Aug 4, 2015

Are You Not Entertained?!?!!

During my sophomore year in college, I saw a movie that quickly became my favorite -- Gladiator.  It's the story of Maximus, a former general in the Roman army who loses everything when Cesar Commodus murders his father, Marcus Aurelius, and takes over the Roman empire. It's a movie where Russell Crow brings to life the struggle, glory, and pain of the gladiator.

My favorite scene in the movie happens when Maximus mutilates the opposing fighters in the stadium. The crowd then reacts to Maximus’ barbaric act in an underwhelming shrug because of how commonplace blood lust was to them. Seeing the apathy of the crowd, Maximus throws his sword toward the box of noble men, screaming, “ARE 
YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”  Maximus understood at that moment that life and death had become shrug-worthy entertainment to the crowd.

As a pastor, I loathe the feeling of being an entertainer. Week after week, I pour my heart out from the pulpit to our church. I work hard to present Scripture in an intriguing way to both the young and old of our church. In many ways, stepping down from the pulpit on Sunday morning, I measure myself on whether or not I entertained the crowd. I know -- my job is to preach, reprove, rebuke, and train the people of God week in and out. I also know that if I am not interesting, if I do not entertain, then many people will not hear the truth of Scripture.

A few weeks ago, I invited a younger adult to our Wednesday night prayer meeting/Bible study. They responded by telling me that it was an old person’s event.

Our Wednesday night service is a bare bones service. We start by praying for our church, country, church needs, students, children, and many other things. After twenty minutes of prayer, we move to a verse by verse study through a book of the Bible.

There is nothing flashy about this service.  It is a meat and potatoes worship experience.

I guess hearing that a bare bones time of prayer and study of Scripture was an old person’s event brought a bit sadness to my heart.

Deep in my emotions I wanted to take my iPad, toss it across the room, and scream, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!  IS THIS NOT WHY YOU ARE HERE?!”

When did value of church become about the experience we have? When did the quality of church rest on the entertainment value it provided? When did the meat and potatoes of Scripture and prayer cease to be enough?

Perhaps the powerlessness of the American church is direct result of the fact that we find our power in experience of entertainment over the substance of God’s Spirit.

Here is a challenge for you this week… go to church to pray. Listen to your pastor to hear God’s Word, not just another funny illustration. Attend prayer meeting to join other saints in seeking God’s face.

If simple prayer and Bible study make for an old person’s service, it is done at the shame of the young. It’s time for a new generation to grow up.  My generation, stop seeking to be entertained and start embracing the meat and potatoes of church.

Jun 26, 2015

Homosexuality and Scripture

In case you have been on vacation driving through the Appalachian Mountains and had no contact with the outside world, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same sex marriage is legal across our country.  

I would say that this case has the power to change the makeup of our society as much if not more than Roe vs. Wade which brought the sexual revolution to main stream culture through legalizing infanticide. 

For the pastors and church leaders watching, we were not surprised. We all braced at the SBC convention expecting this verdict to come down.  

As a citizen of America I have resigned myself to the law of the land. As a believer in Jesus Christ my heart is broken because our country has institutionalized and celebrated what is contrary to God's design for men and women. 

These verses on my heart today: 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

As I thought through this passage a few things popped out to me. 1. The bible is clear that Homosexuality is a sin. 2. We as believers are not morally superior people. We are sinners. 3. Jesus Christ died to set us free from our sin. 

I know the moment I post this that my more liberal thinking friends will attempt to explain away homosexuality's sinfulness. I believe if anyone is intellectually honest about scripture and Christianity then you can't explain away the simple truth that scripture describes this practice as contrary to God's nature for man. 

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. - Leviticus 18:22

understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. - 1 Timothy 1:9-11

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. - Romans 1:26-27

Yep, I know what I just did, I just became one of those judgmental Christians who tells other people about how sinful they are... Back to the 1 Corinthians. 

1 Corinthians teaches us that it's ok to call sin a sin, but it also teaches that you must deal with your own house as well. As a believer in Christ I can in no way claim a moral high ground. On my own I am a sinner who deserves the wrath of God upon me. God has set me free from sin to live for him. 

The mark of a believer is that they are set free from sin. It means we are called away from the lifestyle that brought us death. Look back at that verse... "and such were". To embrace Christ you must leave your sin. 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. - Romans 6:1-4

Here is the bottom line, when you read the bible for what it says, for what the author intended and what Christian tradition affirms, you cannot ignore that homosexuality is sin. It is not, though, an unforgivable sin. God's call for couples in same sex marriages is his call for any other person struggling in a lifestyle of sin. His call is to turn to Christ who died in order that you might be set free from your sin and experience abundant life following God's call.

As believer and pastor my ethics are always going to be scripture centered, and my hope will be the gospel. I am "such were some of you".    

Jun 11, 2015

A Few Thoughts On McKinney Texas

I remember when I first saw the story of McKinney Texas on the news. My thoughts jumped quickly to “Here we go again. We've got another ratings driven piece where we vilify a  quality officer and continue to fuel a race war.” I jumped quickly to my computer where I watched serval videos hoping to see something, anything that would vindicate the officer. The more I watched the harder it became. 

I will admit that I generally respect authority. When a news story comes on, I always take the law’s side. I saw through the efforts of the media to bash public servants when they told victim driven news segments. I do this because I have a cousin serving on the force who was unfairly the target of such a news story when a crook pinned him in a car and attempted to dump him on a major highway. In self defense he shot the driver. The news told a far different story of how another unarmed man was shot by police. They didn’t tell the whole story. The news station placed my cousins life in danger as his image was plastered on every television screen making him public enemy of the neighborhood he sought to protect. 

I will admit, when I see the race bait stories we pass off as news, I hardly believe them because they are almost always slanted towards the “victim”. 

This time was different. The more times I watched the officer slam a bikini clad teenager to the ground the harder it was to justify his actions. For me, I asked “what if this was my daughter?”. In all honesty, what if this was a white girl, any white girl? This is just my opinion, but I think the conservative part of our country would be livid. FoxNews would have a truck planted in that neighborhood with Bill O’Riley screaming for the officers head. 

Because we have seen so many dishonest stories about police and race, white America will blindly jump to conclusions any time a similar story arises. I think white conservative America may be blind to the justice of a teenage girl because we care more now about winning a culture war than for standing up for those who have been hurt. 

This story is different than most of the race bait news. This is not a story about a DJ, fence jumpers or backtalk. It is a story about whether the force a public servant used was justified by the actions of a teenage girl. It is whether a man who exists to keep the peace became the threat himself. If we removed all our biases, preconceived notions and were honest, a teenage girl was abused by the very person who should have protected her. 

As Americans, all of us, we need to be able to see through the news. We need to be honest about the fact that there are people who target our police officers. We need to be aware that our news stations both conservative and liberal care more about ratings than the truth. We also need to be truthful that some policer officers (not all, not the majority, only a very small number) do not seek the public good. 

We as white conservative Americans must be willing to call excessive force what it is. We must stand behind victims of police brutality. It is only when we are truthful about the abuse of a small number that we can stand behind genuinely good guys who protect us every day. We lose our credibility to defend our good guys when we blindly stand behind a few bad ones. 

Perhaps McKinney can be a turning point for race in our country. Perhaps a nation can rally around a girl who was the victim of a police officer who overstepped his authority. Perhaps we can foster a spirit of truthfulness as we don’t allow race to cloud justice. 

I proudly back the blue. I proudly stand behind my family a friends who put their  lives on the line every day to keep me safe. I am thankful for all that they do and I’m not going to allow the foolish actions of one to color my vision of all of them.

Today mourn with a family and community who is hurting as well as thank an officer who is keeping you safe. 

Jun 1, 2015

I've Hated My Blog This Year. Here's Why...

I will admit it, I have stunk at blogging this year. In previous years I have had a drive to communicate my ideas and thoughts from scripture, but this year I have dreaded my time writing to

I think the key reason for my lack of zeal in blogging has been an emotional exhaustion towards the blog itself. I would study scripture, meditate and write what I thought was a creative doctrinally sound piece only to have it argued over online by those who saw scripture differently than I do. The work of writing and defending an idea week after week wore me down to the point that I grew a certain amount of  disdain for my blog. It just became an exercise in futility to me. 

What wore on me most of all was that I was’t out on a ledge in what I communicated or said. I simply communicated what scripture plainly said and tried to illustrate it with a story of some sort. 

At least I thought I was standing in the truth. 

The most recent PEW research study showed that the American church is in rapid decline, or at least thats what the headlines read. Once you looked a bit deeper though, it was startling to see that scripturally fundamental churches weren’t in decline. What is shown is that nominal believers and liberal churches are growing farther and farther from their more conservative counterparts. 


I wasn’t crazy. The friction I felt from people on my blog wasn’t that I was off, but instead was a symptom of what is happening now in America.  Much like a snake shedding its skin, the church is growing away from those who are no longer are connected to its core. It is seeing churches and people fall away who no longer believe in the authority of scripture. 

What has prompted this post was my study for this weeks sermon. In the sixth chapter of his first letter to Timothy, Paul describes two kinds of teaching in the church. The first was teaching that led people towards the service of God seen in godliness.  The second is of a selfish approach to church that led people to “a craving for controversy” and a “godliness as a means of gain”. 

Perhaps this is a picture of the road the American church is walking today. In a day when Christianity is no longer the expected culture, churches have been faced with one of 2 choices. They can hold to scripture, lead people against the grain of culture to pursue godliness or they can continue to dilute the church away from its core. 

As I get the opportunity to pastor the church of God, I will to the best of my strength lead it to follow Christ and pursue godliness. As to my blog, I have no clue what the future holds. Thanks for reading. 

Mar 23, 2015

Why I love pastoring an established church:

There it was -- another article posted today on Facebook for the world to see dressing down the church. Its content was predictable, talking about the church's march towards irrelevance and showing all of its flaws. The theme was clear -- the established church was an old dog that needed to be taken to the back forty to be put down. 

I am tired of people ragging on the established church. I am tired of internet trolls who think that internet shaming is the way to love God’s bride. Sadly church bashing seems to be the sport for many well meaning christians. 

Why do I love the established church? 

1. Multigenerational worship. 

Every Sunday my children have the treat of watching senior adults, median adults, and young adults worship together. They have the opportunity to hug, watch, and be loved by people who come from multiple generations and multiple backgrounds.
 In recent days, there has been a movement away from multigenerational churches. Since none of us can get along about how to do church, we all just choose to worship in different services or in different churches. 

One of the treasures of the established church is that multiple generations show humility in what they want (even though worship isn't about us at all) so that they can celebrate the unity that comes from being one in Christ. In the established church, singing together matters more than worship preferences. 

2. A proven discipleship structure. 

Our Sunday lineup has 2 major staples. 1. Bible Study and 2. Morning Worship. We have other ministries, but the foundation of our church rests on these two weekly events. These two events show what is important in our church. We gather in small groups to study God’s word, and then we gather as a body to worship God and have God’s word preached. 

I remember going through seminary reading a book called “Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur.” In many ways the Sunday morning routine is seen as old and outdated. 

In the established church, intrinsic in its structure, is a reliance on God’s word. I love being part of a body that intentionally meets regularly to study and be changed by the word of God. 

3. Genuine fellowship

Recently in our church we have seen several of our members pass on to be with God. In this I had the pleasure to watch as our church came together to mourn as a community. When we hurt it was more than just a single class, it was the church. 

Most established churches don’t have the fancy coffee shops or the newest trends in small group ministries. What we have is people who live life together.  

I have seen personally when we lost a family member that our mail box had more cards than could fit. As we have walked through the struggles of parenthood, we have moms and grandmas (and great grandmas) who walk with us. 

The more I learn about fellowship the more I learn it isn’t something that can be programmed. Fellowship with your church is something that is lived. I can tell you that every established church I have ever served in has been a place where genuine fellowship is lived out among its members. 

4.  Doctrinal standards. 

My church is a Baptist church. We are not ashamed of it. The established church is almost always denominationally affiliated. 

Trends tell us that denominational affiliation is on the decline. They tell us that if we desire to connect with younger generations that we need to drop the denomination from our name, and really from our church. 

I think it is a dangerous step to walk away from denominations. Denominations have served to help set a standard of belief for the local church. When you attend a Baptist church there are certain convictional expectations you have for that church. 

With the decline of denominations, many churches are choosing to simply be independent (calling themselves Community or Bible Churches). What happens in this instance is that the doctrinal stability of the church is directly tied to either the church planter or leadership team. In many  churches who have forgone affiliation, a new member has to go deep into the organization to understand their core convictions. 

With the established church there is often little doubt about where it stands doctrinally. With us, we accept the Baptist Faith and Message and guide for our doctrinal beliefs.

5. Denominational cooperation. 

This past Christmas our church skyped with two missionaries in Colombia. Our church was a part of placing these two on the field. We have never met them (though we will), but we cooperate with churches throughout America to send missionaries to spread the gospel in what is called the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program. 

As an established church we are loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention. We participate with them so that we can keep missionaries on the field. In independent churches missionaries often have to travel from church to church annually or biannually to raise support. As a church who is connected to a convention, our missionaries have the freedom to stay on the field for years. 

I love my church. I love pastoring a church that has buildings that are older than me. I love that this church will continue to minister to our community after I am gone. I love being the pastor of an established church. 

Feb 2, 2015

Should You Watch "50 Shades of Grey"?

“If it doesn’t hurt anyone, then its not wrong.”

“You may struggle with it, but it’s not one of my struggles.”

“Whats good for you is good and whats good for me is good.”

There are few topics that I can preach, blog or speak on that draw reaction like sexual sin. For most people sexual sin is an incredibly touchy subject as we all know someone struggling with it. We all have friends and family who have gone down that road and more and more our reaction is not to intrude into their own personal preferences. 

If we are honest, many of you are dealing with sexual sin in some way shape or form. 

We have wrestled with homosexuality and the definition of the family. We have grown accustomed to the new and modern family. In the end we have become the frog in the pot who simply no longer realizes he’s being boiled. 

We as a culture are no longer offended by sexual sin. It is so prevalent before us that we no longer recognize it. In fact, some form of sexual sin is normal in most people’s lives. 

Next week the movie 50 Shades of Gray is hitting theaters on valentines day. The movie is based on a book which is a detailed pornographic novel written for women. 

I am going to step out on a limb here and say that it is a sin to watch this movie. 

GASP! Why? Watching this movie doesn’t hurt any one?!?!

This movie does far more damage than you realize. This is who it hurts…

1. You empower an industry of prostitution.  You are paying men and women to preform sexual acts on screen for your jollies. You are employing the new world of internet and film pornography. No matter how you frame it, by watching this movie you are paying to be sexually stimulated. You are complicit in modern prostitution. 

2. You are hurting your spouse. When you get married, (either now or in the future) a person becomes one flesh with their spouse. The bible teaches distinctly that lustful eyes are no different that adulterous actions. If you go and watch this movie you are inviting adultery into your marriage bed. 

3. You are  hurting your sex life. Pornography’s long lasting effect is that it numbs your desire for your spouse. The longer you look at pixalized nudity the less you will desire your spouse. It will kill your sex life. 

4. Ultimately you alienate yourself from God because your sin is against God.  When David committed adultery with Bathshebia, he penned the words of Psalm 51 “against You and You alone I have sinned.” Watching this movie is choosing to sin against God. 

Over and over in scripture we come to understand that sexual sin is sin against God, yourself, your spouse and and your sexual partner (whether literal or digitized). Christian friends, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” “Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion and evil desire.” Do not enslave yourselves to the foolishness of pixelated prostitution, but instead live for Jesus. 

Jan 13, 2015

My Hospital Visit

I went to the Hospital today. As a pastor this is nothing out of the ordinary. I probably make at least one trip a week to visit my church friends as they are walking through pain. I was visiting my friend Tex who is walking through a difficult battle with cancer. 

In many instances as I make these visits I come hoping to bring joy and faith to my church members who are hurting. I come to pray for and walk with them as they battle all kinds of diseases. 

This visit was different  than my normal visit. Instead of ministering to my friend, I was ministered to by him. Instead of building up a brother’s faith, my faith was strengthened as I saw a friend stand firmly through pain in the grace of Jesus Christ. 

I am a believer that pain often pain removes our pretenses and shows us for who we really are. It often brings our guard down to the core of who we are. As I sat in this hospital room I saw a man overflowing with the presence of Jesus Christ.

This morning at our Men’s bible study I taught that we are the “fragrance of Christ”. The simple idea is that as we live our lives day to day, Jesus Christ would be so evident that anyone close to us would see it. 

There was no doubt that every nurse and doctor that took care of my friend Tex came to experience the aroma of Jesus Christ. 

In your life, do people experience the aroma of Christ? Does you attitude and words display the love of your savior who sacrificed Himself for you? 

I pray that I would show God’s love to every person who is around me. I pray that also for my church.