April Newsletter Article

There was a day when telling someone you were thinking of them and praying for them was met with thanks and appreciation. While it is still possible and even likely to get that response today, a distinct and loud minority would have us do away with the phrase, the sentiment, and the action. They see such words as useless platitudes used by people who are not willing to do what is necessary. Are they right?

Although the phrase itself seems weighted toward the idea of prayer, I would like to digress for just a moment to look at the idea of reason and thought in society today. Unfortunately, we see the exaltation of feelings over intellect and actions over thought in our day and age. While feelings and actions can be good, without thought to back them up they lead to simplistic and often wrong responses. Certain branches of philosophy have long taught that thinking is important, with thinkers like Socrates proclaiming, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and Descartes theorizing, “I think therefore I am.” Although philosophy can be good, we have to remember that God’s Word remains our standard. We would do well to remember God’s declaration in Isaiah 1:18, “Come let us reason together.” Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We continually find Paul reasoning in synagogues (Acts 17:2. 17; 18:4). And Luke 14:28 records Jesus saying, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” We are taught in the Bible that thinking is a good and necessary part of life!

We are also taught that thinking about and praying for others is good and necessary as well. 1 Timothy 2:1 reminds us that intercessory prayer is an important part of our Christian life: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” When we pray for others we should always recognize the sovereignty of God as we pray (“Not as I will, but as you will” – Matthew 26:39), but we should also remember that prayer can change things. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18). God’s graciousness in commanding prayer is also for our benefit. Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And perhaps that is the greatest danger that comes from “thoughts and prayers.” Some people just cannot believe that we are not in control. That there is a God. That He can help. That He is all powerful and all knowing. That there is a way to take away the hate and hurt that resides in our souls. That there is a way to be at peace. Pray for them.

My complicated relationship with Facebook

This post has been a long time coming.

I’ve had some fun with Facebook over the past week, but some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately.  There are many reasons for that.  Some of them have to do with privacy (Facebook certainly doesn’t need to know everywhere I go on the web or where I take my phone).  Some have to do with convenience (I used to post directly from my WordPress account, until Facebook decided that it wouldn’t allow me that convenience).  I’ve also have friends that had posts deleted or their account frozen because of conservative ideology.  Most recently it appears that a New York pastor has not been allowed to share a post about his concern with the new abortion law (https://fxn.ws/2G4Kel1).  I guess that this is my proverbial last straw.

In the past I’ve removed the Facebook app from my phone.  I’ve reviewed my browser settings to make it harder for websites to track me.  I’ve disabled location services. Much of this is just good common sense.  Big Data is a real issue.  But I have continued to use Facebook periodically.

Unfortunately, I can’t simply stop using it completely, as much as I’d like to.  I can’t add information to our church page without having a linked personal account.  I’ll have to go back to what I was doing before: logging on whenever I need to post information to the church site, but not using it as a platform for anything else.  I have other options.  I can use my WordPress blog, and our desire is to have the church website updated more frequently so that the information is current.

So, that is where I stand.  My wife has chosen to deactivate her account, at least for the time being.  The nice thing about that is the ability to continue to use messenger, although some have expressed privacy concerns about that app as well! The truth is that even our smart TVs are spying on us.  We should just be aware of the issues that arise as a result, and the Orwellian oversight of our posts.  Each of us will have to make our own decision as to where to draw the line.

Postscript: If you are concerned about your privacy on the net, you may want to check out the Brave web browser.

November Newsletter Article

The day is almost here.  Tuesday, November 8th is the day we are called upon to go out and vote for our leaders.  The best (but not perfect) Bible verse concerning the importance of voting and the importance of who to vote for may be Deuteronomy 16:18:

You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.  You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.  Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

I say that it’s not perfect since there are some interpretive difficulties in taking a verse giving instructions for Israel when they are entering the promised land and applying it to our representative democracy today!  However, there are some other Bible verses that give us clear instruction regarding how we are to live as Christians regardless of the government we have.

  • We pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  • We obey our leaders (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
  • But we always recognize that our greatest allegiance is to God, and He comes first (Acts 5:27-29).

In the midst of it all we believe that God is ultimately in control (Daniel 2:20-21), and that He can do as He wishes (Proverbs 2:11).  The issue becomes the difference between what God decrees and what God allows.  God says that certain things will happen and they do!  But other times He works in the midst of our decisions and our choices, because He can still accomplish His will.  Our responsibility then may go back to Deuteronomy 16:18, remembering that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).”  Please make your decision on November 8th based on prayer, the Word, and a continual reliance upon God’s Spirit.

May newsletter article

I worry about our culture and the Christian response to it.  This issue is an age old one, with many different solutions.  Should we withdraw from culture?  Should we go along with culture?  Do we try to transform culture?  Do we exist in parallel with culture?  My musings were actually brought about by the comments of a football player, whose jersey I regularly wear.  The comments made me wonder if perhaps my allegiance should be elsewhere.  How should I respond?  What should I do, if I do anything at all?

Now some might feel that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.  After all, just because I wear the jersey doesn’t mean that I support everything that they say or do!  True, but perhaps there are role models out there that I would be better off supporting, even if they don’t play for my team!  I remember when Charles Barkley famously said, “I’m not a role model,” and belittled the idea that professional athletes serve as examples for society.  That begs the issue.  We are a celebrity culture, and we like anyone that is humorous, beautiful, wealthy, powerful, or athletic. We follow them on Twitter, and Facebook.  We buy their products.  We go to their movies.  We watch their games.  We support their campaigns.  We wear their jerseys.  And we say something about ourselves when we do.  We say something about who we like, who we support, and who we are.  And we need to remember that we are role models too! 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” We represent Jesus Christ to the world, and it should impact everything that we do.

The answer to my current dilemma is easy: I wear the colors and the logo, but not the jersey.  I support the team, but I don’t necessarily take a stand on the individual.  No, nobody is perfect.  But my responsibility as a Christian is to be and to point people to good examples and godly lifestyles, not end up in a position where I am defending what someone else does simple because I’m a fan.  I need to be a bigger fan of Jesus, which brings a responsibility of its own!  For you see, Jesus “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Theological Triage

We are going to look at “Post Reformation Growing Pains” this week during Bible Study on Sunday morning.  A few weeks back I introduced the idea of “Theological Triage” by sharing an article that Al Mohler wrote in 2004.  Here is chart and a good summary of the concept that I’m going to share in class tomorrow.

June Newsletter Article – Dealing with Hard Relationships

We are in the midst of what I am calling my 2015 family and culture series, and we are preparing to get to the heart of the study.  As I think about family relationships, I find that I am surrounded by issues and situations that would make just about anybody cry.  It seems that every day I am being reminded that families can be difficult, and that we often need a lot of grace and understanding to get us through.  With that in mind, I’ve come up with some unofficial rules over the past 46 years that I think are very important and that I like to share with people in counseling situations…

  • You can’t turn the Adams family into a Norman Rockwell painting. I know, a little dated. What would it be now? You can’t turn the Kardashians into……anybody know the name of a mature TV or celebrity family? Anyway, I digress. The point is that you can’t do it! You can’t control what other people do, or make them behave in a different way. And that is further complicated by my next point…
  • Some people don’t want to be helped. It actually goes beyond that. Some people are violently opposed to being helped and will lash out at you if they even suspect that you are being critical of them. It’s a dangerous world out there! Proverbs says “Answer a fool according to his folly,” and “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4-5). Which is right? Both are! What we need is discernment to understand when each is appropriate.
  • My final point is probably the most controversial, even though I don’t believe it should be. Sometimes, for your own health and well-being, you have to let go, at least for a time. Does a battered wife need to stay at home? Does an abused child need sanctuary? Hopefully you answered those questions “No” and “Yes.” But does that only apply to physical abuse? What about verbal, mental, and emotional abuse? Why should we allow that type of battering to take place? Sometimes there may be extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into account (illness, medication, etc.), but why do we often refuse to allow someone the space and distance they need to heal just because the bruising isn’t physical?

I don’t know what you are going through right now in your own life, but I would remind you of that day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Pushing the boundaries…

There is so much that one could say about the upcoming “50 Shades” movie, but much of it has been written about already.

Here is an excellent article about the movie/book, and this article provides 7 lessons we can learn from the “50 Shades” phenomena.  Finally, here is an interesting read about the possible emotional effects of romance novels.

My best word on the subject comes from the Bible: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).