Sep 24, 2015

Does Catholicism Lead You To Christ?

This may be a record -- 2 blogs in one week! 

I have been surprised and even shocked by how much attention the evangelical world has given the visit of the Pope. In many ways, we are embracing him as the leader of the global church and listening to his voice as the final moral authority. 

The moment I realized all of this is when a friend remarked how “Christ-like” the Pope was. 

I also have had several evangelical friends using the Pope's words as if they carried weight in the modern evangelical worldview. 

Ok… so I know this post won't be popular because we are living in a more pluralistic world every day. In a world that claims many ways to heaven at least the Catholics have Jesus, right? They believe in Jesus, don’t they? If you will humor me for a few moments, I am going to try to explain  where Catholics have turned away from true faith and become a false religion. 

The key and fundamental difference between Catholics and Protestants is how God gives us grace. 

Both Catholics and Protestants believe in an idea called original sin. This means that man is born in this world a sinner condemned. On his own, there is no way for him to know God or be with God eternally.  He is destined for death. 

Picture man as a cup. We are born into this world empty of the grace we need to enter heaven. 

Where Catholics and Protestants differ is the source of grace. 

Let me explain Protestants first. Protestants believe that when you trust Jesus by grace through faith you are saved once for all time. We believe that our salvation is not based on works, but instead, it is a gift of God. God alone gives grace and gives us more than we will ever need to have a right relationship with Him. Our works, confession, baptism, and communion are in response to God’s grace. 

As we are an empty glass, we are filled overflowing with God’s grace. 

Catholicism is different. Where Protestants believe they receive grace free from God Himself, Catholics believe that the Holy Roman Church dispenses grace. This is called the sacramental system. They believe you gain grace through 7 sacraments: 1. Baptism 2. Communion 3. Penance 4. Conformation 5. Marriage 6. Ordination and 7. Last Rites. With each one of these, the Church dispenses a little grace, filling your empty cup up. 

As you participate in the sacramental system, your cup is slowly filled until death. What happens when you die without enough grace is that you enter a place in between Heaven and Hell called  Purgatory. Think of it as the waiting room of eternity. Purgatory is the place for those who have attained some grace from the sacramental system but not enough. 

The hope of those in Purgatory lies in the prayers of those left behind and the extra grace of the saints. This is why Catholic followers pray to saints. They believe that Mary and many others lived such extraordinary lives that they have extra grace to give to those who don’t have enough. Most Catholic followers won’t have enough grace so they depend on the faith of the saints to fill them up. 

Imagine you sit at the bottom of a pyramid of glasses. Eventually some of the grace being poured out on top will overflow out of those higher than you to you. 

Let’s go back to the question.  If Catholics believe in Jesus they are saved, right? I think the answer is whether their faith is in the system, the saints, the virgin Mary, the Pope or in Jesus Christ. 

In the early Reformation, the church coined the phrase by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. 

Faith in Jesus plus works, sacraments, the church, saints, or the pope leads to Hell. I know this is harsh, but so is the doctor who tells you about your cancer. Truth, even harsh truth, that leads you away from death is life saving. 

The reason that Catholicism is a false religion is that it leads people to trust in a system for grace. It leads people to trust in dead saints for grace. It leads people to lift up a man to a place where he “speaks for God.” 

Are there some who trust in Christ alone despite the system? Yes. That said, it is despite the system, not because of it. The system, religion, of Catholicism leads people away from grace, not to the author of grace, because it leads them to trust false forms of grace. 

Sep 22, 2015

Our New Experience

I will admit when I was first invited this weekend I was a bit intimidated. It was my first time going to a place like this. It was a new experience for me. Jenn, the girls and I finally decided to go after our friends had asked us for months. We had legitimate excuses in the past, but after a year of putting it off we finally went. 

The day started early. I mean EARLY. We had to wake up early on a weekend. Who are these crazy people who wake up this early on weekends. Our friends were kind. So as not to inconvenience us they not only picked us up, they also bought us donuts. 

Pulling in the parking lot I could tell that most everyone was dressed alike. I am glad we went to the store this past week so that we wouldn't stick out to much. Parking was crazy. We had to park pretty far from the entrance. 

Approaching our destination we were met by a large number of men all dressed with ironed slacks and buttoned down shirts. Compared to these guys I felt underdressed. 

As we walked in I could tell that the usher at our door didn’t quite know what he was doing. After a bit of fumbling around we finally got in. 

We sat down in our seats and were taken back by the size of the facility. The video screen was crystal clear, the band was outstanding and everyone really wanted to be there. My only real complaint about this place was that the air conditioner was broke. 

The band began to play a song that everyone knew. All of a sudden without any prompting, everyone there began to sing. I didn’t know the words to the song, and to tell you the truth most of the words seemed pretty out of date. I mean, I think I’ve heard my grandparents use some of those words. 

As the crowd continued to sing, the guy next to me, a stranger, put his arm around my shoulder, he smiled at me, continued singing and then he started swaying. Some dude had his arm around me and was singing and swaying, WITH ME!

I will tell you that the people in charge weren’t afraid to ask for money. We were told where the money went and celebrated those who gave. They talked about money a lot. 

The craziest part was all the odd language, old language that was used that day. There were men, just men, who lead the in the reciting of all kinds of crazy phrases than must have meant something to the regulars.

Do you want to guess where I went this weekend… Saturday?

Church? Nope. 

Our family got to go to see the Texas Aggies at Kyle field. We had so much fun participating the traditions and pride of Aggieland. (Many thanks to the Hills for taking us)

What made our trip unforgettable is experiencing the culture and tradition that can only be found in College Station. I will admit, seeing 100,000 people swaying in a stadium together is pretty cool. For a stranger, seeing these traditions in action was fun. 

Ok make the jump to church with me for a moment. 

It seems in recent days that popular opinion tells the church to jettison everything that makes it unique. Popular opinion teaches us to mold and shape ourselves so that any person walking in could fit right in. 

I am glad that the Aggie game  was a completely new experience for me. Why? What made the game so special was all the things that seemed odd to me. I was included in an experience that was new to me, but historically rooted to them. 

Perhaps instead of hiding what makes us stand out in church, we instead should celebrate it. What if we were ok being odd like the Aggies and took pride in what makes us different? 

When I went to a Texas A&M football game, even though I was an outsider, I was included in the songs and became and Aggie for an afternoon. 

Perhaps through our worship we can introduce people to being apart of our body, putting our arms around them and helping experience the love of Jesus Christ. 

Sep 10, 2015

Why I'm Just A Bit Different

Time flies. 

It only seems like a few short years ago I was in High school. I can’t believe its been 17 years. 

A friend told me recently that young men look forward to what they are going to do while old men look backwards. At a ripe 34 years old I don’t think I can call myself old yet, but recently Jennifer and I spent some time reminiscing about our spiritual walk in High School and how that formed us today. 

What brought our conversation forward was well, Facebook. Yes I know, Facebook is the center spoke of gossip. 

We had been talking about how so many people we knew both in high school and college that had either turned away from faith or hold to a faith that doesn't resemble the orthodox faith that they were raised in. 

Jennifer asked me, why are we different? Why are all our friends changing their views about what the bible teaches or falling away all together. 

I told her that I was raised in a church where the bible was taught. I knew that my pastor would stand up weekly and teach us what Scripture says. I knew that my youth pastor invested in me and challenged me to live for Jesus. 

Why did I end up staying in the faith where many of my friends did not?

For me, my passion for God and love of scripture may have been rooted from my family and church, but it was formed by God’s hand radically working in my life. There was no program, no attraction, no camp or sermon that changed my life. 

My life was changed when God shook me at the age of 15 years old. God stripped me of all that I valued. On my first day of my sophomore year of High School I showed up to find that I did not share a class, a lunch or a free time with anyone that I knew. I remember going home to my parents and crying. For me, friends were my idol and my idol was gone. 

My dad encouraged me that evening to take my bible with me to school and read it during lunch. 

Growing up in church I had lots of bibles, but on my own time it was just a boring old book my parents kept buying me. Truthfully, I loved going to youth events. They were fun. I sat through sermons that I thought were a bit boring. Christianity to me was something that was encouraged, but it was not my own. 

I took my bible to school the next day. Not knowing where to start, I started at the beginning. Genesis 1:1. All of a sudden something radical happened. That boring old book came alive. I soaked up the story like it was water on a hot summer afternoon. Before I knew it the bell rang and lunch was over. Where did the time go? 

Every day I brought my Bible with me. Christianity became more than a label to me, it became a lifestyle. Every chance I got I read scripture. I wore tacky orange stickers that said turn or burn. I became defined not by friends or my hobbies. I was defined by Jesus Christ. I shared with anyone who would listen of what God had done in me. 

When I went to church, those boring sermons came alive. I wanted to hear what God had to say. When my youth pastor invested in me, it was more than some old guy meddling in my life it was a mentor who helped mold me. 

I still have my bible, THAT bible which God used to change EVERYTHING for me. My church didn’t change me. My parents didn’t change me. God changed me. 

As Jennifer and I look forward with our girls, we want more than anything for them to grow up to love Jesus. We know though that unless God works in their life then all our work will be in vain. 

As I lead our church, I ask the same question. What can I do for our kids? What can I do for our youth? What can I do to lead our church to love Jesus whole heartedly? With a great amount of humility I have to admit that it is God who wakens the heart not me. My job is simply to plough and plant truth for our people so that when God works they will have a foundation to build upon. 

When Jennifer asked me why we are different, my response was simple, God worked in our lives. 

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.