Monday, October 20, 2014

A Disturbing Development!

About this time every two years, I am asked if I am going to preach on issues surrounding the upcoming election. Will I speak out on presidential, gubernatorial or legislative campaigns?  Will I share my opinions on the hot-button issues of the day?  The short answer is “no”.

I do not share the perspective of many of my pastor-brethren that the pulpit should be used to promote politicians or political parties.  Week-in and week-out, I’m given about 40 minutes to address the people at Life Spring, and I don’t really want to waste it sharing talking points published by politicians.  I won’t shy away from preaching tough sermons on issues rooted in Scripture, but I won’t try to make a political speech using the Bible as cover.  I’d much rather talk about Jesus.

Over the years, there have been numerous warnings of dire consequences that Christians and churches in America would experience as our nation becomes less tolerant of the beliefs and practices of people of deeply held faith.  I must admit that I have largely dismissed many of these concerns, chalking them up to a “chicken little” mentality that exists among many conservative evangelicals. For many of these folks, the sky is always falling.  I have believed—and I still believe to a large extent—that we focus too much on the temporal to the exclusion of the eternal.

But a recent event has sent shivers up my spine, and it should be a cause of concern among all Americans, regardless of religious affiliation or political persuasion.  Recently, the City of Houston subpoenaed several pastors’ emails, texts and other communications—including sermons—that dealt with gender identity, homosexuality and comments regarding Houston’s first lesbian mayor, in connection with a recently passed Houston city ordinance.

My primary concern is not with the ordinance or the efforts to put that ordinance to a public vote—that is a completely different issue. You can read more about that matter on several news sites, including at:

My great concern is with a governmental entity issuing a broad directive to provide notes and sermon manuscripts or outlines for some government official to review. What is the purpose of such a review? How would such material be used by the government?

Don’t get me wrong. I’d be happy to send a few dozen sermons to the Mayor of Houston, with prayers that they would be read and considered for their effect upon her relationship with God. I’d love for her to come to know Christ and to turn from sin and wickedness.

But I don’t think that the purpose of such a review is for them to prayerfully consider their ways. The idea of the government—at any level—having the ability to randomly and arbitrarily secure the notes, sermons and correspondence of pastors is extremely troubling. Is government now going to put itself in the place as an arbiter as to what can and cannot be said from the pulpits in our churches? Will they decide what is acceptable and unacceptable theology?

There has been a strong public backlash against this governmental intrusion, even by many sympathetic to liberal politics and causes. I hope that this translates into an immediate effort to stop trying to intimidate pastors and churches from speaking out on Biblical teaching—however unpopular or politically incorrect it may be.

But we who take our faith seriously must constantly be on guard, and we must make our voices known. Because whether we admit it or not, maybe the sky really is falling.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Because He Lives

The emphasis at the outset of Holy Week is generally on the outpouring of support that Jesus received from the Jewish people as they contemplated the Messiah’s overthrow of the oppressive and corrupt Roman government. Although we know how quickly that support turned on Jesus, those images of palm fronds lining the road to Jerusalem are the enduring image of what we call “Palm Sunday”.

However, in our community, Palm Sunday turned dark this year as the forces of evil reigned ugliness and violence on a couple of Jewish centers in neighboring Overland Park. Three people are dead, including a teenage boy, and the entire Kansas City area is experiencing a collective sense of deep sorrow.

Although it’s early in the investigation and things are sure to change as more information becomes available, it appears that the motivation for this senseless violence was the irrational hatred of the Jewish race, something neither novel nor isolated.

But even as our hearts are heavy for those directly affected by this violence, we are reminded that at its core, Easter is all about such dark & sinful hearts. And while we may not have fired shots at innocent people or openly spewed such hatred for our fellow man, we too are guilty of sins for which Jesus had to die. It is every bit as much our spiteful thoughts, our jealousy & envy, our arrogance, selfishness and stubbornness that nailed Jesus to that cross.

It is because we all fall short of God’s standards of righteousness that we need a Savior. Not to make our tax system fairer or our healthcare system more just, but to pay the price for our sins and to endure the very wrath of God on our behalf.

So even as our celebration of our Savior’s victory over sin, death & the grave is tempered a bit by our grief for our fellow man, it should also be heightened by the reminder that such hatred and ugliness will not gain the ultimate victory. The love, grace & mercy of God will reign, and it is this hope that enables us to glorify God through our tears and to exalt His Holy Name despite our heavy hearts.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

I just learned that today, February 26, is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. It's also National Pistachio Day, but I don't know enough about pistachios to blog about them.

I love fairy tales. Some of my favorite stories begin, Once Upon a Time...

Whether it's Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs or some other story, they are generally fun and harmless.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of fairy tales being told these days that are far more serious and sinister. Here are just a few that are quite popular.

There's the one that says that people can disobey the Word of God and disregard the Word of God with impunity. Those who believe this fairy tale believe that we can thumb our noses at God and do whatever we want without paying a price. Now, that's a hoot!

Then there are several variations of this one: There is no absolute right or wrong. AKA All beliefs are equally valid. OR We're all headed in the same direction. OR There's no way to be certain what God really meant when He gave us His Word.  They're all good!

There's the one about how if our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds at the end of this life, we'll be right with God.  How about that--"good" deeds in the sight of a holy and righteous God--PRICELESS!

There's also one that says that our relationship with God depends on us (e.g. our church membership, our works, our baptism).  Where do they come up with these things???

Although I share these with you with a certain level of sarcasm, it's not really very funny. Because as opposed to stories about wicked witches or big bad wolves, these fairy tales are believed by lots of people to their detriment. They would prefer to believe a lie than to believe the truth as contained in Holy Scripture.

So, enjoy National Tell a Fairy Tale Day, but don't believe everything you hear!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

As 2014 began anew,
I resolved to change a thing or two.
Improve some things, some changes make.
All for a Happy New Year’s sake.

I’d start by losing unwanted weight,
Perhaps 4 pounds—or 6 or 8.
But then a thought I began to probe:
Less weight would mean a new wardrobe.
Think of all the money I’d spend.
I’d end up broke—though I’d be thin!

So then I decided to exercise.
Firm up my abs, my arms, my thighs.
Lift weights or jog or mountain climb.
“Oh no”, I thought, “I don’t have the time.”
For I am busy; I must admit,
Eventually exercise I’d quit.

And then, although I knew it was funny,
My thoughts turned to the way I handle my money.
“This year”, I declared, “I’ll watch what I spend. 
I’ll live on a budget.” But then, in the end,
I knew it wouldn’t work—it would just be too hard.
To be honest with you, I love MasterCard.

I considered many others changes to try,
Things that would help the New Year to go by.
But nothing I thought of sounded much fun.
So, for a resolution, I’ll stick with just one.

To do nothing this year—neither too bold nor too tame.

In 2014, I’ll just stay the same.