Monday, December 9, 2013

Have we lost our minds?

The title of this post is not hyperbole. After thinking for more than a few days on what the best title should be, it remained the only one that fit! So what am I speaking of? The crazy messed up education system in our country. It is far worse than any of us may be willing to admit. Here are two examples of people and their educational paths that led me to the title.

Case #1
A graduate of a medical school recently shared the following: "After paying for my undergrad and now my MD, I begin my career with $340,000 in student loan debt." In case you missed that, reread! I have never owned a house worth that much! I cannot imagine being in debt on one thing nor several things that amounted to $340,000.

This person is actually working in a hospital today. The learning received was great and the skill being applied to help those in need was the best. Problem, the Government is cutting the amounts that insurance will pay for services. No longer is there a thought that this MD will ever earn more than $350,000 per year. Today, this MD is earning around $180,000. Nice salary indeed. But not so nice when one considers just the loan repayment for the education that provided the knowledge to earn the wage. And while you are sitting there thinking, dwell some on the fact that amount will NOT be forgiven. This amount is on this MD's credit report. No home loan. No car loan. Either pay rent or live with parents! That's it. Drive a used car. Pray you marry someone who will earn far more than you and is willing to pay down that HUGE loan. And money to raise children?

Case #2
A teacher I spoke with recently shared frustration over having to live at home with parents. As the discussion continued, revealed was the simple fact that in order to graduate in 4 years with a degree that allowed employment in a school system, this person had run up a school loan debt of $93,000. Starting salary at the school where job was offered payed started out under $38,000. It does not take long to do the math and discover that this income to student loan debt ratio is similar to the MD. And teacher pay raises are few and far between. I discount the arguments that snarly people people make about teachers only working 9 months. Putting up with undisciplined brats that parents have failed to raise, add demanding parents who do not want you to discipline their children, and you see clearly that the pay is no where near enough - for any amount of months worked.

But a teacher who works hard, cares for your children, and seeks to give your child the basics of education to be productive in society will struggle to buy a home, pay for a car, and have the money also to raise their own children. Why? $93,000 in student loan debt will eliminate most options of obtaining credit until this amount is greatly reduced.

Results Summary
Our educational system is broken from a financial stand point to a devastating level. It is totally impossible to maintain the American economy on this type of debt, learning, and pay scale. A teacher is equally strapped just as is a MD. I keep referring back to the television show The Walton's. Three generations living under one roof seemed so old school. It was a way of life for a farmer or lumber mill owner. But for a Medical Doctor and Educator, the education was sold as a way to break out and achieve more.

Today, the educational system is being sold identically. Get your under grad and don't stop. Continue on for a Masters. And then dig deep and press through to that doctorate. But if one has to do so while piling up loans the size mentioned above, one wonders how that educational system has missed the reality of simple cost and benefit? Do educators no longer think about cost recovery? Our Government has facilitated this problem with the out of control student loan programs. The whole thing is about to change the core of our society and economy. I did not even mention the PhD student who knows that the starting salary for teaching college courses will be limited to the $50,000 range.

So I was reading an article the other day concerning highest paid jobs that are struggling to find applicants. I discovered that the trade of welding is being lost in America. One can start out making $135,000 with no college degree required. The cost to learn welding does not require student loans. And a welder will begin their career in the black able to buy a home, a car, raise their children, and even take a vacation. And this was just one of the many manual labor jobs available with high pay. Problem, no one wants to do these jobs. The very industries that are the backbone of America are no longer viewed as worthy of our time. We are told to get a degree and make something of our ourselves. But our system prevents this from an economic standpoint. It not just crippled, it is broken. And what kind of a person goes so far into debt to get educated and yet will spend the rest of their working lives trying to pay it off?

Come to think of it - maybe we have lost our minds!

P.S. I did not write this to discourage anyone from striving to obtain an education. I am currently working on my PhD. But no degree, regardless of level, can be substituted for common sense and sound financial decision making. We as parents and grandparents need to slow down and make sure we are leading our children with the right goals while also laying the proper foundation of expectations. A degree at the cost of high debt is NOT smart. Maybe we need to take longer to earn them. Maybe we need to go another route. We need to guide our children to make wise decisions. We need to understand that a degree does not make you a better person nor does it guarantee you anything. We need to step back and re-think our ideology. Reality is showing us a serious problem with our current thoughts. We need to re-engage our minds if we still have one!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A plea to parents from 35,000 feet!

On a recent flight to take my father to see his twin sister I experienced something that you pray never occurs on a flight.  I had three seats all to myself. I was happy happy happy! But the happiness did not last. For I soon discovered that seated in front of me and behind me where moms with two children each. Problem - the moms lacked basic parenting skills including how and why to discipline. I have flown many times with children all around and had a blast talking and entertaining. But not on this flight. As I sat and listened to one parent scream while other one bribed her two, I inserted my ear buds and cranked my music hoping to find some solitude.  I failed.

It was easy to see from those sitting close by that I was not the only one shaking my head and looking for ear plugs. Not a single person was upset at the children involved. What became clear to all of us was that too many parents today lack the knowledge and skills in raising their children with discipline, and knowing how to discipline when it is needed - even in public.

Here are the thoughts that I began to realize are missing in these types of situations. Maybe you need this. Maybe you can share this with someone else. And please don't miss the last section!

Parents and their Emotions
When parents allow their children to push their buttons and trigger the release of their emotions, the children win! One mom was screaming at everything! She was behind me.  Her daughter and son were not causing any problems for anyone else but mom. Their ears were popping. Yes this hurts! And children will cry. Parents please stop screaming! It only proves YOU are out of control. Control your emotions in the manner that you desire your children to control theirs. If you respond to them with emotions, you will get emotions back! Someone gave me a coffee cup last year (a real big one) that says "Keep Calm and Carry On!". Parents this will work wonders! Keep your emotions in check.

Know the goal of Discipline
Discipline is not for control! Too many think this. Discipline has as its goal the teaching of boundaries so that our children can learn to self discipline. Think about this one. The boundaries are established via teaching to show where danger exists. The boundaries are reinforced by firm commitment to them so that protection is provided. Our children then learn that there are limits and thus they learn to stay within those limits - the safe place. If you discipline for control, your children will lack the boundaries needed and thus will go beyond your protection. They will lack self discipline which leads to problems as teenagers and adults.

Don't forget the Bible
Notice these verses: 

Prov 22:15
15    Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Prov 13:24
24    He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

Prov 23:13-14
13    Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
14    You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.

I know there is a huge rejection in parents spanking their children today. Parents need to realize that past experience of abuse or heard stories of abuse do not negate the clear teaching of the Bible. The Bible is truth. If you chose to not follow it, you will reap from that sin. Problem in parenting is that your children will reap what you have sown. You cannot remove correction via spanking and expect your children to learn discipline. The Bible tells us this will not work!

We cannot discipline in anger. To spank in anger produces the environment for abuse! Remember the section on emotions. But we must discipline! To not do so is to NOT love our children. The Bible teaches this and it is true. Just as God disciplines us, we must also discipline our children. Our discipline must be firm, precise, and fitting. Spanking must be included. It reinforces the boundaries that are needed for our children. To not do so is real child abuse!

Bribery is evil

The mom in front of me bribed her children with everything she could think of. Nothing worked. One bribe led to another. The children had her figured out. They knew mom was willing to give them anything. This is NOT discipline. In fact it teaches children that if you keep begging eventually you will get what you want. In life, this lesson leads to a scary reality.

The message of embarrassment
Both moms said multiple times to their children that they were embarrassing them. The more I heard this the more I wanted to lean forward and back and say: "What you really mean is that you are embarrassed that others are seeing your lack of parenting skills." A lady seated across from me actually voiced this to her daughter during one of the outbursts by the moms. This lady was right. If we parents are embarrassed, it is not our children causing this. It is that we are seeing clearly that we need help in parenting. When embarrasment arrives, listen to it knowing that you are now being given the moment to make changes to your actions or lack thereof.

That last section I mentioned above
 Heidi and I have raised two boys. One a junior in college and one a senior in High School. Our boys grew up traveling with youth groups all over the country. And then they continued growing while living in the glass house of a Pastor. We did not get it right all the time. If I could, there are things that I would change. Yet as I look back, I am thankful for parents who reinforced what I have written above. I am thankful for faithful Pastors and church members who shared key insights into parenting when our boys were little. We did not live close to grandparents. We were on our own. I am so thankful that we listened and followed the best we could to the advice given. Our boys did not slow our ministry down nor did they ever disrupt our trips. We took them everywhere and we have had more fun as a family in ministry than I could have ever imagined. They lived and grew and thankfully, though not perfect, they are now Godly hard working young men who know discipline and right from wrong. The above worked!

Hard work was required. Consistency was much needed. We reminded them constantly that they were not pastors kids but were our children who God had created with a plan for their life. When they failed, we disciplined, yes we spanked, and we grounded. There was no bribing. There was no time out in the corner. Discipline was firm and it was never withheld. We did not allow them to get destructive or obnoxious. Instead we gave them the boundaries so they learned and knew what it meant to be disciplined. Any parent can do the same. You will never get it 100% right every time. You will make mistakes. We made many. But you can teach and you can discipline. The real question is very simple:  Are you willing to do it? It takes effort. It requires knowing the end goal. It requires commitment to that goal. It requires us as parents being disciplined ourselves.

The two moms on the flight are in for some rocky times. More troubling to me is the fact that there are four children that will experience those rocky times thanks to their parents.

How sad is that?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Don't Get Picked Off!

In honor of the World Series I thought I would use the baseball analogy as a title to show the real crisis facing America in the coming months with Healthcare.  Join me on a journey that highlights how many Americans are getting picked off by the politics with Healthcare and are actually going to be out as a result.

Delay it!
The law has already been incrementally implemented.  Insurance companies have already trashed the old and created the new, with higher premiums.  Delaying the penalty does not fix the problem!

Stop the Government from being in the Insurance Business!
Wait - they already do with medicare. Yet with the ACA they are not.  Insurance companies are the ones that people are to buy insurance from.  Problem, no one can afford it nor can they get access to it.  So what happens when the Insurance companies are not getting their premiums from over 65% of the people come January 1?  How long can they operate paying claims with such a great loss of premiums.  My simple math says it will exceed a shortfall of over $350 Billion in the first quarter of 2014.  Where will the money come from to pay claims?

We can just go back!
Go back to what? Politicians need to come clean and tell the truth that the old system is gone.  They might also want to admit that they have NO idea what to do with the real problem come March 2014 - no money in the system to pay claims!

Throw them all out of office!
OK, but who has a solution? This is a total change of the America you and I have known and there is NO going back.  Any solution will require Government intervention and controls for some time.  It is remember, 1/3 of our total economy.  It is not going to be a simple solution!

So what do we do?
That is a great question!  I am afraid that no one knows!  And that my friends is the real issue!  Our politicians and leaders have let us down. They walked away from or pushed this mess on us.  Both parties have sold us out.  They push their spin and continue raising money knowing that NO solutions are on the horizon.  They just want to get re-elected.

Do you trust them?
The polls say neither party is getting a pass.  Just wait until the above scenarios happen, and they will.  Who will you trust to fix the solution and what form of Government will it take to straighten out the mess?

One thing I do know.  I am seeing more clearly how anti-Christ will rise to power and the messes that will pave the way for his rise.  Desperation is growing daily.  Problem is, few are looking to God.  Funny how the one person who can help us is the one not being relied upon!

Remember, DON"T GET PICKED OFF!  The pitcher in this ballgame is more sneaky than the Red Socks pitcher using a foreign substance the other night in the World Series!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Budget time for churches...

Every Pastor and staff love the budget planning time of the year.  You know you love it.  Come on, tell me you love it!  OK, enough of that.  We endure it - right? Right!  This year the process is a bit more difficult than normal.  Money is tight everywhere.  Costs are rising on everything.  And then there is the good ol health care issue.  Here are some tips at getting through the planning this year with less stress than you thought.

1.  Keep the vision alive! Reducing vision is a receipts killer.  Even in a tough economy. People give to vision. People need to see, hear and experience vision.  Now is not the time to shrink vision.  Instead, sharpen your vision.  Stage your vision.  Just do not kill your vision!

2.  Focus on Stewardship! Often church budgets contain poor stewardship. Be smart in every area. There is a difference in being steward compared to being tight! Evaluate, prioritize, and see what you can do as a better cooperate steward. It is time to get rid of all the "golden calves" in our budgets and think, plan, and operate as stewards.

3.  Share the process! Talk from the pulpit with your people about all the areas that your team are considering and the goal of your church being a good steward in the budget process. Get creative. it will help your people understand and buy in to what your team will present.

4.  Keep it Biblical! Ministry and missions are the Biblical reason we exist. Make sure you continue to fund these.

5.  Avoid fads!  Stick to your vision. My staff came up with the phrase "Don't get distracted!". Staying focused on the vision God has given will take you a long way down the road toward being a steward church.

6.  Keep the faith factor!  When times are tough it is easy to turn to human ability.  We forget that faith is the Christian life.  It should also be the life of a steward church.  Don't go crazy!  But don't forget about faith! Call your people to take steps of faith!

7.  Know your banker!  It all belongs to God.  He will provide. We may have to improvise but God will bring us through!

8.  Reduce debt! Even in tough times, reducing debt builds confidence in your people. Show them it can be done! Challenge them to step up and help make it happen.  Include the benefits for every ministry in your church.

9.  Breathe and press on! Take a deep breathe. It is not as bad as it seems. Keep moving forward and watch God work.  He is good at it! It is His church!

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Fear Factor!

When life changes at 2013 speed it is easy for fear to grip us in numerous ways.  If you take a step back from your busy life and list the many things that are specific to your life, the things that are changing with which you have no control, it can be frightening to see the fear factor.  Fear is found in every life.  And of late, fear is the leading emotion used by many to base decisions and reactions.

How can we live a life without fear?

The month of September found us studying this subject with our children's ministry and their parents.  Each week highlighted a moment in time from the Bible where God's people overcame the damaging emotion of fear and allowed God to bring about victory in their lives.  Such moments were seen with events unfolding that NO human being could ever do.  Things like the walls of Jericho falling flat.  The bravery of Joseph.  Moses being brave when the atmosphere was not conducive to such. 

The situations may change but the same God who has worked for hundreds of years is the same God who works today! 

Jehovah God is full of power and might.  He is all knowing.  He is caring, kind and loving.  No matter our situations, He is God, and He will bring His children through whatever struggle is before them.  God is God and will always be! 

In a recent sermon I made the statement "stop worrying, I have read the end of the book and we WIN!"  It is a statement that I have said hundreds of times in my ministry.  But this time it seemed to hit home more.  That got me to realizing something.  I began to see the depth of fear in the lives of many.  Is our constant siege producing such fear that we miss the foundational truth needed to press on in difficult times?

Living as a winner requires more than words.  But in the words "...we WIN" are found a truth that sits as a foundation for our lives, if we allow it.  The foundation is that God through Jesus paid for our victory.  In Him, we can overcome the reach of fear.  In Him we WIN!

Take some time to look at the following verses:
Isa 41:10; Isa 41: 13; Isa 43:1; John 12:15; II Tim 1:7

These are but a few of the many exhortations Biblically given to guide us through the fear factor in our lives. 

Though often people prey on our fears to manipulate and control us, God says we are to fear Him alone, and thus allow Him to defeat all other areas of fear in our lives.  Ironically, the one fear we are to have and do not, is the only weapon to defeat the grip of Satan and his use of fear in weighing us down.

Fear nothing but God Himself, and watch fear depart.  Fear God alone, and watch Him bring your life the victory that He has paid for! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Church and Ministry Economics - What Will We Do?

As a Pastor I see the weekly struggle our sluggish economy is feeding.  As a Pastor I see the daily lives of Christians moving far away from living as a Christian Steward.  I also work with Pastors and churches of all types across the country, and I see the same issues in every brand of church.  It is tough in the trenches!

There are three key points in understanding today and tomorrow in church and ministry economics.  These three points are currently at "critical mass" and little relief is seen - or is it?

Key #1
Stewardship is more than generosity. Stewardship is a state of being and a way of living.  God says we are stewards.  I Corinthians Chapter 4 drives this point home.  We may run from it or try to re-define it, but God says HE has entrusted to us the Gospel and the resources.  And in this trust we are to be found faithful!  Until we return to a Biblical view of personal stewardship, our ministries and churches will be hurting to a point of debilitating proportion.  As theological structures weaken the clear teaching of tithing and grace giving, we are presented with a huge dilemma - how will we fund that which God has called us to? 

Key #2
Leadership is everything! I was slapped in the face with this a few years ago.  I always give my tithes and offerings during the giving time in our services.  I give as I ask others to also be obedient and give.  But we had added a second service.  God showed me that one of the services was missing out on seeing this modeled before them.  So I now write two checks each week, and give in both.  It was simple.  It was no trouble.  But it was noticed!  Leaders are seen more than they are heard.  Leaders must embrace the discipline of steward living and giving just as they do prayer and other dsciplines. 

And leaders must also realize that teaching on stewardship is NOT the end of the world.  I know that this is a scary subject for many Pastors.  Why?  So what if others have abused it.  So what if others are not biblical.  Lead by teaching the whole of the Bible and your people will be blessed by it.  The promises of God toward faithful stewards are needed by every person in your services. Live it and teach it!  As one church I know of does, celebrate the giving time in your services instead of hiding it.  You and your people will find freedom and blessings!

We are in trouble with our structures. By structures I mean buildings, denominational, and educational.  Allow me to break these down:

Buildings - many have old and worn out buildings.  Trying to address this deferred maintenance is a nightmare. Our churches and our educational institutions are all seeing this problem swell before their eyes.  Courage and change will be required to maneuver this mountain. Add to this, many churches have built too much and too costly.  Banks are no longer allowing this.  But debt will have to be eliminated.  Many secular approaches to debt reduction are leading churches down a dangerous path while ignoring the Biblical teachings and promoting an approach that will leave Pastors in trouble for the long haul.  Pastors be careful! We must lay the groundwork for many years to come.  Only strong Biblical Stewardship will accomplish this. 

And remember these two important things:

1. You must maintain what you build!
2.  Having an empty building 6 days a week does NOT bring honor to God!  Build smart and flexible!

Structure - There is much dissatisfaction with the bloated structures that are found in our religious circles.  People in the chairs and pews today are NOT sold on much of what denominations, conventions, and fellowships do.  Networking is easier today than ever.  This presents a major issue for our current structures.  Add deferred maintenance issues, lack of interest, and poor stewardship together and you will see what I am talking about.  It is NOT going to be pretty.  But remember, change is more often good than bad.  We need major change in our structures.  Follow the money and you will see this clearly.

Educational - Maintenance alone puts our religious institutions in jeopardy.   Add to that a poor economy, student loan debt from under grad schools, online and alternative sources of education, and one discovers that we are in the middle of a major shift. We cannot sustain the current model for long. Change is coming and change must come.

But all is NOT over. 

It is a great time to return to Biblical Stewardship and cast a new more effective model of how we do what we do, and prepare for it.  We  have the ability to shape a younger generation that is living in the struggles of material sin from their elders.  Their mindset is different and we must make sure we provide the resources and vision to capture and lead them to a Biblical model of steward living.  It is possible because God is still God!  It is doable because the Word of God says so. 

What will we do?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Turn to..." or "Search for..." The new Bible Problem!

Lately I have made a point to focus on what I say as I enter the preaching time on Sundays.  It has been a self study of some sorts.  The result of this study have proven that "most" of the time I begin my preaching time with the phrase "turn in your Bibles to...".  Along with this study I have been reading on the many thoughts about Bibles (real book form) and all types of digital.  It is fascinating!

Allow me to set the stage a little.  First, I love simply reading the Bible in book form!  Second, I love reading the Bible in digital form!  Clear as mud right?  Not so fast.  I have noticed that I study with both forms and do this often.  In preaching, I use a loose leaf bible with inserted texts.  It also contains most of the New Testament and some of the Old.  When teaching a class, I use a hardbound Bible.  I am all over the map!  I have even used my iPad on several occasions for notes.  Again, I like all the above!

But what is best?  What is better?  What is needed?

Above all we need to be people who read the Bible in any form more!  We have the ability today to saturate our lives with the Word of God.  And saturate we should!  But we are not!  Just like with the many translations, some not even translations, we keep finding ways to make the reading of the Bible easier and yet - people still struggle with spending time in it!  And because of our desire to make it more easier to read, many people are reading versions that are FAR from accurate!

We must remember that the Bible itself is alive!  When this life is combined with the power of the Holy Spirit the Bible is easy to understand and apply.  Our efforts have diminished this key fact!  Many people struggle with understanding simply because their approach to the Bible is NOT spiritual.  They are not reading in the power of the Holy Spirit.  They are NOT determined to allow the Word of God to change to them.  Basically, most people just want a quick answer or promise.  And that approach will never produce passionate Bible reading or real life change.

We will not jump into the "which version" debate with this article except to say only a few things.  First, we must remember that the word "Version" is involved.  For those who desire to argue one over another or claim that one is only THE Word of God, one might pause and ask, what about the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic?  I try to not offend in this area for it only distracts from the real issue.  Second, we do need to realize that some "Bibles" are paraphrases while others are translations.  Be careful!  Most of the recent stuff produced is NOT even close when one looks at the original languages.  You may not be reading anything other than someones thoughts on the Bible.  And that is dangerous to your spiritual growth!

But what about the FORM?  Is there a need today to push the book bound or the digital?  Is one better than the other?  I am reminded of a similar debate when video projection was brought into the church.  People argued that we needed to use only the Hymnals.  Only the real deal would produce the right type of praise and adoration.  Others embraced the video approach and felt a sense of freedom.  Today, I am discovering that many in the older generation are now wanting the words on a screen for there, they are easier for them to read.  I have found this true with the use of Bible texts during sermons.  So I am placing more and more on the screen against the logic of the professionals. 


I want people to see and read and follow along in the studying of Gods Word!

In fact, we have made our handouts available digitally and one can take notes with the outline on their device.  I hesitated for months on this one.  Now I see teenagers taking notes ( at least they look like they are!) with their iPads.  I have actually had several bring their iPads to me and show me what they have done.  This is exciting.

But there is more!  Stay tuned!  The subject is deep and wide!  I might surprise you still!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Christians and the Health Care Disaster!

There is no doubt that the American health care system has had problems - some severe - for some time.  When Congress passed the affordable Care Act a consistent even split of the population saw the law as being good and also as being bad.  These numbers have changed over the past few years as parts of the law, upheld and redefined, were implemented.  The majority of the population now realize that a train wreck is happening even as I type this.  Amid the political landscape are efforts to repeal or de-fund.   Politicians and pundits have raised millions in there efforts to do all the above.  On the other side is the marketing blitz that is firing up to convince young healthy Americans to purchase something they do not want.  If this group does not buy the pitch, the money issues are compounded beyond already not making sense.  The mess is clear.  The disaster is already selling popcorn for those watching - it will be some kind of show!

The Republicans in the house and Senate have washed their hands of the whole deal.  They continue to gain popularity among like minded individuals that simply want the whole thing to just go away.  After passage, and during the actually writing of the law (think on that one!), Republicans stayed far away from the mess.  The thought process seemed to be that it was time to allow the Democrats to own this thing.  Thus, no input to improving nor taming was done on the Republican side. 

Fast forward to just a few days ago.  Sen Harry Reid is giving an interview with PBS and makes the following statement when asked if the Affordable Care Act is the first step towards a single payer system:"Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.” Did you see that answer?  You can read about it here!  What does it mean?  Are we learning something that obviously was missed my many?  What is next?

Is it possible that the current law is designed to fail so that in default we are left with NO other option but a complete 1 payer system?  This scenerio is beginning to rise to the forefront.  Sen Reid surely voices that opinion.  And with this answer is a major understanding that most Americans calling for ending the Affordable Care Act must quickly understand.  You cannot unwind a law that has been partially implemented over a 3 year period in the tax code and in the Health Insurance industry.  What would you have left?  The old system has been dead for 3 years now.  The new system is being delayed and still written.  When the crash occurs, what is there?

Those men and women sent to Washington on our behalf who opposed it, stood by and failed to use their fiduciary responsibilities to make it as best a law as possible.  Why?  Follow the money!  They are raising millions daily! And when it crashes, they can stand and say "we told you so!"  But what about health care from that point on?  Why no alternatives?  How long will it take to fix the crash? What will the fix look like?

The American people have been sold out for political positioning by both sides.  You and I will pay the price for this.  We will be stuck with a mess and limited options out. 

Has no one noticed that the Democrats have not been sweating the outcome?  With delays and issues of implementing the law including the unions and within congress, present no sweat - no fear!  They know the end game.  They are fine if it crashes.  The Government will be in a position (and has been from the moment it passed) to regulate, control, and eventually own, the healthcare system.  Meanwhile, good meaning people think some miracle can occur with repeal etc.. If the law were repealed or ruled unconstitutional - what then?  The old system is gone!  The new system has been implemented with the Insurance companies and the tax code.  Again, try to unwind that and see how it works!

The battle for who we are as a country and what we will be moving forward begins at the point of the crash!  

Christians caught up in distraction issues such as recall and the like are being led down a path that drains resources and ignores the big picture of that which is to come in the near future.

The needs of millions of Americans will be at the forefront of this crash as all generations will be impacted and major changes to the American system as a whole will be required to clean up the mess.  And remember, the clean up will be not a total one.  Time required?  Know one knows!

For churches, our ministry will be vital!  Our leadership will be essential!  We cannot afford to be distracted by the politics of today and miss the hour of need tomorrow.  True Biblical Christian ministry will be needed like never before.  People will be hurting and needs will increase.

Are you ready? 

I hurt for those of us who will hurt down the road by the complete failure of elected officials on both sides.  I hurt for those who had placed their hopes in something coming that would finally help them and their families.  But I also know that God placed us as Christians here in America for this time!  Our mission and focus are being defined.

I just pray we realize it and get busy doing that which we are called to do rather than being distracted by that which only produces false hope and no real answers!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Living In America - Today! Part 2

The spotlight was placed on Daniel many times in his life by those not of similar beliefs.  Daniel was challenged with food in Chapter 1.  In chapter 2 Daniel interprets the vision/dream of King Nebuchadnezzar when no one else could.  Daniel is recognized as one with wisdom and insight not only in chapter 2 but also continually from chapter 2 on.  How did Daniel rise in recognition.  Di Daniel have a public relations strategy?  Was there an agent promoting Daniel?

Today Christians live in and live out our narcissistic behavior.  The promotion of self drives much of what we do.  We have traded the protest lines and parades for our social media tools.  Some are real good at self promotion.  So good that in today's world a person with limited success or wisdom from experience can rise to a popular level quickly.  Maybe personality plays into the factors involved.  It is possible that we humans are simply gullible enough to pass over the scrutiny that was once found before our attention and affections were given.  Make no doubt, we promote but we also see simultaneous loss of influence in our world.  And this is an important connection to understand.

With the increase use of secular methods comes the increase message of secular thought.  Daniel was known and respected for his beliefs.  His being known was not due to his self promotion but simply the conduct of how his life was lived out in the real world - a world that did not worship the God of Daniel.  Much like today, few in Daniels time listened to the things of God.  Yet they sought Daniel to enlighten them.  We should ask the question WHY?

A close look at Daniels life reveals a life of consistency to his determined purpose.  He had purposed in his heart whom he would worship.  He adjusted his life to live out that purpose.  Daniel wanted all glory to go to God.  He lived for nothing else.  He respected those who disagreed with him.  He sought to understand them while resisting the human tendency to take things personally.  He was relational with his life.  And Daniel avoided arrogance almost perfectly.

Daniel was a person who influenced while only promoting God.  Daniel was anything but narcissistic.  We should seek to understand the Daniel way of living in our American secular culture.  We should pray that God would give us the opportunity to influence people in a manner similar to Daniel.  To be sought out because of how we live bears greater fruit than our self promotion could ever produce.

The lesson from Daniels popularity is profound.  When God blesses and grants his favor, the evil one's in this world will pay attention.  promotion is cause for humility.  Humility is the path to influence with people.  Daniel loved people much like Nehemiah did.  He cared about the pain and destruction that would occur in their lives without surrender to Jehovah God.  He knew that only from building relationships with them could he ever hope to find them willing to listen to his thoughts.  Daniel lived his life loving God, loving people, and dependent on God to promote and provide the opportunity for influence. And in Daniel we that God opened doors in God like fashion.

I guess we could say about Daniel that he did have a public relations agent after all.  He had the one that you and I have today - he had God.  The difference between us and Daniel is easy to see.  We promote for our sakes.  Daniel was promoted for his exaltation of and living for, God.

When our lives match our announced commitment, God will promote bigger than we dream!

Self promotion can never gain us the influence that God can.  So why do we continue to live in a such selfish, narcissistic manner?

Part 3 will deal with our methods.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Living in America - today! Part 1

There is a song from the old Rocky movies that I love.  I do not agree with the singer famous for singing the song, but this song leads into this series extremely well.  It is the James Brown song "Living In America".   For many, just the title triggers the words and music rolling through our brain.  At the end of the song, there is a dramatic closing that highlights the theme of the writers intent.  Sing it with me - "living in America...I feel good!"  I can just picture all you doing your best James Brown "I feel good!"  Scary picture indeed!

Today it is next to impossible from a patriotic standpoint to say that we "feel good" about America.  With multiple issues being magnified recently, no one can now doubt that America has changed greatly.  Fear, sadness, and frustration are the most common emotions expressed once this new reality is grasped.  And this new reality begs the question, "how are we Christians suppose to live in America today?"

I have more than hinted in this past on this blog that I think the best picture of how we Christians should live in the current American culture can be seen in the life of Daniel.  The story of Daniel has been taught in many Bible Study classes and groups for years.  The lions den and his unwillingness to bow to anyone but God are clearly etched in our minds.  Daniels story is a great one.  And yet there is more to the story than what we might think.

We begin by looking at:

His Commitment
Daniel was committed with all he had to God.  His commitment was much different than what we may understand it to be today.  When one reads of how God had brought him into favor with chief of the eunuchs in chapter 1, we see that Daniel was respectful and always seeking to help those around him learn.  His commitment was not for dogma, but for the sharing of the awesomeness of God.  Instead of demanding, Daniel was willing to be tested so that proof of God and His glory would be revealed.  How was this possible?  Chapter 1 reveals in verse 8 that he had PURPOSED in his HEART to NOT defile himself.  The commitment of Daniel was more than a mental decision.  The decision that Daniel had made was more than convenience and self rights.  Daniel looked within his life and had made the decision that God was his God.  He was determined to be used in whatever way God would choose.  The commitment of Daniel began with his own surrendering of his life to God in his heart.

Applying Daniels Commitment
Many in our nation today have experienced commitment from the background of mere convenience.  Just as America has slowly changed over the years, the idea of what a commitment looks like has also changed.  It is extremely difficult for us to realize what it means to get to the core of our commitment.  Priorities are numerous.  But what priority is at the top of our list.  This is where we must begin.  For Daniel, it was God.  For us, only each one can answer.  Can we say that God is number 1 on our priority list?  And if we say that, what does it look like?  We like to add the word "but" when discussing our priorities.  We will say something is number 1- BUT then will give importance to several other things at the same time.

Getting to the core of God being our priority in every aspect of life cannot be over stated.  Understanding the depth of making that decision is vital.  For once we determine as Daniel did, we will never have to make that decision again.  It is a decision that helps in making other decisions down the road.  As it was for Daniel, it will be settled once and for all in our lives.  Only in making this decision is God then allowed to do His best work in our lives.

The results in Chapter 1 for Daniel spread beyond himself to those who were also willing to follow his lead.  The first test of food resulted in Daniel and his men being found 10 times better than others who had eaten more completely.  Daniel and his men sacrificed so that God and God alone could get all the glory in what would occur.  Daniels commitment led him to put God to the test.

This is no small example of commitment.  The life lesson from Daniel Chapter 1 reveals struggle and risk.  Faithfulness and trust were immediately required.  And do not overlook that Daniels commitment is highlighted by sacrifice.  Commitment is not as easy as we Americans have been conditioned to think.  Biblical commitment is tough!

Can we make Daniels type of commitment today?  God says yes.  The question for each one of us is will we?

Our commitment cannot be made to a way of life.  Nothing Biblically nor nationally can guarantee a way of life.  Our commitment can only have as the object the person of God!  His glory and His glory alone must be the basis and focus of our commitment.

It was for Daniel, will it be for us?

Part 2 will deal with Daniels self marketing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA Gone - What does it mean?

Today the Supreme Court of America in a 5-4 decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  And the Supreme Court decided the defense of Prop 8 had NO standing in California.  As the homosexual community celebrates, Christians must wake up and realize that America has indeed changed.

Religious Liberty is officially under attack!

Here are some questions that highlight this new day and the dangers therein:

1.  If churches deny marriage ceremonies to homosexual couples - what will the Government do?

2.  If a Pastor refuses to marry a homosexual couple - what will the Government do?

3.  If a church continues to preach and teach the Bible and what it says about homosexuality - what will the Government do?

And if that is not enough:

4.  If the Government says churches cannot discriminate against homosexuality - what will the churches do?

5.  If the Government says a Pastor must marry heterosexuals and homosexuals - will Pastors still participate in the marriage ceremonies?

6.  If the Government says the Bible cannot be taught where it deals with homosexuality - what will churches, Pastors, and people of faith do?

These questions are no longer hypothetical.  These questions today became real for Christians in America.

And by the way, it is not the fault of the Supreme Court of our President.  It is we Christians who have sat idle in our clubs excusing ourselves from witnessing for way too many years!  And when we did teach, we did so in such a weak manner that few learned much of anything!

We will now see what all of this means.  When will we wake up?

It is time we realize that our only path now in America is the path that Daniel lived within 2 evil forms of Government.  In both, he rose to power and even more importantly, he was respected.  Our conduct, words, actions, and ministry will now be under a microscope.

All is not lost!  God is still on the throne and we have NO excuses in realizing that Christianity must be busy about reaching people.  We must leave our club mentality at the altar and get out in the communities serving and sharing.  We must care and love!

We must be Christians!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sharing Your Faith - Simple and Profound

Today's America reveals that Christians seldom share their faith in Jesus Christ outside of church circles.  In fact, the truth is that often in the functions and activities of the church, little is shared by anyone except key figures.  We hear of preaching to the nations but we hear little of sharing to the individuals we meet and interact with on a daily basis. 

We have retreated as Christians into our safe cocoons.  In ministry and life we only want the "Christian" brand and scene.  We have Christian schools, sports teams, hangouts, etc..  I asked a question in our Bible Study group yesterday that gets to the heart of this - how many non believers do you know and interact with in your life?  I remember growing up and attending public school that I was around many.  In public school I had teachers who were Christians.  They shared and cared and taught.  Yes there were a few that were not believers.  Yet there was a respect present.  During pewee football, we would load the guys up after practice and go to our church Revival meetings.  Most of the team was happy to go. 

Today, we discover the shelter approach being implemented by parents.  We talk about protecting.  We emphasis fear from evil influences.  We have withdrawn from the public and thus, rarely except within family do we find anyone that we have close relationships with that provide opportunity for sharing the Gospel.  We talk about events at church that we hope will attract people.  But we do not share Jesus with those we do not want to be involved in our lives.  One could rightly say that we have adopted a "cult like" attitude towards our faith and lives.  But not totally!  For in our version, we are NOT as faithful to our beliefs and to God as the cults are to theirs.  We miss worship and Bible Study for any reason.  We put things before God that cult members would never put before their beliefs.

We have forgotten the role that God placed us in here on earth - we are missionaries.  We have a calling to reach people!  Yes, we have a calling to preach to the nations also.  But our simple beginning starts with GO and share Jesus with all people!  We can send money for special projects and do offerings to support missionaries serving around the world but we are to also BE missionaries.  We are to care that people who die without Jesus go to Hell. it should disturb us that our lack of sharing has led to such an increase in people who have not seen a Bible nor have heard that Jesus died for them.  Why is there no remorse and sadness?

We are quick to tell people how to live and yet we are selective in whom we desire to attend church with.  It is easier for us to promote our soapboxes and feel good projects than it is to reach a world that needs Jesus.  Lives all around are falling apart.  People are experiencing things that many of us have never had to deal with.  Children are growing up in homes where the normal roles of parents are corrupted and the lack of love and interest from parents to their children screams from every direction.  And we as Christians just sit in our cocoons safe and feeling good.  We point out the evil.  We are good at that.  We attack politicians as if they really could or would do anything that could fix our issues.  But we keep Jesus to ourselves.  As Christians we only seek to practice the parts of the Bible that we like.  We are as selective with our faith as we are with sharing Jesus.  We create man made systems of theology that excuse our sharing and we seek churches that only emphasis the certain things we like to attend. 

Sharing our faith is simple!  The only requirement needed is obedience to God.  He promises that if we will be faithful, He will save!  The Gospel is profound!  The fact that someone loves us - period!  The fact that someone died for us!  The fact that we can avoid Hell!  The fact that God has given us a guide book that fits our lives no matter where we come from and answers our most difficult questions!  The fact that anyone can receive Jesus!  Profound may be to small of a word!  The Gospel goes beyond our understanding.  The Gospel is freeing!  The Gospel is life giving!  The Gospel is AWESOME!

So can we answer why do we not share it and live it?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A tractor, chef, and markers!

Today I was called and told that one of the ladies in our church was out at our church property on the tractor mowing.  This was a big deal for this lady is our church chef!  I flew out of my desk chair with my phone in pocket to drive out and get a picture of this event.  She can cook!  And I learned today that, even with it being her first time, she can mow with a trim mower on a tractor.  I have been driving tractors for over 40 years.  I was blown away with her new discovered ability to cut grass - and even get the corners!

After I took the picture, we talked for a while and she said something that really got me thinking.  I mentioned how she was cutting even the grass on the corners.  She described her quickly learned lesson.  She lined the ornament on the front of the tractor to outside of the yet to be cut area and thus, she cut all the grass.  Nothing was left standing.  You need to realize that she was doing this with a trim mower - smaller than a bush hog.  Once she realized that grass was being missed, she adjusted!

Is this not the way markers work in our lives.  We track along in our journey looking back to see what we missed.  If only we would realize that it is the markers in front of us that must be lined up.  They prevent and thus help to avoid the need to look back.  When our markers are right, our lives are on the path with nothing left out.  We experience the full reality with no turning around and going back to get something we missed.

Peter said it this way:

2 Pet 3:11-18
11    Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12    looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
13    Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14    Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
15    and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16    as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17    You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;
18    but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

We need markers in our lives.  Have you lined your markers up recently.  The things we are reminded of when a church chef gets on a tractor!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why the Trifecta of Scandals Should Matter to Christians

In a world of conflicting views about how faith and politics should interact we discover a defining moment in the current trifecta of scandals.  Benghazi, AP News Subpoenas, and the IRS targeting of individuals should be a wake up call to Christians in America.  For those who have had enough of the political involvement among evangelicals, you might want to revisit that thought.

First Benghanzi
How can any Christian condone the ease of which the Administration is brushing off the fact that 4 Americans died?  Where is the outcry?  Have we heard the reports of how these men were killed?  It was horrible! When an Ambassador is murdered along with other Government officials and we do not feel or see the outrage, we are in worse shape than many think as a country.  I find the Gosnell trial and little response on the horrendous acts of murder and the cover up of Benghanzi highlighting how pathetic our understanding is for the preciousness of life.  The endit movement to put an end to child sex slavery is important.  But we must remember it is equally important!  We must not forget that all life is valued and precious.  When the Government of our country so easily brushes the value of life away and when the President of the United States has the audacity to actually say to Planned Parenthood "God Bless You" - the evil we feared would come has actually already arrived!

Second AP/Fox News Scandel
A free press is vital to a free society.  A country that threatens and intimidates the press is a country where freedom is fleeing.   Christians should be the first to take note of such a dangerous course.  Yes we have had freedom for years.  Yes we have often abused such freedom.  But we cannot afford to allow such freedom to come to an end!  It is one thing to get beat - it is another to not put up a fight!  A move to control information is a move that will find itself seeking to control what is preached in churches across America.  Pastors are you ready for this climate?  Will you stand strong and preach the Word of God even if it means audits, harassment, and even jail time?

IRS Target of Specific People and Groups
This one gets to the core of the threat to the American way of life.  Did you read the title of this section carefully?  It was not only the Tea Party that got targeted.  Specific people were targeted.  I am told that more evangelical pastors have been audited under this administration than ever before.  When the IRS goes after specific people, America is no longer free!  This scandal ties in with the AP/Fox News scandal.  When the Government is allowed to target specific people due to their message and beliefs, while fast tracking and look away from others who are in agreement with the Governments position, you and I are seeing a day that has never ever been before in America.

And all is not over.  The fourth scandal will hit in October when we all discover that the overhaul of the healthcare system is a disaster unlike any we have ever seen.

Do Christians care?  When will we engage?  These scandals matter!  They matter more than you and I can even imagine!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Salvation: Free Gift and Fear and Trembling

 Eph 2:8-9
8    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9    not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Salvation is a free gift from God to everyone who will believe.  Yes, salvation is that simple.  The faith required to receive Christ is small.  We know this.  We teach this.  We also teach something else.

Phil 2:12
12    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Salvation is not to be taken likely.  It is simple.  But it is not as simple as saying "I do not want to go to Hell!".  Salvation is simple.  But it is not as simple as saying "I want to go to heaven!".

How do we put these two passages together.  No doubt there has been in our history those who would emphasis the easy without much attention to the work.  No doubt there are many parents and grandparents who want their family to be in heaven.  And many times, these desires allow our emotions to control our sharing and teaching more than the Word of God.  This issue is not new.  This issue is not going away anytime soon.

As a Youth Pastor I dealt with this on many occasions.  I can remember back when we would Baptize 30 to 40 teenagers a year.  I remember a large portion of those who had "made decisions" as children wanting to avoid Hell and now as teenagers discovering that just avoiding was not the real deal.  I can still hear many parents saying "but they were Baptized...". 

I know as a Pastor the struggle of young parents wanting to answer the questions the right way for their children.  The time spent reviewing the answers before they meet with me or one of my staff.  I hear the words "they are almost there, they are getting it" only to discover that often they may not be as close as we would like to think.

I want everyone to go to Heaven!  I do not want anyone to go to Hell!  And this demands that people get a Biblical salvation.  It is simple - Jesus died to pay for our sins.  It is easy - we must simply accept through the exercise of faith in Jesus.  But it is tough - to work out the repentance aspect.  And some will say "what?"  Indeed this is what Jesus said.  

Mark 1:14-15
14    Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15    and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Without the act of repenting, there is no salvation.  This is the most difficult aspect of sharing about Salvation.  To repent means more than "I am sorry".  It is not a head knowledge of right and wrong.  It is more than realizing that we have sinned.  To repent is to see the sin in our lives as the very thing that put Jesus on the cross.  It is to see sin as Jesus sees it.  To repent is to respond to our sin with godly sorrow.  A sorrow that is deeper than regret.

2 Cor 7:10
10    For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Matt 7:21
21    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

And now you see why though simple, salvation must be worked out within our lives.  Do we repent?  Do we have godly sorrow?  

Salvation is a free gift that requires fear and trembling in getting it right.  To miss it, is to spend an eternity in Hell with no hope forever!  To say you believe in God and Jesus means nothing.  To make a quick decision for Heaven to avoid Hell won't cut it. Being Baptized or sprinkled only gets you wet.  To say love wins out and repentance is not too difficult is to fall for the trap of this world.  

Where are you?  Do you know with zero doubts?  Are you sure? What is your connection with Jesus?  Is it His connection or your religious way?

I Jn 5:13
13    These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Why and how?

John 3:16
16    "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Rom 10:9-13
9    that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10    For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11    For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
12    For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
13    For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Oh The irony - Carson Newman and My Son

I have served in Tennessee twice in my lifetime.  I have been in the state for one month shy of 7 years this time.  In both instances Carson Newman has been a part of my service.  Members children and adults who graduated from CN - now Carson Newman University (CNU) have been in my churches.  In both terms of service, I have had staff members who either attended or graduated from CNU.  And now, I have staff members children who attend and have graduated.  And beyond that, my oldest son is a student at CNU!

In understanding what I am about to say one needs to know that I am a Liberty University graduate.  It is hard to mix the blood line of Liberty and CNU.  I resisted it for months.  They are not as close as Apples and Oranges by any stretch of the imagination.  A few have often said that I cannot cooperate with those who theologically believe different.  And once again reality is about set the record straight.  For my oldest son is now a Junior at CNU.  There was no way we could afford to send him to Liberty or Truett McConnell (my two choices).  Neither was in Gods plan.  But CNU was.  The first two years of his education are behind him and they have been beneficial.  He also serves as a Resident Assistant (was named RA of the Year for this school year) and works in Resident Life.  He is a Religion major and making dad and mom very happy with his GPA and progress.  In fact, I am the first to admit that I am more than pleased with the educational value and environment of CNU.

The following are simple observations from a dads perspective of two years of CNU interaction, who happens to be a staunch conservative Pastor, in light of some of the dart throwers of today:

1.  CNU is a typical college campus with typical college life issues.  It is not a Convent and no one should expect such at any of the Baptist related schools of today.

2.  CNU has a mix of theological slants.  I have not seen much liberalism in my sons classes.  I have seen little compared to what I prepared him for.

3.  CNU is not changing the Gospel nor watering It down.

4.  There is a freedom to challenge the professors in theological discussions and that freedom is encouraged.

5.  CNU may be slanted somewhat less than conservative yet conservative is not berated nor excluded.  My son often wears Liberty and Truett McConnell shirts to class just to highlight his position (he has fun like his dad).

6.  CNU challenges students to dig into their Bibles for answers.  My son is an apologetic s nut.   CNU has NOT changed his conservative theology nor has it altered it.  And he loves the interaction with the professors in debating the different topics.  His positions and stance on doctrine have not been weakened.

7.  CNU is preparing my son for ministry and doing a great job of it.  Reading some blogs recently one might question whether CNU is Baptist enough or Bible enough.  As a parent, I can tell you that the times of questions and concerns have been few. 

8.  CNU has their own confession.  So what?  Only one college in the whole of SBC landscape has professors that 100% have affirmed and signed the BFM2000.  Only one!  That would be Truett McConnell in Georgia.  Anyone griping about CNU or Campbellsville might want to take this truth to heart before raising this issue.

9.  CNU leaders are the real deal in caring for and interacting with students.  I have been thrilled at the authenticity of the professors with the students.  They care and take time to get to know the students.  They interact well.  Case in point, a professor not as conservative as my son recommended my son for a staff position at a conservative church.  Those of the Calvinist/reform beliefs should take notes on that one.  CNU is not out to change my son.  They are developing him as college should. 

As shocking as it is for some to read this, I cannot find much fault with CNU.  It was not where God had me attend. I can tell you that it is the place that God directed and has blessed my son to attend.  Key in this discussion is the simple fact that my son started learning the Bible when he was little.  He grew into an avid reader of apologetic s and theology.  He was solid before he arrived on campus.  CNU did not change him in this area and that speaks volumes to me about where CNU is on the Baptist/Theological landscape. He is still a solid conservative.  And he is a conservative that knows how to use his learning tools to defend his beliefs and discuss them in intelligent and compelling conversation.  I encourage you to listen to his latest sermon, preached at our church last year when I was preaching out of state. 

Be careful in what you read and hear about a few colleges in SBC life.  There is always a motivation and slant.  I know these exist for what is written of late is little on fact.  I know this because I have a religion major enrolled at CNU and what he is getting does not match what is written.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Classroom Rant WRONG-Parents Please Read!

These days it appears the lessons of life are everywhere.  I have been asked via email my thoughts about the Texas student and his rant in a classroom caught on video and now viral to the world.  I actually saw the video yesterday and almost posted on it then.  I determined to see how the video would be protrayed and I also wanted to watch the local news from Texas to see further reporting and interviews.  Yes it still amazes me what the internet allows us to do!

Here is my take on this scene:

The Situation:
This event took place in a classroom.  A student is not happy about the quality of education and decides he has had enough.  The student disrupts the class and rants away.

The Problem:
Snce when did we become a people who applaud teenagers being disrespectful?  My father always says, even just the other night, "the end never justifies the means!"  I also seem to recall something about respecting those in authority.  I am sure I was taught that growing up.  Obviously this giy was not!

The Motivation:
Some say that it is the motivation that matters?  Not true.  No teenager should ever be applauded for the kind of behavior that this child lived out.  Even if the teacher is not doing her job, this type of solution is NO solution.  The rant makes whatever argument null and void.

The Real Lesson:
Excusing the behavior of this student highlights what is wromg in America today.  We are giving so many mixed signals in what is right, acceptable, tolerable, appropriate, and allowed to our teenagers.  To condone the actions in the video is to tear down the control and authority of the teacher.  The classroom cannot under any circumstance be subject to this type of behavior.  Who knows if the student has a point-he blew it by his conduct.  Surely we as Americans have not sunk so low as to justify this horrible example.  The classroom cannot become a zoo!

The Need:
We need to train our children at home in what is right and what is wrong!  I would have never been allowed to act like this growing up.  The punishment at home would have rightly been far worse than the punishmnet at school.  And rightly so.  Parents this video is a point of learning for all of us.  Children go to school to learn.  Teach them that at home.  Teach them how to act.  Train them.  Do not tolerate such behavior.

And in teaching them, model for them how to appreciate and respect their teachers.  Even the bad ones.  Not every teacher is perfect or motivating.  That is not the students problem to solve.  But every teacher is in fact placed in the classroom and should be given respect, period!

I thank God I had parents who let me know without any gray area what would happen if I chose the path to disrespect my teachers.  And I thank God for the many teachers who taught me through the years!  May you be honored and appreciated!

I sure hope we learn from this disaster quickly.  And to all who currently teach-thank you!  This is one Pastor who has your back!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mass Publicity and the Truth - Big Difference

In 1980's being a rock Star meant you figuratively owned the world.  Stars were idolized based on a bands popularity.  Flowing from their singing or screaming was also a sense of fashion and appearance.  Athletes picked up on the whole star thing and they had a guy named Micheal Jordan who led the charge in creating the star mentality for sports figures that surpassed anything up till then.  We forget that all along there have been stars - real stars!  Some reading this will remember Roger Staubach.  Others will go way back to a few coaches like Tom Landry or Vince Lombardi.  Stars have been around in all facets of life.  We all admire somebody for some reason.

We are drawn to these figures today as we were once drawn to cartoons.  Batman, Superman, Spider Man, and even the Hulk were characters that we would emulate as youngsters.  My life was confined to basically three stars:  Roger Staubach, Nolan Ryan and The FBI!  Leading a comeback, striking out the side, and cuffing and stuffing.  I picked those three for a reason.  Each of them stood and still stand for something of value.  Yes each were good at what they did.  But there was a character quality about each that drove me to respect and admire them.  So strong was this quality that I would pretend as I young boy that was in certain situations and my reactions to such were just like these three.  Granted, these were the days when the only video game was a white ball going back and forth across the screen.   

Fast forward to 2013 and something interesting is taking place.  Mass publicity for years has highlighted the rock stars, the athletes, and the movie stars.  Since the 90's these have been the "heroes" of many.  Social media and reality TV have escalated their popularity.  These figures developed a growing influence of our culture as they spoke out in favor or opposition of their desired interest.  Much of the crazy ideas of today stem from a group that makes millions off of publicity.  Truth be known, their talents and brain power are limited.  But there is a change in the air.  This change seems to be gaining steam as we see the truth that publicity often hid in the past, being exposed by mere over exposure.  I actually love the irony.

I can sense as I scan Facebook and Twitter this new air blowing.  First responders are growing in admiration and appreciation.  Our men and women in uniform are admired and cheered for.  Those who buckle it up and get it done day in and day out are miraculously becoming heroes.  They should have been all along.  People see the difference between those who promote and those who actually care and do.  The millions made and flaunted by punk type people who would have a difficult time qualifying for any other type of work is about to reach a point of push back.  The inside realities of these narcissist cannot compete with people who put their lives on the line daily because they value more than money and fame.  Today's growing heroes are people who value life and freedom.  They value it enough to do something about it.  Politicians cannot escape this new air that is blowing.  The truth is slowly but surely being seen.  And the reality is gripping every age group.  Blowhards will always be there sucking our money and ideas.  But heroes are real people who do amazing real things.

The remaining ingredient for this new air to become mature is simple.  When we all step back and realize that money and fame are nothing and that life and family are everything, we will rediscover one of the most precious missing values over the past 20 years.  The ugly world we live in today, that will be even more ugly tomorrow, requires this simple value of life and reality.  For when money and fame cannot be found, values show us what has been important all along.  They remind us that we are here for a reason - to reach people with the gospel.  They motivate us to action when lives are threatened.  Values when present, drive us in positive directions that grow and build.  Values give life and create freedom for life.

I read today an article about Tim Tebow.  Much is being said in reference to his love for ministry and sharing Jesus.  Often Christians have chided those who have ridiculed his treatment in the NFL.  But this article highlighted the real issues that Tebow must deal with in regard to skill and knowledge.  Now that he has been released, his promotion is limited.  And it is now that we will see if Tebow can stand up and do what must be done to maintain his NFL career or not.  The reality of all of this slams into our faces - though Tebow accomplished some great things in college and has been faithful in ministry, is he the person who can learn and grow to become a real NFL QB? Or is Tebow like the many before him who through publicity and promotion have hid the truth about his skills/weaknesses only to become a media frenzy with limited accomplishment.  Only time will tell.

And guess what?  Each of us are in the same spot today.  Only time will tell what is the real truth about our values and character.  Publicity fades.  Promotion lacks real perspective.  Self promotion is seldom accurate and often purposefully done to prevent the truth from being shown.

Time reveals the truth in each of us.

And that is a BIG DIFFERENCE!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The disconnect of knowledge and change!

I read.  I read a lot.  I read everything from my Bible, to books, to articles, to sports stats, to cartoons.  I read a lot!  So I got to thinking last night.  Does one need to be careful to not read too much?  Are there dangers in reading too much?  This I thought on all night and most of today.  Indeed there may be something to this thought.  Allow me to show you.

#1  Reading can never be underestimated.  Reading sharpens our thinking and keeps our brain learning.  Reading is healthy.  But this only occurs based on the content of what one reads.  If I dive  into a Louis L'Amour classic western, I am reading for entertainment.  I may be thinking, but the thoughts are not requiring much analysis and reason.  There is little to apply with this type of reading.  And yet, reading for entertainment is good and fun. But too much defeats the purpose.

#2.  Reading for information sake is also fun.  This is why I read 20 to 30 articles a day.  I try to stay informed and learn.  But here is a trap.  If I only use one type of source for this reading, my learning is not complete.  One type of source never ever gets the whole picture.  So for a guy as conservative as I am, I read even liberal stuff.  Why?  I want to see the big picture.  I want to learn how and why people think the way they do.  What makes a person tick.  There is value in learning this.  But caution must be used in applying this new found information.  Just because I know something doesn't mean anything about me or my abilities.  I just know.  Big deal.  Arrogance of knowledge is a dangerous trap!  Knowledge without the understanding to apply is real dangerous.  And don't forget, knowing what is good, right, bad, and evil, can be even more difficult.

#3  Reading to change.  Now this hurts.  When one reads to change, one reads with the idea of instant interaction.  This is how we should approach our Bible reading.  If, when reading the Bible, all we get is information, no change will occur for the good.  But when we read and apply, asking God to change us through His Word, life change occurs in us.  And this type of change is so needed.

Of the above three, #3 is the one most needed today.  With all the resources available and the push for people to read more, we Pastors really need to highlight #3 in our promotion and encouragement.  If we take the first 2 and miss #3 we miss God.  If we use the approaches of the first 2 with the Bible and do not apply #3, we are missing God changing us.  God is not impressed with how much we know about Him.  God desires our transformation - change - in Him!

Technology has allowed me to read more books than I would have ever dreamed.  I can read thoughts of people from all over the world instantaneously, but none of that will change me like God can through His Word.  Nothing is life giving as the Word of God.  And this is what we all need most.

So here is a simple challenge from me to you - take out your Bible.  Put away all the other stuff.  Ask God to change you via what you are about to read.  And dive into the greatest book in all of history, past present and future!  The Bible will reconnect knowledge and change in your life.  And this connection will be worth more than you will ever dream!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Are we awake?

Strange question to ask someone reading a post on a blog.  Obviously if one is reading one is awake.  The question actually applies to our awareness of just how quickly times are a changing.  For those of us who have accepted Christ, this change should have us wide awake.  Every aspect of our culture is experiencing radical redefining.  Christians and churches are not exempt.

When I look at my two sons, I wonder what in the world will they have to deal with in the days ahead if Christs return is delayed?  When I think of future grandchildren - wow the world will be different.  I am not as much scared as I am concerned.  I wonder if we realize the tools and grounding that will be needed to survive the coming turmoil.  We know that in Christ we are over comers and more than victors.  Yet our tool belts will need to be properly filled and we will need to be properly equipped to obtain the victory.  What is your like?

As we approach a new day of worship and spiritual growth, ask yourself some tough questions:  Are you prepared and are you equipping?  This is were we need to wake up.  The time is now.  Time to apply and reach as many as possible.  Time to prepare our children for their own children.  Time to make huge strides in adjusting our ministries to meet the above needs.  it is NOT time to live in fear and panic.  It is time to make the most of what God has given us and rise to the occassion. 

As we approach church tomorrow, or tonight, go awake!  Go ready to celebrate.  Go ready to grow!  If you serve in a ministry role - give it your all!  You are making a impact period!  Make sure it is a good one!

Yours and my future grandchildren indeed are the one's who's futures we are impacting today! 

Let's wake up!  See you in church!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Does Jesus Want ME to be HAPPY?

I like HAPPY!  In fact I like being HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!  Who wouldn't?  So does Jesus want me to be happy?  Does Jesus care about my happiness so much that His ultimate desire for me is tied to my happiness?

Trends come and go.  But one trend that I have noticed over the past few years does not seem to be fading.  I cannot keep track of how many times I have heard and read that Jesus wants me to be happy!  An example of this is a post on Facebook that I recently saw showing a picture of a Bible open to the passage about being a new creature in II Cor 5:17 - this part was highlighted, and then it showed a note that read as follows:

"God loves us too much to allow us to stay tied to anyone or anything that does not bring out the best in us!"

The note sounds great!  But is it Biblically accurate?  It sure fits with the trending ideas of many people today.  Here is the thought process that leads to this concept.  Since Jesus so loves me and knows me, His desire more than anything is for my happiness.  This concept is seen in how many people view their relationships with parents, grand parents, spouses, and children.  God wants me to be happy.  So all things must work towards this goal being achieved.  Right?  If my marriage does not make me happy, end it.  If my children are constantly complaining, give in to their wants.  If my church convicts, change it or leave.  The Bible is simply a guide with my happiness being the motive for how I interpret it.  Right?

Not so fast.  God has a key ingredient that He desires in us far more than happiness.  This ingredient in fact will often produce things that initially do NOT make us happy.  What is it?


God desires our obedience above all.  Dieing to self and living surrendered to His will is far more important than our happiness.  Why?  As individuals our happiness is never satisfied and is constantly in a state of change.  The flesh - the old man - does not know what it truly wants.  We see this lived out in the life of children today.

As a parent, it is always a struggle to resist making my children happy.  The more you try, the more you fail.  We learned quickly that playing the Happy Game would lead to spoiled out of control children.  We also realized that those out of control children would end up spoiled undisciplined adults.  This we did not desire.  Obedience and self control are difficult to teach but they are a must.  It has not alwaysbeen easy but it is more than worth the struggle! 

When we apply obedience to God and controlling our perceived wants by deferring to His will, the working within us is PEACE.  This peace produces joy.  Happiness may come, but it is not immediate if at all.  Why?  Because the old flesh will continue to wrestle against the new creation.  Even the Apostle fought this fight daily.

We must not forget that the Will of God will never contradict the Word of God.  Thus happiness is always sacrificed for the Will of God.

That is why Paul shared the following with the Phillippians:

Phil 4:11-13
11    Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
12    I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
And so is the irony.  While everyone from Duck Dynasty to Dolly Wood emphasis being happy, God is on a different page working for our eternal good.  He knows our happiness is more often than not working against His best for us.  He is working His Will in which can be found PEACE!  Peace with God, and peace with people around us!

Now the question, does this make you HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Christians in America and Baseball

"The church is full of hypocrites!"  OK - tell me something new!  The media in America love to pick up on responses such as the opening line to attack American Christianity.  And even the following statement is used by many today:  "Christians get on my nerves."  Lifeway Research has conducted several studies in regards to the issue of church relevance and perception among the people of America.  The numbers are not good regardless of your perspective. 

Ideas as to what Christians should be doing now are everywhere.  An honest look at American Christianity finds little passion and motive.  It is as if we are coasting unaware of how we are to finish the game of life.  Do we know the rules?  Are we done?  Is it over for us on earth?  So what do we do? 

I think the game of baseball has a few answers for us as Christians living in this time.

Get Back to 1ST Base
Beyond anything else we are to bring glory to God! Yet few churches focus on this.  The seeker movement of the 90's turned our attention to many other issues.  We saw our outreach struggling.  People were not coming to Christ!  We knew we needed a fix.  The fix we applied has not worked as a whole.  No church can accomplish pleasing people.  It is more than difficult for someone to surrender to Jesus while the attention is on their own "wants" being met.  That is why we are to bring glory to God and seek to please Him alone!  Evangelism flows from glorifying God.  We see first hand His provision in sending Jesus to mankind.  We begin to grasp the heartbeat of God in drawing people to Himself.  We realize our role in sharing the Gospel.  We see the fruit of lives changed once they surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  

Don't Get Picked off 1ST
Moving from 1ST base to 2ND is a must.  But before we get to 2ND we must avoid getting picked off at 1ST.  Distractions are everywhere.  People, good and bad, bring multiple distractions into our lives.  A simple thought expressed of something negative can start the ball rolling.  A thought unchecked can do it as well.  As eager as we are to move on, distractions will try to force our eyes off the goal.  And don't think that this doesn't happen daily.  And please understand, distractions come from those we would not think would want to distract us. 

Touch the Bases as we Move Forward
Once we have the green light to move from 1ST Base we must not forget a simple rule - be sure to touch all the bases as you progress.  What does this mean.  In baseball, a base runner must actually touch each base or they are called out.  As Christians, we love the idea of making it home and scoring runs.  But we must touch each base.  We must realize the importance found at each base.  Getting ahead in our thoughts can cause us to miss important things.  The distractions that come into our lives are actually designed to get us off track - miss each base.  It is important to know our goal.  It is important to reach our goal.  But the rules say there is a specific way to do this.  Be sure to touch each base.  Stay with the progression instead of trying to take short cuts.  Stay with with the Word of God, our rule book, and know that straying will bring consequences.  As we bring Glory to God, lives will be added to the Kingdom at each base. 

Tune Out the Fans
Everybody has an opinion.  Opinions are dangerous.  Lives are so influenced by those who are cheering for us and yet their advice is often misleading.  Once you know your goals and the rules, block out the many opinions that are thrown your way from fans.  They can create havoc in your life.  They want you to score.  They want you to win.  But they may not understand completely what that means.  Seek advice from grounded people - coaches.  But know that too many coaches never works.  Not many of our fans are really invested in us as individuals.  They want a win more than anything.  But they are in the stands and NOT on the field.  Stick with the coaches on the field.  And don't forget there are fans who do not want you to win!  Ignore them!  They are not cheering for your victory!  Can you tell the difference?

Leave it All on the Field
In my office is a framed rendition of Vince Lombardi's "What it Takes to be #1".  I also have a copy of a plaque that President Ronald Reagan kept on his desk that says "It Can Be Done".  These two things remind me daily of the above.  They remind me that I must commit to finishing strong.  Only commitment will keep you focused.  They also remind me that giving my all is required to actually score and reach home plate.  Christians cannot hold back in this life on earth.  We are to give our all to the One who paid for us and gives us life.  We are to finish our course wiped out ready for our reward.  Too many of us our coasting.  We trot around the base path as if we are good to go.  Jesus ran to the finish line for us with all He had.  Will we run the bases of life to reach home with every ounce of strength we have?  Will Jesus say of us "well done, good and faithful servant!"?

The true test for American Christianity is now upon us.  Our days of easy believe-ism are long gone.  The game of life on earth has reached the bottom of the ninth.  We are up to bat.  What will we do?  It is now our time to bring this game to a successful victory.  A victory that is assured.  Only problem though is that there are lives in the balance as we complete the game.  Our victory is other peoples salvation.  We are to reach home with others with us. 

And this we cannot afford to lose!

Play ball!

It's rally time!