are pedaling to become a better person. Their moniker: You are a Renegade, a Hero, a Warrior.  That sounds all well and good until SoulCycle begins to be seen as an emotional and spiritual outlet. Yeah…”God is a woman, and she’s a SoulCycle instructor.” Say what?

But it is more than SoulCycle. It is the whole Wellness Culture. Their philosophy can be summed up in a war between the authentic, intuitional self-both body and soul- and the artificial, malevolent forces of society, rules, and expectations. We are born good (Ahem!), but we are tricked, by big Pharma, by processed food, by civilization itself, into living something that falls short of our best life.  Hmmm. Maybe they can get Joel to teach them about their best life being now.  (Yeah…that is snarky…but true).

Folks, if there is ever a sense of hypocrisy, it is in this scene. They tell you things like “You are you.” “There is only one You.” “You are beautiful just as you are.” But then they turn around and offer you tricks (and I might add expensive ones) to better yourself, to make yourself more beautiful (at least according to what they think is beautiful).  The author gives so many different examples of this C**P that I can’t keep it straight. And, of course, neither can anyone else. If this one doesn’t work, I can always try something else. Then I can say, “Hey, I’ve tried multiple diets and they didn’t work. I found myself being like a yo yo until I tried Product XXX.”  And please don’t get me started on WW and its spokewoman! (I’ll reserve what I really want to say).

This whole scheme is what is called New Thought. But like many things,  New Thought is not new, nor is it thought. It’s a bunch of gobbledy-gook dressed up as intellectualism. It is called Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, and others).  It found its way into religion (I hesitate to say church) through a man named Phineas Quimby until one of his patients and disciples, Mary Baker Eddy,  founded a “church” called the Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science).

And here is where New Thought gets really warped or is that wrapped into the church world. Ever heard of a man named Norman Vincent Peale? One of his disciples: Robert Schuller?  And then a plethora of others:  Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, the Bakkers, Benny Hinn, and other Word of Faith false teachers; and now the current batch of false teachers (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Todd White, Bill Johnson (actually all of Bethel), ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

I’m not making this up folks.  And you may think I have an axe to grind.  I guess in a very real sense I do. I see so much damage being done to the proclamation of the Gospel and the spread of the real message of Jesus and His life-giving death on the cross that it turns my insides. Jesus  is not for sale.  He is not some magic genie who can be conjured into blessing us because we declare it to be so.

Discernment. Discernment. Discernment. And do what I John 4:1 says to do: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

#Work

Friday, September 4th, 2020

In the late ’60s I purchased an album by Chicago Transit Authority. They had a song on that album called Questions 67 & 68.  There weren’t that many questions in the song so I had no clue why they named a song by that title. Thanks to the internet I recently found out that the song actually referred to the years 1967 and 1968.  Of course if you follow the name change and their next album, they never did learn the answer because a year or so later they asked another question: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”  🙂

I start a new series this Sunday called Q & A. They are questions people have asked or are asking and I hope to give Biblical answers to those questions. The first in line is one tied to this weekend’s holiday. I thought I would try to answer the question “What about Work?” I think it is a fair question to ask, especially since the whole virus mess has caused many to take stock of why they do what they do.

Speaking for myself: I love doing what I do. I love my job. I love the people I work with on a daily basis.  However, I am also aware my job is different from many.  I work for the Lord as the pastor of the church so I don’t face the daily influences many of you do.  But I still feel there is common ground we can stand on.  There is another issue we all face. Many today find it more convenient to stay home and collect than to work. There are cases where that is good, but tragically we face a scourge of laziness to just stay home and not work.  There is a difference between will not work and cannot work.

My purpose this week is to show how work has been given to us by God as far back as Genesis and there is value found in working.  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for those who listen.  Meanwhile, have an enjoyable Labor Day holiday.

#Religious#Intuitional

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

I finished reading Strange Rites this past week and have struggled with how to do a review. The book is basically a “future book.” What I mean by that is not that it is a futuristic book (predicting the future),  but that it takes godlessness and shows its present but mostly future influence on our culture. Some observations the author made and included were eye-openers, while others were stomach-openers (i.e. kicked in the gag reflex and it was all I could do not to…you know).  While it is an important book, it is not a book for everyone. I can’t say it enriched my life but it did help make sense of some things. It also had me rolling my eyes (as well as my stomach). I thought what I might attempt to do is to take a chapter at a time. Give the basic belief of that particular godless system and then share how I think it will affect our culture.

I wrote about the opening salvo of the book elsewhere on this blog. You can find it here. As a further expansion of that thought it is important to add this to the mix: the author talks a lot throughout the whole book on what she calls (and I think very appropriately) intuitional religions. Not institutional. Intuitional.  She defines that as “their sense of meaning is based on narratives that simultaneously reject clear-cut creedal metaphysical doctrines and institutional hierarchies and place the locus of authority on people’s experiential emotions, what you might call gut instinct.” (p.33)  My translation: what you feel is all important.  Who cares what the Bible says or truth says; how you feel is the all-important line in the sand.  The author quoted that 3/4 of the millennials and 67% of the religious Nones now agree with the statement “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know.” (p.33)

Sound familiar? It should. It is the old “whatever feels good do it” philosophy we have had through time immemorial.  It came to the forefront when Post-Modernism hit the church in a big wave. It found its way through the attractional church model (Willow Creek and others like it).  What is interesting is how some things have shifted though and I never thought about this until I read what the author said. She wrote, “If ‘sex sells’ was the unofficial advertising mantra of the Mad Men era, then ‘spirituality sells’ is the slogan for post-2016.” (p.33)  That explains the rampant rise of spirituality as it is called by Oprah and Osteen and Rob Bell and others.

Chapter 2 (which I will skim through here) take us on a ride through intuitional religion in America.  She shows its growth and development through Deism (Someone-possibly God-created the earth then took His hands off it).  She then follows it into Transcendentalism (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, and others); to Spiritualism; to Universalism to New Thought (precursor to Peale, Schueller, and Osteen); to the Social Gospel; then onto liberalism/ecumenism.  The precise target in all of this was the Judeo-Christian outlook, which they said only offered imposed guilt, inhibition, grimness, and anti-life repression.  She finished the chapter with a sad, but scary statement: “Almost one in five Americans was raised in a religion {My note: referring mostly to Christianity}, only to leave it to join the ranks of the Nones.” (p.52)

I’ll share more in the next installment and also begin the godless religions the author includes. Hope you will join me for that.

#Remixed#Nones

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. We have a guest from the church camp we support, Hilltop Christian Camp, in Columbus, IN. Hilltop took a hit this past summer, as did all summer camps. I believe this ministry is so important I am willing to give my preaching time to the director to inform us of the camp’s next moves and how we can support them.  So this post is entirely non-related to any sermon.

I’ve been reading a book over the past week or so that I know someone recommended but I’m not sure who or where. The reason I say that is that it does not seem to be a book I would just up and buy.  That is a nice way to say the jury is still out on this book. 🙂 The premise sounded good.  Oh, but first the book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

As you can see it is called Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World by Tara Isabella Burton. Since I believe it is important to know the culture to which Christ-followers are to relate, I thought this would be a good book to get a handle on it.  I can’t speak as to the author’s religious leanings even though she is a columnist at Religion News Service and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford.  I can’t even tell if she is a Christ-follower or one who writes about religion. One thing I do know is she is knowledgeable and a student of the “Nones.”

The “Nones” have been described (in my very simple way) as a generation of people who have no desire for religious affiliation with the God of the Bible or its teachings. They may have been raised that way; they may have been raised in a church home but walked away from it; or may have even been in the ministry in some way (pastor, youth pastor, etc) and “deconverted.”  Here is the author’s explanation of what she calls a “Remixed” person:

Today’s Remixed reject authority, institution, creed, and moral universalism. They value intuition, personal feeling, and experiences. (p.10)

I live near a university (Indiana University) with two others (Indiana State University and DePauw) not far away.  So I can attest to this philosophy as being very rampant in the minds of many, especially young people. They demand the right to rewrite their own script, their own history, and their own morals. They want to be able to define and describe how the world should operate and turn out.  They have turned their backs on historic, orthodox Christianity and are into making their own rules. 

It’s not pretty now; nor will it turn out pretty in years to come.  You simply CANNOT make your own rules and moral law and see any good come of it. That is especially true when we can’t decide on what’s right and wrong.  (Can anyone say today’s world and uproar?)  We can see or hear the daily devastation of those who want to make their own rules and then try to impose them on someone else. The senseless beating of an innocent truck driver; the beating of a retired police detective; or the senseless beating to a pulp of an innocent white man by a mob. But that is what happens when we have no moral base on which to build. And please don’t get me started on the irreligious and Marxist-leaning BLM organization or the senseless killing of unborn children! And the NONES will find that out. Our world will not be a better world by the lack of moral absolutes and failing to follow the Bible’s advice on how to treat another. We even had a “pastor” (notice the quotes) who tweeted following the death of President Trump’s brother that “#thewrongTrumpdied.” Seriously? That is Christ-like? I think not. I don’t care who it is: death hits us all and there is sorrow and hurt with it. I don’t wish the death of a loved one on anyone- be they atheist, someone I love, or my worst enemy.  That is one of the most un-Christ-like tweets or statements I have seen in a long time…and that man is supposedly a man of God? Give me a break!

I’m going to keep reading this book and will keep posting my thoughts. Agree or disagree you are welcome to respond as long as it is civil. If it is not, I can disapprove your comment.

 

#PowerofOne#Stand!

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning about the power of one. So I began to ponder it more. Much is said about the difference one person can make-good or bad. Consider some people who made a difference, even though they sometimes stood alone:

  • Patrick Henry- “Give me liberty or give me death!”
  • Henry Ford- He believed in the automobile and wanted to see everyone have one (as long as it was basic black). 🙂  I’m sure glad that changed!
  • MLK, Jr- His “I have a dream” speech has inspired millions of people of all races that equality is possible.
  • Jackie Robinson- Baseball and sports is what it is today largely because of his persistence and talent. When one talks about Jackie you also have to include Branch Rickey, the man who took the chance (in spite of the fact some accuse him of a publicity ploy).  He still took a chance.
  • Martin Luther and other Reformers- “Here I stand. I can do no other.”  What a powerful stand he took against the monster of the Catholic Church.
  • Winston Churchill- he took an unpopular stand-at first- against Nazi Germany. He certainly proved PM Chamberlain wrong.
  • Abe Lincoln- need I say much here?
  • John MacArthur- agree or not he has stood on his conviction and was willing to risk fines and criminal charges.

There is also the other side of the coin-those who stood on the wrong side. Benedict Arnold (the opposite of Patrick Henry). Billy the Kid.  Jesse James and the James Gang (not the motorcycle guy nor the rock group). ANTIFA. Rogue cops. Hollywood elite who cave.

But let’s focus on the ones who make a positive difference-that first list. I’m sure you could add more to that list. Go ahead and do that. We are all called to make a difference. Maybe not in a big way…but to make one where we are. We, as Christ-followers, were never to just put our head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend a challenge is not there. Each challenge we are presented with is specifically designed for us. Our response will determine the outcome. We can take a stand-even if it is alone- or we can go along with the whims of other people.

CHOOSE.  But make sure it is for a righteous cause and has God’s stamp on it.

#Sovereignty#Timing

Friday, August 14th, 2020

I heard a great statement the other day that I will be using in this week’s sermon. 

The silence of God does not equate the absence of God.

That really struck home to me as I thought about the sermon. We are afforded very little information about the future. Unless you are talking about the book of Revelation and even that is clouded in mystery. In our personal lives, we really aren’t given any either. No crystal ball, Ouija board, seance, or Tarot card will tell us what is in our future.

But we all would like, I think, to know something about our future.  Who of us would not like to know what stocks to buy when a company first went public? Who of us would not like to have known not to have taken that route home after work?

But when you think about it there are more important things we would like to know and not given an inkling about. I can think of a couple in the Bible.

  • Joseph. Remember him? After a life of uncertainty he is elevated to second in Pharaoh’s government. When his father died, his brothers thought, “Oh no. He is going to come back on us.” But Joseph’s words to them stand for us as well: “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”
  • Esther. Remember Mordecai’s words to her? When she was wavering on approaching the king, Mordecai told her “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There are more, but those two and Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 will be my focus this week. They are clearly evidence of God’s sovereignty and timing in action. I most certainly would appreciate your prayers this week. Along with preaching, Jo and I will be taking Braden back to Ohio on Saturday. An 8 hour round trip in one day…the day before I preach. That sure beats Jo doing it all on one day by herself (Sunday). So prayers for safe travel and then physical alertness would be much appreciated. Ahead of time: thanks.

#Legalism#Freedom

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”