Mar 25, 2014

Hobby Lobby, World Vision and Church Engagement

Another week as passed and it seems that another round of the culture war has been waged. Hobby Lobby has argued in front of the Supreme Court. World Vision has changed its moral code to include both legally married homo and hetro couples. Truth be told I could go on and on with the different battles where this has been fought. Article after article has been published shaming both the conservative and liberal and twitter has jumped on to slander those authors. 

As a believer in Jesus it is EXHAUSTING to navigate both what to believe and how to interact with a world that seems new and odd every day. 

From the church’s perspective we are given dueling paths. 

On one extreme the church is called to go lite on the sins of the modern day culture war. Its told that it would be a hypocrite if not since it has gladly welcomed in the sins of previous generations. The church is full of sinners right?!?! Shouldn’t the church be a hospital of grace? 

The opposite path seems just a treacherous though. We call sin what it is… SIN. When that happens, the church will fall out of favor with the culture, dollars will drop, numbers will dwindle. Dealing with sin makes people uncomfortable and isolated. The church of America can’t afford black eyes.  It’s already in decline. 

What to do? What to do?

God has really been working on my heart lately.

I want to keep the doors of the church open for all, but at the same time I know that where scripture speaks I cannot compromise. 

It seems that believers in Christ are forced choose one of the two roads. The middle ground has dried up. 

As I have chewed on this idea over the past few weeks I came across a section of Romans that we quote more about baptism than anything else. In just a few words it encapsulated all l had been thinking through. 

Romans 6:1-4What 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. 

Before knowing Christ all you know is the sins that you serve. Truth be told, in many ways, they are the demi-gods that you serve. 

Coming to Christ is an act of repentance and faith. It is an act of turning away from the sins in which you once served to a savior who loves you enough to be punished for you. It is trusting that God’s way and His power are far better than the life you once lived. 

Salvation is free to anyone who struggles with any sin. It is open to all. That said, part of trusting Christ means leaving both our sin and our way of thinking behind to embrace a new life and a new way of thinking given by God. Jesus doesn't want to make our old lives better, he wants to replace them. 

How does the church relate? It is a body of people who are unashamedly sinners, given grace and a new life so that they might embrace the things of God and leave behind the idols of a previous life. 

God desires to heal the hearts of men from the cancer of sin that we embrace. He desires to cure the sins of lying, adultery, gluttony, pride, homosexuality, abortion, murder, hatred and gossip. The list can go on and on.  That said, you cannot keep the cancer and have the cure as well. One or the other must be chosen. 

The Church is open to all men in order to lead them to a Savior that can cure them, redeem them and give them new life that is drastically different than the one that brought them death. 

Mar 17, 2014

Pleasing God Or Pleasing Man

When I was younger I was extremely shy. I was the kid in the class that most people would look straight through. My mantra was to not make waves, be friendly to everyone, but in most cases do nothing to bring attention to myself. In short I was a great follower. Many times I agreed with people just to not argue with them. Overall it worked for me. I  moved from school to school never making waves, always being a teachers favorite and simply being a face in a crowd. 

As I grew older though I learned a tough lesson. Following Jesus often meant standing away from the crowd. Following Jesus meant that I would have to make choices that showed me to be different from my friends (which can be synonymous with the crowd I hid in). 

In my life I can point to a number of times when I had to make the difficult decision of choosing to follow Jesus over following people. In these times I can remember shedding tears as I lost friends. I can remember people making fun of me for my stand (I think the modern term is bullied). All of that said, it was in those times of ostracization  that I came to know Jesus Christ in deeper way. I look at the steps of faith in my life and I have realized those steps were more often steps away from a crowd than with it. 

As I have read through scripture I have noticed a pattern in Jesus’ ministry. It is a pattern repeated over and over again throughout the gospels. First Jesus accomplishes a miracle so grand that no person could ever deny that there was something special about Jesus. After preforming the miracle, Jesus would then use that moment to teach about who he really was or about what the cost was of following Him. The pattern concludes as most of the crowd that came because of the miracle left because the teaching of Jesus was just to difficult. Only a few stayed. 

Let me give you two instances. 

  •  In the first instance Jesus had just fed 5000 people by multiplying a boys basket of fish and bread. Following this great act Jesus also walked on water. WOW! People followed Jesus. They saw a miracle and they wanted to see (and eat) more. Upon seeing the crowd Jesus began to teach that He was the bread of life. He taught that He was greater than moses. He taught that He alone gave eternal life. In hearing this the people who followed Jesus all responded “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” and they left. Jesus then looked at the small group that stayed, He asked them why they stayed and the replied “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

  • The second instance Jesus raised a person from the dead. As the evidence of this act became more and more evident (the man who was raised ate with his friends and did the stuff all living people do) people began to not only follow Jesus, but also proclaim Him to be king. This escalated to the point where the people threw a parade for Jesus laying down their coats and placing palm branches on the ground. As the crowd grew Jesus taught about the coming cross and about God’s plan for Him on this earth. Following the pattern the people heard the difficult words of Jesus and left him, this time for a different reason. “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Only a small minority stayed. 

I believe “modern Christianity” follows much of this same pattern. People follow Jesus for any number of reasons. If we are honest some follow Jesus because a church promises that your faith and a little seed money will make you successful. Others follow because that what you are supposed to do. Still others follow with great intentions. 

What I believe we are seeing today is much like what happened with the crowds in Jesus day. Many follow Jesus for what they can get out of God, but fall away when the teachings of Christ become difficult. 

It was very easy in a christianized America to stand in a crowd and be just another nameless face. 

Today christianized America is fading and people are faced with either standing in a crowd that is moving away from Jesus or standing firm in a small minority with Christ. 

The question that comes to the core of which direction you choose is whether you desire to please men or please God. 

Choosing to please God is not an easy stand. It will mean that you may and probably will stand in stark contrast to a culture that is moving away from Him. It will mean that you can’t hide in a crowd.

Who do you desire to please? 

+++ This blog is the first post unpacking the ideas from the March 3, 2014 blog. 

Mar 3, 2014

A Pastor Believes Homosexuality is Wrong?!?!?!

WOW! I created quite a stir last week. What caused such a stir? I mentioned on a social network that <<<GASP>>> christians should should mourn and repent because homosexuality has become socially acceptable and governmentally approved in one of the most conservative states in America. 

BREAKING  NON NEWS….. A conservative baptist pastor believes that christians should be disheartened because a sin which the Bible specifically condemns has become common place not only in america but also among those who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ. 

I had friends coming out of the wood work telling me how I should recant and come back from this disastrous ledge. Its not PC! The Bible is open for interpretation! How on earth will we ever reach people if we don’t candy coat God because God’s ways just aren’t friendly to the world around us.

What I realized in this small discussion was that the church today cares more about pleasing the world than it does about pleasing God. 

As I have said before and will say again. I am a pastor. God has called me to love, lead and often direct his church. I have no authority except the Word of God. What I stand on today is His Word. I believe that it was written by Him and for the admonition of his church throughout the generations of this world. It is just as infallible today as it was when it was written. Here I stand, I can do no other. 

Here is my response to the church of America who seems to be at a crossroads in how to relate to a world that invites it into sin. 

(I am using references primarily out of the NT because I want to illustrate how the call of righteousness and holiness is not just an Old Testament call, but a New Testament call as well.) 

1. The church’s great call is to please God, not man. 
Romans 8:1-8, Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5

2. When we lead people to a god who accepts their sin we lead them to an idol that is not God. 
1 Peter 4:1-6, 1 John 5:18-21, Romans 1:21-31

3. God’s call to His people is to expose sin, not hide it. 
Ephesians 5:3-13, John 3:19-21, 1 John 3:9-10

4. God’s grace is for everyone, but repentance is necessary. 
Romans 2:1-11, 2 corinthians 5:16-21, Ephesians 2:4-10

5. We should not continue to sin so that grace may abound. 
Romans 6:1-11, Colossians 3:5-10, 1 John 3:4-10

6. Once you become a child of God you embrace the things of God, not the things of this world. 
Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:17-24

7. The church cannot ever love,  embrace or even tolerate the sins which Jesus suffered for on the cross. 
Romans 6:6-14, 1 John 1:7-10, 1 Peter 1:13-21

Over the next few weeks I will unpack each of these since they are gigantic ideas in and of themselves. 

Stay Tuned. 

(If you would like to discuss this further with me, please read the texts of scripture first before commenting.)

Feb 11, 2014

"Christian America" is Dead and How We Should Respond

A change has occurred in our country that has taken me a while to realize. Yesterday while listening to the radio it hit me. God is no longer cool. My revelation came as two local DJs began to talk about the bible and beliefs that christians held. They both began to say that Christians needed to get with the times.  God is no longer cool. A little later in the day I heard the same message on TV. The message was simple, Christians are intolerant bigots who need to get with the times. God is no longer cool. 

We are now living in a new era for Christianity. In our time, Christianity is no longer given a place of relevance in the every daily cultural dialogue. In this time, many of the millennium old held beliefs and convictions are no longer considered worthwhile. American christianity has become outdated and obscure in the eyes of our country. 

I by no means have any authority to speak to our culture as a whole. Any authority I have is as a pastor who is called to speak to the church. 

The church (collective christians across our nation) is responding to this new found obscurity in several ways. In some ways it is responding through a healthy gospel centered mission but it is also responding through  many unhealthy approaches. 

Unhealthy approaches to a post Christian America…

1. We believe that christianity is no longer relevant, so we change our faith to connect with a new era. Many believers and denominations have begun to walk this path. For many they believe that the old school Christian beliefs have had their time but now we must meet the needs of the new world with a new christianity. This is a faith that goes light on sin out of a desire to show the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. With great intentions many churches have accepted things in which scripture condemns. 

The problem with this approach is that neither our culture nor any man have the right to decide what is sin and not. Simply, we cannot accept that which put Jesus on the cross. 

2. In response to an ever changing world, we retreat into a defensive solitude excluding those who do not believe like us. With the best of intentions in following the great commands of God, this group retreats into its buildings. The people of the church surround themselves with others who think and act just as they do. These actions escalate to such a degree that Christians stop building relationships with “outsiders”, spend all of their time in religious activity and remove themselves from anyone who disagree with them. 

The problem with this approach is that God never intended his people to be closed off from the world. His desire was that they would be in the world, but not of the world. God wants his people to be in community with people who believe different than them, with a purpose. The purpose is so that they have the opportunity to lead them to a God who can save. 

3. We use any means necessary to confront and wage war against those who do not share out beliefs. Much like a dog backed into a corner, many see the need to escalate a culture war. Hello I’m from the tribe who boycotted Disney. With great intentions this group seeks to remoralize america. People who disagree with this group are seen as enemies and treated with anger and disdain. 

The problem with this approach is that God’s great call for our country is not moralization. On top of that, people who think differently are not enemies. In all honesty, we are no better than any other person. All we have as christians is the grace of God. Our aim can never be to defeat those who think differently, instead our aim is to show them the grace and forgiveness that we know. 

A healthy alternative…

We stand firm in a gracious humility, loving others and sharing the news of a Savior who died for all sinners, of which we are included. In this we do not compromise our beliefs because God is unchanging and his call is steadfast. We do not dumb down sin, no matter how culturally appropriate it seems, instead we are the first to admit that we are no better than our fellow citizens.  We love every person and treat them with dignity because there is no person alive who is not created in the image of God. As we love, we do it with the purpose of sharing and leading men to the good news that Jesus Christ saves all men from their sin and gives them eternal life. We should remain grounded in humility knowing that we are no better than any man, but instead all dependent on the grace of God who saved us despite us. 

The mission of the church is to follow in the steps of Jesus. 

Funny enough, Jesus was crucified by both the liberal and conservative parties of his time. 

The church must stand in God’s grace, uncompromising in His truth, missional in His call and open to everyone. 

Feb 8, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Do you remember when I promised last week that was back and that I would be publishing 2 blogs a week? Here we are, Saturday morning and there is nothing new on the page. 

This past week was a tough week for the Faulk family. On Monday morning as Jenn and I were sitting down to have breakfast, Jenn got a call that we weren’t looking forward to. Her mom called to let her know that her grandmother had been given between 3 and 7 day to live. 4 hours after that morning phone call, Jenn heard got a second call. Her grandmother has passed on to be with Jesus.

Jenn’s grandmother was a particular woman. She had been organizing her funeral long before I joined the family. When I joined, I was given the place of singing Amazing Grace and helping her pastor lead the service. The rest of the men in the family were asked to wear matching white shirts and jeans and to serve as pall bearers. Everything was fine until two weeks ago when Mamo’s (Jennifer’s Grandmother) pastor unexpectedly passed away. All of a sudden I was given the task of not only singing, but also leading the funeral service for in many ways the cornerstone of Jenn’s family. 

Sitting in my in laws house I was originally befuddled as to what to share during the service. My desire was to both honor Mamo as well as honor Christ. 

I knew what my message would be, it was simple, I was going to share how God had worked in Mamo’s life and how he is working today, in heaven in the restoration of her soul. 

As we had the services, many tears were shed. She is a woman who meant much to her family, her friends and her church. 

This morning as I am thinking forward to tomorrow the underlying thought that I am working through is what will be shared at my funeral.  

Life can be spent in so many ways. It can be spent chasing after fun, money, power or any number of other things. That said, life is wasted if it is not lived for the glory of God. 

With Jennifer’s Grandmother, she was not shy to tell you of how she was saved. In fact in one of her well worn bibles she left a note to one of the grandkids with instructions to read it every day. 

What are people going to talk about at your funeral? Will they talk about your odd habits, will they talk about your collections, or will they talk about God’s work in your life?

Jan 30, 2014

The Blog Is Back and Sunday's Coming!

I know, I know, it has been FOREVER since I have blogged here on I confess I haven’t made it the priority that it needs to be. I guess I will blame it on being busy, but in the end I just didn’t write. 

I have a plan for this blog. Here it is, my plan is to write twice a week. Why am I telling you this? I guess because I want you to haggle and harass me when I don’t . I love blogging for no other reason than it helps me sort through my thoughts of ministry and life. 

Here is my plan: I am going to write 2 blogs a week. The first blog will be a bit of a scattered blog dealing with anything from popular culture to ministry to leadership to racing. The core of this weekly post will remain the same looking at all things through the lens of scripture. My second weekly post I am going to call Sundays Coming. In this blog my desire is to summarize and preview my weekly message in order to prepare Memorial Pasadena folks for Sunday.

Here we go, Sundays Coming!

If there is anything in the modern church that draws contention and strife it is worship. In many ways what distinguishes most churches from one another these days is no longer convictions but instead flavor. Worship in our modern sense can be summed up in the idea of experience. Its the bang for your buck that you get from church. 

If one gets what they desire from the service, then they leave happy, if not then they leave unfulfilled. 

For many, worship happens when we sing the songs we like participate in a service that soothes us and then hear a message that inspires us. Without these ingredients many would leave without having “worshiped”. 

The modern church has completely missed what genuine worship is. 

Worship has NOTHING to do with what we get out of it. Worship is completely about what we give. 

Worship at its core requires sacrifice. Worship is giving God what costs us dearly. Worship is a life lived in reverence and surrender to its maker. Worship is the humble giving of oneself in service of our Savior. 

This week as we meet to hear God’s word we will be looking at one of the greatest acts of worship in the Bible. Mary (of Mary and Martha) is moved by the coming death of Christ to take burial perfume, a costly gift, and bathe Jesus’ feet with her hair. For her it was an act of humility and sacrifice to honor her Savior. 

Worship for any person should follow this simple example. It is more than music and more than a service. Worship is living out humility and sacrifice to honor our savior. 

How do we apply this to our church services…

  • Greater worship is seen when a senior sings to God though a praise chorus or a young adult sings though an old hymn. 
  • Greater worship is seen when people listen and apply God’s word especially when the presentation is somewhat bland.
  • Greater worship is seen when you serve in the places no one praises you for. 
  • Greater worship is when you give sacrificially without anyone knowing. 
  • Greater worship is when you love others that just seem unloveable. 
  • Greater worship is serving your church even when it doesn’t serve you. 

Are you catching the picture?

Worship has nothing to do with what you get out of it. Worship is about what you give. 

When we worship for what we get, all we are doing is worshiping ourselves. 

When our worship is about what we give, it is honoring and glorying to God. 

Dec 19, 2013

Phil Points Us to a Bigger Problem

This morning I’m still trying to keep straight all that I’m supposed to boycott. Am I still boycotting Disney?  How about Starbucks? I can’t remember; am I supposed to eat at Chik-fil-a or not? 

Phil Robertson is the newest figure in what seems to be a circus of lightning rods in the ongoing culture war. In an upcoming edition of GQ magazine he stated, in his own matter of fact way, that homosexuality is a sin. In response to his remarks, A&E, his employer, decided to suspend Phil until he either recants or until the next lightning rod pops up and they can resume making money off this goofy redneck family. 

I will admit I did watch Duck Dynasty. I left because the story lines became contrived and the show resembled a mockumentary of itself. That said, I respect Phil’s plain spoken conviction to Jesus and his desire to not compromise and worship the fame A&E promises. 

Over the past 10 hours or so, people have reacted to A&E’s suspension in a number of ways. 1. Conservatives have called this an outrage and started a push boycott A&E. 2. Liberals rejoiced that A&E has taken up their cause. 3. Many just rolled their eyes as there will always be a new face in the target scope of the culture war. 4. Some agreed with Phil’s statement but reacted harshly with the way he said it. 

Here is my take. 

1. Why are we surprised that standing for God is rejected by the world? Scripture is clear that a sinful world will in no way love God. Until God redeems the earth we must accept the fact that standing for God will mean rejection by the world. 

2. Christians have to get past the “why can’t we all just get along?” attitude. The newest movement that has arisen (though it’s probably not all that new) among christians is that we should be softer, more accepting people. They believe we shouldn’t take as hard of a stance against sins because it makes us look bigoted. Funny enough scripture teaches over and over that tolerating sin is hatred towards God. Christians are called to be people of God’s word. Simply we can’t accept that which God hates.  

3. God loves all men. He hates sin. He hates sin to the degree that He offered His only son to die so that we humans would not have to deal with the wrath due to us. Can we as Christians in any way tolerate that which Jesus died for?

4. Over and over throughout the Bible God calls his people to reject, flee from and call sin what it is… SIN. 

5. God desires to free men from sin, not to sin. 

We should never expect that a sinful world would in anyway accept God or the righteousness He calls us to. In the same way, we as believers cannot dumb down what scripture calls us to because we want to be PC and loved by our culture. Scripture is not PC and does not hold punches. Scripture calls sin, SIN and we should do the same. 

James 4

 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.