Beyond Me

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Archive for the tag “Faith”

The Lost Message in the Duck Dynasty debate

This week has been a tough one.  I can’t help but feel, after all the reading, discussing, and social media uproar that the only person that won this week was Satan.  It saddens me and leaves me somewhat broken inside.  Once again the enemy was able to drive a bigger wedge between the Body of Christ and the culture in which it resides.  We’ve seen this week intolerance and hypocrisy reign on both sides of the issue.  And, it seems, that both sides of the issue are missing the bigger point…We are all being used.

News seems to be breaking this morning via the Huffington Post and WSB-TV in Atlanta that Phil Robertson is to return to filming Duck Dynasty after the holidays.  The show will air in January and it will continue to film.  This is a tremendous victory for 1st amendment rights in the United States, but I don’t feel it is a victory for us as Christians.  I also do not believe canceling the show would have been a victory for the LGBT community.

To be clear, (because I don’t want to be accused of being a coward), I have a tremendous amount of respect of Phil Robertson and his family.  I wish, more than anything, I had the courage and ability to live life the way that he does.  I think he is living the Gospel in ways many Christians, and maybe some non-Christians, wish to live.  I also agree with his stance.  While I would have said it much differently (and wish he would have to) I believe in the heart of the message.  ALL in this world are sinful, disorder, people in need of the grace Jesus Christ gives freely to all and repentance and realization of our sin is needed.  I am one of these sinful people, and it is an everyday occurrence I need to die to myself and the sinful nature within me.  Did he cross a line with his anatomical description in the interview?  I believe so.  But is that all that he said?  No.  Did he completely single out one group of people?  No.  I challenge you to read the article in its entirety and come to another conclusion.  There needs to be room in this culture for differing points of view and we should all be allowed to express them calmly, rationally, and maintain our relationships.  As I’ve heard Newspring pastor Perry Noble say recently, “You can win the argument but lose the relationships.”  That blog covers much better than I ever could the overarching argument in this debate.  This leads me to the real reason I am writing.  The fact of the matter is that Christians and the LGBT community are in the same boat.

We are being used.  By the media, by companies, and especially by Washington, DC.  We are seen as consumer groups.  We are seen as voting blocs.  We are commodities to be won over.  This is highlighted in no greater way than with what looks like A&E’s decision to air episodes in January and return Phil to the airwaves.  They are not concerned with free speech, feelings, insensitivity, morality, or anything of great importance.  Most companies, especially in Hollywood, are not concerned with these things.  Their allegiance belongs to ratings and dollar signs.  They will support and do, not what is right, but what furthers their interests of increasing the bottom line.  If A&E were a true supporter of LGBT rights, they would stand by their decision regardless of the backlash.  If they were a true supporter of Duck Dynasty and Christianity they would have stood by Phil Robertson or at least protected him from such an interview.  But they do not care.  Many politicians do not care.  Many companies do not really care.  They have no convictions or compasses…Their guide is the almighty dollar.  The sooner BOTH groups realize that the better.

My heart breaks for both my faith community and my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community.  There is so much more to a person and movement than their sexuality.  Gay and lesbian people are now, in this moment in time, only defined as such.  It’s like we don’t even realize there are people who deal with all of the other stuff we all deal with.  We’ve allowed the media to define this debate, and the media has ultimately dehumanized and manipulated it in such a way that makes for heated argumentation, rather than rational debate.  The media has defined the message.  It saddens me for the LGBT community, and I challenge you all to take back your message.

But now I want to speak to my fellow Christians.  We also have allowed the media to define our message. And there is SO MUCH MORE TO THE GOSPEL than sexuality.  It’s only a snap shot of what Jesus says and has to offer.  Is it important?  Yes!  Should we have convictions?  Absolutely!  But we cannot continue to allow the secular media (right and left) to be the voice and definition for what disciples of Jesus truly stand for.

I’m reminded of Louie Giglio’s predicament at the beginning of this year.  He was bestowed with the honor of praying at the Presidential Inauguration.  But, because of a sermon 20 years ago, people called him a bigot and demanded he not be allowed this privilege.  He could have screamed in front of every camera and mic about free speech, his rights, and demanded boycotts or petitions.  But his words rang loudly of grace as he respectfully withdrew his acceptance of the invitation.  He served a bigger purpose.  There is so much more to the Gospel than the issue of sexuality.  He wanted to serve that message and that Savior.  And he goes on about his life embodying the Gospel.

The truth is, our message and Gospel is not meant to be preached from the pulpit of Fox News or CNN.  It’s not meant for the masses.  That’s why, often times, when large crowds gathered to hear Jesus, he often said something that offended and made the mass majority not able to follow.  Disciples were made by those who saw him live, day in and day out, the truth of which he spoke (Read John 6).  We need to understand that our best tool Jesus gave us is community and relationships.  We can speak softly because we carry the biggest stick the enemy has ever seen…The power to love all, even those against us, and pursue community and relationships with them regardless of how they treat us.

A small movement of just over 100 people began a journey in this fashion.  It changed an entire empire.  The message lived out spoke louder than the message in words.  We need, no we must, rediscover this ability.

If we dare to take this challenge, if we begin to trust more in the Holy Spirit and our savior, this world and especially Satan’s reign in it do not stand even the slightest chance.

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Obedience

I was reading in the book of John last week Jesus’ prayer in the Garden.  I’ve read this prayer countless times.  I have always enjoyed it and feel it really gives us a peek into the heart and mind of Christ.  This time, something jumped out at me that never had before.  In John 17:6, Jesus, when praying for his disciples, says they obeyed God’s word.  Then, down in verse 8, says they knew Jesus came from God.  I can’t help but think back through the Gospel’s and think about this ragtag group of disciples and say to myself, “Really?”  They obeyed?  They believed?  These guys who, at multiple points, had no clue what Jesus meant when he spoke.  The same disciples who still expected Jesus, at some point, to lead a revolution against the Romans.  Peter, who just hours before this prayer tried to tell Jesus what to do, and then just hours after this would deny Jesus.  Peter, whom we often think of as aloof obeyed and believed?  Doubting Thomas?  James and John who were concerned about who would sit at Jesus right and left were obedient and believed?  These same disciples who couldn’t perform healings at times or cast out demons because of their lack of faith were obedient and believed?  This seems a strange thing for Jesus to say, considering the multiple recorded accounts of the disciples’ failings.

I believe this is something that can speak incredible grace into our lives today.  With all of those failings, Jesus still said they obeyed and believed.  Even with all of these moments where they clearly did not obey and did not believe, Jesus still said they were obedient and believers.  Moments of unbelief do not separate us from Christ.  Moments of disobedience do not disqualify us from the Kingdom.  They are just that, moments.  They are fleeting.  They pass.  We move on from them.  Clearly the disciples did, because we sit here today as believers.  Clearly we can as well.

I can be hard on myself and allow my moments of disbelief and disobedience separate me from Christ.  It is never Christ who does this, only me and my own guilt.  Christ still sees me as an obedient believer, even in those moments. Jesus still believes in me, still loves, and is still going to use me.  Jesus still believes in you, still loves, and is still going to use you.  Look no further than this moment of prayer, when despite the clear shortcomings of these first disciples, Jesus still had faith and love for them.  Obedience and belief are a journey.  They can’t be figured out in one moment, and neither can they be undone in one moment.  This is what Jesus believed about the first disciples, and what he believes about us today.

Re-Learn

I realize I’m a little bit behind the times, but I just watched Kirk Cameron’s interview on Piers Morgan Tonight.  I do think it is absurd that people are raking him across the coals for being a bigot.  That was not this man’s intent or character which to me is evident in the interview.  He was asked for and stated and opinion, which should be tolerated as much as Piers’ view on the issue.  Now, off that soap box and on to the bigger issue…we need to accept that we’ve lost the high ground.

When Christianity first began as a faith in the world, it was nowhere near the dominant force in the culture.  The lived in a very pluralistic society that allowed many of the things that we allow today.  When I read about places like Corinth and Ephesus I see our 21st Century culture reflected in it.  It wasn’t until Constantine took power in the Roman Empire that Christianity gained favored status in the world and then became the dominant force in shaping the world for a couple thousand years.  With that power and status came also much corruption and evil that the church will have to atone for, but that’s not what this post is about.

In the time leading up to Constantine’s rule, Christians and the Church were an absolute force.  People came to know Jesus at an almost unprecedented pace.  This was done in a society with no television media, no social media, and in reality no public platform to do any good.  I think we need re-learn what Christians learned long before us.

What strikes me isn’t Cameron’s interview…it’s the amount of backlash towards him.  If you Google search this interview you get countless condemnations of him as a person as well as his views.  And unfortunately, the video clearly takes a small snippet of the interview and not the whole thing in context.  Piers and others have latched onto one comment and destroyed Kirk Cameron who I believe had no malice or intent of hate in his heart.  We have lost our place in the public forum, just like the early church had no place in the public forum, and to me that is ok.  We just need to re-learn.

This is not the America that we once knew.  The culture is not dominantly Christian…it is secular and we need to accept that.  We also need to learn from Kirk Cameron’s experience that when we take to the airwaves, we open ourselves to criticism that is damaging to the name of Jesus and to the Church.  Right or wrong, fair or unfair, this is reality and the sooner we accept the sooner we can move on to actually making a difference in the world.

Now, I’m not advocating that we sit silently and just let the world win.  What I am advocating is that we quit using avenues that don’t work anymore.  Going on major news networks and speaking gets us in trouble.  Speaking out in the media gets twisted and taken out of context.  We need to be very careful in our rhetoric as Christians.  And we need to learn what made the early church successful…their radical treatment of those around them.

You see since they had no platform to speak from they had to spread the Gospel differently.  There was no place for them on the floor of the Roman Senate.  Their place was the floor of the Coliseum.  However, they did live in a society where the rich and powerful were glorified and those who were poor and unprivileged were walked all over.  Christians treated those people will a love and kindness that was never seen before, and it won people over.  They reached out to those who needed someone built relationships with them.  Their love was so radical, so different from the culture, that it was evident there was something that caused this in them…Jesus.

We can do this today.  We just need to learn how.  It first involves that we stop our dependency on the media and the halls of Congress.  They make us look unloving, which I believe is not the case for most Christians.  We also need to work with everything we have to silence those voices that are full of hate, malice, and preach anything but the Gospel.  Places like Westboro Baptist Church and others like them should be condemned because they are perverting the Gospel.  Then we must come together to be a force of love, grace, and good in our communities.  We can change things by choosing to be radically different and it be evident to all that are around us.  What if we stopped fighting for a Constitutional amendment on marriage and started a support group where we actually loved, cared for, supported, and built relationships with those who deal with being gay or lesbian?  What if we stopped complaining about the unfairness of the Welfare system and started figuring out ways in our local churches to get people off of Welfare so that it is not needed?  What if we actively reached out and built relationships with all, sharing with them the love of Jesus, and just let that do the talking?

My senior pastor recently made a great point.  Jesus told us that with faith as small as a mustard seed we could move mountains.  He never said that we would move the whole mountain at once, but that the mountain could be moved.  Church we no longer have the dominant voice to move a whole mountain at a time.  But there was a time where piece by piece Jesus worked through faithful, loving, generous men and women to change the whole world.  I, for one, want to believe that this can be done again.  I believe my God and my Savior is big enough to change the world without the help of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or CNN.  If they don’t want to help, I know someone who loves more than they can love and has more power than they could possibly wield.  Let’s re-learn what the Church once knew and then let’s set out to change our communities with the truth of the Gospel.

Pastor Tebow

Tim Tebow is the number one pastor in the US right now.

Seriously.  And he gets being a pastor even more than I do, I think.

I just read an article by ESPN’s Rick Reilly, and it really opened my eyes further to just how good this guy is and to the fact that he gets it.  Tim Tebow is not the typical athlete who thanks God, is not the guy just trying to do some good.  Tim Tebow is being the hands and feet of Jesus, and in the process is bringing millions of people to church on Sunday who otherwise would not hear the Gospel.  There is this genuine nature about this guy that you cannot help but like.  I knew he was good, I admired him as a person before today, but then I read this quote from him and it made me realize…this guy is a pastor.  Reilly talks about how Tebow flies a different person out to each game that is either sick, hurting, or dying.  He puts them up in a nice hotel, dinner out the day before, rents them a car, sideline passes, nice seats, and then hangs out with them after for up to an hour.  Win or lose this is his routine.  When asked about this, Tebow says, “The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”

Who is this guy?

I’ll tell you who…an unashamed pastor for Jesus Christ who shares the Gospel in a way that most of us wish we could.  In the biggest sport in America, playing the most difficult position in sports, Tebow says the most important thing is to invest in the lives of people.  That’s the Gospel folks.  To genuinely care for people, to invest in their lives, and to make a difference.  And to make no apologies for it.  Tebow does this, with great humility, to the point where I no longer see Tim Tebow or hear him talk but I see Jesus.  I wish people could say that about me all the time.

So if you ask me, Tim Tebow has the biggest pulpit in America right now, and he doesn’t even have the most contemporary service in the land (dude was singing Our God is an Awesome God and Lord I Lift Your Name on High…old school).  What does he do with that pulpit?  He speaks hope into the lives of people and turns every Sunday into a day of pastoral care and hospital visits.  He just lives his life to love people.

Is he the greatest quarterback in the league?  Not even close.  Will he ever be?  Possibly, but not likely.  Does it matter?  Not one little bit.  Because as of right now he is one of the greatest preachers I hear and I can’t wait hear him bring the Gospel Saturday night.

Faith in Process

We just celebrated the 4th of July and all the great expressions of patriotism that inspires.  Throughout the year we get the opportunity to share our thoughts about how great this country is and how blessed we are to live here.  But we are also a fickle people, and ultimately a selfish people.  We can turn at the drop of a hat.  The fact of the matter is, we support something when we get what we want but then bash it the minute it doesn’t make sense to us or we don’t agree.  Case in point the ruling in the trial of Casey Anthony.  In one week we’ve seen the greatness of America praised as well as a complete turn toward criticism and anger because it didn’t work the way we wanted it to.  Most people believe Casey Anthony’s guilt, most people think she deserves to die, but our process in our constitution in our nation that was just spoken so highly of a few days ago and that most people say we need to follow closely provided the avenue for this woman to be found not guilty of a heinous crime.  She we walk free in a week.  We, as a nation, are angry.  Angry at the result and immediately lose our faith in the process.  It’s a confusing, twisting turn of emotion that happens continuously and I suppose it’s human nature.  We want things to make sense.  We want the villain to get it in the end.  We want our view of justice to be served and not someone else’s.  We quickly abandon the process as soon as it doesn’t jive with our desires and opinion of what is right.

The worst part is that we do this same thing to God and to the church.  We very easily trust in God when it makes sense and things go the way we believe they should.  But, as soon as something doesn’t make sense we tend to want to abandon the process, take away our trust, and try to make situations and life go the way we want.  That’s not faith.  That’s not true belief.  That is dedication to convenience rather than to God.  We want our faith when it makes our lives easier but turn quickly if we feel there isn’t anything in it for us.  The same way many people in this nation this week have turned on our justice system with anger we thumb our nose at God and say, “You don’t know what you’re doing; I can do it better.”  Many of us this week have thought that about the prosecutors, judge, and jury in this infamous case and we often do this to God as well.  So then, the question becomes what do we really want?  Do we want the process or do we want convenience?

The thing about the Constitution and our laws are they are written by humans who are imperfect and so therefore the perfect result is not going to be achieved every single time.  By all apparent logic it would appear this woman killed her child, but according to our laws it could not be proven.  The process worked, but it just didn’t give our desired result.  We have to trust, however, that justice will be served because as Scripture says vengeance belongs to the Lord.  If we want the process sometimes we have to live with the results.  Same when it comes to our faith.  If we truly want to believe in Jesus, want to follow him, desire to be his disciple, it means that we have to trust in the process he takes us through and live with the results.  They may not always be what we pictured or dreamed, but the process is good and the one orchestrating is good too.  We cannot cling to both process and convenience.  We either choose to trust and let it play out or we be honest and say we think we can do it better.  Riding the fence won’t fly.

This isn’t meant to be a defense of Casey Anthony or a justification for her actions or a ruling on her guilt/innocence.  That’s not my job and it’s not a task I want.  This is just merely an observance of human nature that I believe affects our relationship with God.  I know I struggle with trusting God’s process.  I’ll leave you with this story.  I had a conversation with someone one evening where we were discussing the times and finances.  Her family had seen their financial situation change as the economy had turned, just like many others have.  She realized, however, they were still tithing based on their previous income.  As a family they decided they would trust God and keep giving what they were giving.  I’ll never forget what she said:  “Brandon I could show you the books and numbers.  It shouldn’t have worked.  We shouldn’t have been able to pay out everything we needed to, but somehow every month it’s worked.”  That statement confronted me  then and still does today.

Can you have faith in the process?

Misplaced Faith

Obsession…that’s what could describe this last week in our world.  We learned that we are obsessed as a culture with being correct and with figuring out what we were never meant to figure out.  We as humans cannot live with our limited human capacity.  It is difficult for us to deal with that which we cannot wrap our minds around.  Often times we choose to avoid such subjects because they make us uncomfortable.  Others, like Harold Camping, choose to read into the words of Scripture and make them say something they were never intended to say.  Those of us who know better mock.  Those who don’t believe mock.  Nobody wins when faith is misplaced.  I can remember being younger and being obsessed with the end times as well.  It was one of those things that just fascinates our culture.  How will history come to a close?  In reading the New Testament one can see that clearly those writers thought it would be soon, just like we are sure today.  If you were to ask most practicing Christians today they would probably tell you without a doubt that we are in the end times.  Truthfully, this idea is relatively new to Christian thought.  The idea of a rapture did not even surface until the 20th Century.  For whatever reason, this idea has taken hold in our culture and in the church.  Pages upon pages are written trying to relate the words of the Prophets, the words of Revelation, and correlate them with the events of today.  In doing so writers take the power out of the words of Scripture and cheapen them, which leaves our faith open to attacks and criticism like we all witnessed in the week leading up to last Saturday as well as this week.  We misplace our faith when we take Scripture out of context.

Most Christians who even casually read their Bible knew that if Mr. Camping had been correct it would have been more likely by coincidence rather than his work of interpretation.  We joined with the world in mocking him…I was one of these at first.  As I thought more, read more, I really began to have a change of heart.  This man, these people, did not deserve to be mocked.  They did not intend evil, they just had their faith misplaced.  Camping’s followers made this mistake in placing their faith in a fallible man who made a major error in interpreting Scripture.  As a result many have lost their livelihoods and some may even lose their faith.  This should break our hearts.  Camping misplaced his faith by spending more time trying to read into the Bible rather than just reading.  He truly believed he had come to understand what was not understandable and wanted to help the world.  He was not unintelligent being that he was an engineer and successful businessman.  He just had a little too much faith in himself.  Trying to figure out something became more important than just living out what is made clear.  He intended good, but the results were drastically bad.  That should break our hearts as well.

Before we jump on Harold Camping’s case we should ask, “Are we any different.”  At times we are all guilty of misplacing our faith.  We become more hooked on an idea, a movement, or a personality rather than what those elements represent.  Christ alone our faith should be placed in and the rest should be peripheral.  Churches split or close their doors every day because they become based on the pastor rather than the true head of the church.  Too often when we hear a great message we praise the personality of a great speaker or writer rather than the one whom the message originated from.  Then, when those decidedly human and fallable people fail or are wrong it shakes our faith.  I’m guilty of the same thing Camping and his followers are…just not in the same way.

I hope humility can be shown from Camping and his followers.  I am given hope from a quote from one of Family Radio’s board members who said, “I don’t know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don’t understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.”  This gives me hope that good can come from last week.  And I hope that we can all join in being compassionate, graceful, prayerful towards those who misplaced their faith.  They aren’t the enemy and we should not want to see them be looked at as such.  Indeed, it would have been nice if they had been right.  The prayer of the early church was, “Maranatha,” which meant “Lord come quickly.”  That should be the desire of our hearts as well.  I also hope we realize that their mistake is one we make often.  When we take our eyes off of the cross, off of Jesus, we misplace our faith.  We do this often and our faith and the church suffers because of it.  There are somethings we are not meant to understand and therefore we should be content with that and let our faith take over where understanding fails.

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