The Grammy’s and Living in a Fallen World

Just this past Sunday the Grammy Awards were on. It was a show shown on Prime Time on CBS that was appalling, shocking, irreverent, and flabbergasting. When you think that we have reached the bottom of how far our culture can go, it sinks even further. The show started with a couple singing a song that leaves little to the imagination of what goes on in their bedroom. Then the show turned to Katy Perry who’s performance has the secular media describing as a Satanic Ritual and witchcraft. After this the performance of a song entitled, “Up All Night to ‘Get Lucky’”. If this wasn’t enough, the church-like mockery that was overseen by Queen Latifah was a wedding of 34 same-sex and mixed-sex couples who tied the knot on what’s supposed to be a music awards show intermixed with the song “Same Love”. 34 same-sex and mixed-sex to show there is no difference between the two. 

We don’t have to look at the Grammy’s we can just look around us. Broken marriages, broken families, and broken lives. We watch the news or talk to friends and hear of shootings, robberies, drug and alcohol abuse, and the the list can go on and on.

There is no doubt that we live in a fallen world that is filled with all kinds of evil. Yet the question is how do we as Christians respond. We are called to be salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-14) so the option to stick our heads in the sand is not an option, nor is choosing to wag our finger an option. We as Christians must respond in a manner that will allow us to be salt and light.

First, we must respond by not giving up on those far from the Lord. It is easy to look at their life and lifestyle and say we don’t want any part of it. Yet we as believers must resist this notion. We must stay engaged with the world around us. The Bible tells us that we are ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) for Christ and that as we are living and going that we should make disciples from new believers to maturing believers (Matt 28:19-20). I am overjoyed that the Lord did not give up on you or me, therefore how much more should we be zealous to stay engaged in the world around us? How do we stay engaged?

1) We must keep praying for our family, relatives, friends, and neighbors that are not believers.

2) We must keep ministering to those who are not believers. By ministering I mean showing the love of Christ in real and tangible ways.

3) We must keep tell our family, relatives, friends, and neighbors who are not believers the boundless love and forgiveness of Christ.

4) We must stay in the public square. We may be ridiculed and there may be an attempt to keep us as believers out of the public square, yet even through this we must stay in the public square.

In the next few weeks we will be continuing this discussion. In the mean time what do you think? Should we as believers stay engaged in the world around us?

Community

 

I love to “People Watch”. It is an experiment of observation for me. A way to see people and watch their behaviors, their demeanors, and their reactions. I’ve noticed several things, one is people love relationships with other people or to put it another way people love to be in community. People love to talk and spend time with others. They love to meet and spend time around a lunch table or for a coffee. They love to spend time in community.

I catch people sitting alone at a table and their whole demeanor is unremarkable, if not a little downcast, yet when they see someone they recognize or their friend arrives for lunch their whole demeanor changes. You can see they lift their head higher, their shoulders become more open, their feet become more active, there appears a smile on their face, and their attitude become more bubbly.

Think about it this way with all the different social medias such as Facebook or how people are constantly checking, talking, and typing away at their iPhones. Relationships. Community.

I don’t think the need or the desire for these relationships/community with others can be over stated. We as human beings are relational. It doesn’t matter the time or the place or the circumstances, people are relational and love to be in relationship.

What about community in the church? We talk about community in the church often, we see articles and books written about community in the church, yet for some reason so often we miss the boat. Making this sad and shocking is that the church should be a natural place for community not Starbucks or the local diner. I’m not saying that community or those relationships have to always be in the church, but that the church should be the significant place where people connect. It is from these relationships or these connections that people encourage, challenge, and support one another. Where is the down fall for churches? Obviously, intentionality has to be mentioned. The church and church leaders must be intentional about setting up environments where people connect and those relationship are established. I believe also that the church has focused too much on perfection in programs or polish in the services or pious professionalism in it’s leaders. People are looking for the real. Real problems and real people. A place where leaders and the people are willing to admit they don’t have it all together. A place where people can be flawed.

People are looking for community and as the church we must position ourselves to be the place where community happens and where community starts.

Life is Good

I’ve been sitting here for a few hours working on a few things as my wife is still asleep and my newborn son lays just feet from me in his swing sleeping and all I can think of is…life is good. Correction: Life is Great!!! Even through the sleep deprivation, I know without a doubt that life is great. I sit here and realize that hopes and dreams are coming true and that life is truly filled with joy. The radical transitions that have and continue to occur in my youngfamily over the past couple of weeks is monumental and truly memorable. The thought of waking up to change a diaper or to prep a bottle multiple times at night will fade but these wonderful memories will live on in my mind forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there will be challenges and heart break in the days ahead. I know there will be frustrations with potty training and figuring out the work life and home life balance. I know all of these things and more, yet when the math is done the only conclusion is that life is truly great. As one of my old professor’s oftentimes stated, “I’m too blessed to be depressed.”

So that is where I am: truly blessed and realizing that life is great.

Why are you to love your enemies?

In the last blog post we began to speak of loving others. Jesus tells us as believers in Matthew 5:44 (NASB), “‘But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” My question is why? Why should we love those we term as enemies? Let’s be real this person who we consider an enemy is called an enemy for a reason. Why in the world would we love them?

Jesus in the the verses that follow, Matthew 5:45-47, states, “‘so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?’” It is from these verses that we get four reasons why we as believer are to love even those we consider enemies. For time sake we will consider one for this post.

You are love even those you consider enemies because as a believer you are a child of God. In fact as a child of God you are to emulate your heavenly Father and exemplify love for others, even those that are enemies. Jesus states in John 13:34-35, “‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Just as Jesus has loved you, you are also to love others. In fact people will know that you are a believer in Jesus because of your love for others. In another verse that emphasizes your need to emulate your heavenly Father is 1 John 4:7-11, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Just like the passage in John 13 you see in this passage that just as the Father has loved you, you are to love others. In fact, your heavenly father has loved you so much that He sent Jesus into this world to be the propitiation (atoning sacrifice). If your heavenly Father has love you so extravagantly, shouldn’t you also love others?

Loving other’s isn’t always easy. To be honest there are some people that intersect our lives that are hard to love.  Yet even through this difficulty we are still called to love others just as our heavenly Father has loved us.

Love and Like

I’ve been thinking about the command that Jesus gives in Matthew 5:44 when he states, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  What an unbelievable statement that Jesus says. Let’s be honest some people are hard to love. You know the people that simply rub you the wrong way. Those that you just want to avoid an when you see them coming you want to head the opposite direction. The people that seem to always be against you. Maybe they are unkind or cruel to you. In short they are people you would consider an enemy.

Through the unbelievability, Jesus commands for us as believers to love one another even those that we would consider an enemy.

What does this love look like? Love seeks and works toward another’s highest welfare. It is self giving and self-sacrificing for another’s good. While love oftentimes includes emotion, it always is characterized with action. Love is seen through our attitude and the outworking of that attitude in our actions. Love must be seen through actions before it can be considered love. It is this kind of love this desire to seek the best, even for those we may consider an enemy.

You ask, are we supposed to be my best friends with everyone? To answer this it is important to understand that love and like are not synonymous. In other words Jesus commands us to love one another, not necessarily to like one another or to be best friends with everyone. Is it possible to that we can love without liking a particular person? I would say yes. We can love without liking, yet we cannot like without loving. For instance, you invite someone over to your house only for them to steal something when you turn your back. Can you still want the best for this person? Yes. Will you invite this person back to your house and allow them to be alone? No. You can love without liking, but you cannot like without loving. Say for instance, a particular person is always out to shame you and bring you down. Can you still love and want the best for this person? Yes. Will you want to seek out this person and spend your free time with this person? No.

Now please hear me, this distinction comes with a thin line. We are called to love others and want the best for them, even those who wish to see us fall. The trick is that while we may not like everyone, we mustn’t allow this dislike to become a hatred or distain. It is this hatred and distain that would put us in contention with the command that Jesus gives to us, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Do you love others? What about those you consider an enemy? How does this love workout in your attitude and actions?

Be Righteous: Marriage and Divorce

Here are my sermon notes from this morning. What do you think? What are your thoughts of marriage and divorce in today’s world?

————

CPT: Jesus commands His followers to be righteous in their attitudes and actions when it comes to marriage and divorce.

CPS: We are to be righteous in our attitudes and actions when it comes to marriage and divorce.

Question: How are you to be righteous in your attitudes and actions when it comes to marriage and divorce?

Me/We

There is several things that are important in our lives. Second only behind love for our Lord is marriage and family. Yet, with the divorce rate hovering around 50% it is evident that the view of marriage and divorce is in flux. I submit to you that our culture doesn’t hold as high view of marriage and family as it once did, hence why we have so many alternatives to marriage and family today.

Personally I am a huge advocate for healthy marriages and hence healthy families. Further, it is my firm belief that the family unit is the building block for our culture and society. If the family unit crumbles so will our culture and society. That is how important marriage is in our lives and in our world.

How do you view marriage? What about divorce?

Let’s dig into what Jesus has to say about marriage and divorce in Matthew 5:31-32.

God

As we open our Bibles up to Matthew 5:31-32 we find ourselves in the mist of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this section of the sermon Jesus is condemning the scribes and pharisees, and exhorting believers to be righteous. One such area that Jesus commands us to be righteous is in our attitudes and actions when it comes to marriage and divorce.

Read Matthew 5:31-32

We find that Jesus breaks with His teaching on a few of the 10 Commandments to focus on marriage and divorce.  In fact we find this quote in Deut. 24:1 but let’s read Deut 24:1-4

Read Deut 24:1-4 and discuss

From this teaching there became two major views on marriage and divorce. The first was advocated by Rabbi Shammai who took a hard line on divorce and advocated that the only cause for divorce was adultery. The second and most popular view as advocated by Rabbi Hillel who was very loose and had a wider interpretation when it came to marriage and divorce. In fact it was written that a husband could divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner or as Rabbi Akiba stated, “Even if he found another fairer than she.”

It is this loose interpretation of divorce for any reason that the scribes and pharisees had adopted. The hardest part of the divorce was writing the certificate of divorce that went something like this: “Let this be to you from me a writ of divorce, a letter of release and a decree of dismissal, to permit you to be married to any man you desire.”

Yet, through all of this, this passage was grossly misinterpreted.  This passage isn’t a command to divorce or to establish grounds for divorce but to deal with adultery and to provide protection for women by mitigating the evil consequences of divorce, by allowing her to remarry.

It is through this misinterpretation of Deut 24 that Jesus tells you and I to be righteous in our attitude and actions when it comes to marriage and divorce. Notice with me verse 32. (Matthew 5:31-32)

-Divorce- “Send away”

-Except for- Exception clause

-Unchastity/Fornication/Sexual Immorality- AKA Adultery

-To divorce outside of this would be to compound the wickedness of sin and make both an adulterous.

-Why? Because any other cause of divorce would be an unjust cause.

You

How are you to be righteous in your attitudes and actions when it comes to marriage and divorce?

1. Have a Biblical view of marriage and divorce.

When it comes to marriage and divorce today there are four views.

    1. The hardline stance of no divorce for any reason.
    2. The loose stance and the opposite end of the spectrum is divorce for any reason at any time and remarriage.
    3. Divorce for certain reasons but no remarriage.
    4. Divorce for certain reasons with remarriage permitted under certain circumstances.

Yet, which of these views is the Biblical view?

Now to fully understand divorce we must first understand marriage.

Read and discuss Genesis 2:24– Created by God, 1 man and 1 woman, lifelong, oneness physically and spiritually.

In fact marriage is seen as hugely important. To illustrate this God used marriage to describe His love for us.

In Hosea we find the marriage of the prophet Hosea to the prostitute Gomer. Through all the unfaithfulness of Gomer Hosea fights for her and rescues her.

What about divorce?

Read and discuss Matthew 19:3-9

The penalty of adultery in the OT was death so divorce was an act of mercy and grace by the Lord that released the innocent party and allowed the guilty to live.

Read and discuss 1 Cor. 7:12-15

It is these two reasons that divorce is allowed by God because of man’s sinfulness, but God never commanded, endorsed, or blessed divorce. To be blunt reconciliation is always the first option.

Read Malachi 2:13-16

I have heard it said that the Lord led them to divorce their spouse. Really??? How can the Lord lead you to divorce when He states that He hates divorce.

Marriage is a God given blessing and must not be dissolved lightly.

Is remarriage an option, if there is a divorce? This is an area that I am coming to a different view point. I did hold to the view that divorce was allowed in the cases mentioned earlier but there is to be no remarriage for both the husband and wife. Yet, as I have dug deeper it has become clear that when divorce was allowed, remarriage was always assumed.

Further, if God permitted divorce rather than death as a merciful concession to man’s sinfulness, why would He not also permit remarriage, since remarriage would be perfectly allowable under the original law of death for the adulterer? After all, the purpose of divorce was to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness and misery.

2. Be committed to a Biblical view of marriage and divorce.

3. What if I’m already divorced?

You ask, Keith, I’m already divorced what now? Maybe your divorce was not because of adultery or because an unbelieving spouse left you. What now, am I just up the creek?

My friend you are not up the creek because there is forgiveness and mercy found in the Lord. While I never advocate liberty to sin position because of forgiveness. It is true that in divorce situations there is forgiveness.

We

Marriage and family are important in our lives as individuals and as a society.  Let’s us in our attitudes and actions be Biblical when it comes to marriage and divorce.

Prayer

Invitation

Life is Good

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting here on the bed beside my wife and my dog laying at my feet, but I’m loving life. Far be it for me to say that life has been easy or alway ‘great’ because it hasn’t been easy, but as I reflect on life I must say I’m loving life. To steal from a fast-food chain “I’m loving it.”

It’s funny what brings happiness and contentment. For me happiness and contentment is laying here beside my wife who has a wet head from a recent shower. For me happiness and contentment is sitting here and writing. For me happiness and contentment is the knowledge that all is in the Lord’s hands and there is no need to worry or fret. For me happiness and contentment is the love and support of great family and friends. Life is good.

There has been many people that have asked me how I kept going or how I kept my head up over the past two plus years? To this I knew that better days would come. I knew things would one day look up and because of this I had to keep looking up. I believe this quote from Castaway best sums it up, “I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” Happiness has replaced sorrow. Contentment has replaced discontentment. Because who knows what the tide could bring in tomorrow.

What about you, is life good or not so good? Is life half-full or half-empty? What brings you happiness and contentment?

Is it the End of the World?

As we all know the Mayan long calendar has created a lot of brouhaha with people thinking it is the end of the world. Is it the end of the world? Will tomorrow bring the apocalypse? Should I pay my house mortgage this month? Should my local school be closed two days earlier for Christmas break, like 33 Michigan schools?

My short answer to this question, don’t hold your breath because I’m confident that mankind will see the sunset on December 21, 2012 (and yes you do need to pay that mortgage bill). I am confident because of verses like: Matthew 24:36-44-“’But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'”

1 Thess. 5:1-3- “‘Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.'”

This Mayan calendar apocalypse is definitely not creating the same level of fear as the infamous and greatly exaggerated Y2K, it still elicits many question from a number of people.  What is interesting to me is where people are seeking or not seeking the answers from.  They are seeking answers from NASA. NASA has received so many emails and phone calls, that it has established a f.a.q. totally devoted to this topic. At the risk of ruining your hopes that you don’t have to pay you mortgage this month, NASA totally debunks the whole idea that the world will end tomorrow. My question is why is the church not receiving many of these calls and emails?

1) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because the church is not speaking up.

Many believe the church has been forced into a corner by society. This may be partially correct but I believe the issue is more the church has put it self in a corner. In today’s world you and I hear little to noting from the faith community in relation to such issues and the little that we do hear is oftentimes secondary and soft. Take for instance the “War on Christmas” discussion, if I am completely honest I hear more about it from Bill O’Reilly on this issue that Christian leaders. Let’s be honest the church has fallen silent and no longer speaks out.

2) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because it is not seen as essential and credible in society.

In recent history the church is losing influence as it is not seen as essential and a credible source of information within society. This can’t be stated any clearer than the fact that people go to NASA about questions on the end of the world far more than they do the church in this situation. Why is this? The church isn’t seen as either an essential or credible provider of answers to the questions such as the Mayan scare. You don’t see me going to The National Enquirer for news on current events, because I don’t see them as an essential, viable, or credible source of information. In the same way the world doesn’t see the church as an essential, viable, or credible source of information.

3) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because of the increase in secularist thought and tendency.

While it is reported that 92% of Americans believe in a God, it is also evident that there is a continual regression in faith compared to secularism. With this rise in secularism, there is little doubt why questions like the Mayan question are not brought to the church. Further, why would someone who is influenced very little by the church come to the church to ask a question. That individual is going to go to the source they most identify with.

4) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because it is seen as not open to these questions.

Let’s be honest here, I am a Christian pastor and most of you the readers are coming from more of a faith background than the general population, but the church really isn’t open for people to ask these questions. We say that we are but when the questions are asked we respond with scathing self-righteousness and judgement. From where I come from this is seen as not being open to a question.

5) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because the church is no longer actively engaged in the communities in which they reside.

Generally the church is becoming more and more about ‘us four and no more’ mentality and very internal focused. Because of this mentality and focus we as a church are not engaged with the communities that surround the church and the world at large. In fact  in Transformational Church Stetzer and Rainer state, “We have churches filled with knowledgeable religious people not living on mission, wasting their time criticizing those who are.” We as a church must engage and be the sent church who is on mission for God.

If we as a church are not engaged with the community, why would they engage with us?

6) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because of the perceived loss in the faith verses science debate.

I don’t think it has to be argued that there is a debate of faith verses science or science verse faith. My argument is why does it have to be a verses? Do they have to be mutually exclusive?

The underlying question is which is trusted more, science or faith. From events such as this it is evident that science is winning.

How will you proceed with tomorrow? Will it be different from any other day? While I don’t believe that the Mayan calendar scare will amount to anything, I do see a visible illustrative issue for the church. The question is how should the church respond?

What do you think? How should the church respond in the wake of an event that gives undeniable evidence that the influence of the church is greatly diminished?

 

 

 

A Nation Grieving

This past Friday (12-14-12), our nation grieved after a tragedy in Newtown, CT that must be characterized as horrific and heinous of a gunman walking into Sandy Hook Elementary School killing 20 children all between the ages of 6-7, and 6 adult female staff members. Words can’t express the horror of this tragedy, as my heart goes out to these parents, family members, and community.

I can’t imagine being a parent in this situation of having now having an empty bed and presents under the tree that will never be opened. The thoughts of children who will never graduate high school, get married, or have children. The horrors of this reality is unimaginable.

What I do know in relation to this is two things. First, we as a nation will and must grieve this tragedy. This is a tragedy that will live on in our memories and while this is a horrific tragedy it is amplified by the fact that 20 young elementary students were killed. Further this tragedy will greatly affect our behavior about security in schools in the future. So we must grieve. While I agree that tragedies such as this should infuriate us and stir within us an indignation. We as a nation must be so infuriated that we vow that something such as this should never happen again. In fact I agree with what President Obama stated,”We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”  Yet, we as a nation must be careful to not jump on the wagon of blame too quickly. There will be a day in the near future to debate the issues of the mental health system, video games, movies, and gun-control. Yet, for now we must resist that temptation and simply grieve.

Second, I know that we have a God that still cares and love us. I know that we have a God who is still on His throne. I know we have a God who mourns when tragedies strike His beloved children. I know that no matter how saddened we may be or how angry we may be at a tragedy such as this, God is more saddened and angry. I know that when we need comfort God is there. I know when we need strength God will provide. I know that God is the great “I AM”. It is on this truth that we must run to. It is on this truth that we must rely upon.

2 Cor. 4:8-9, 16-18, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Do People Matter: Part 1

Earlier this year there was a video that hit the internet of a group of middle school students verbally abusing and berated a 68 year old bus monitor for over 10 minutes. What a horrific video! Words that come to mind about this video are atrocity, mean spirited, evil, cruel, crude, and anything but funny. (Here is the video: WARNING strong language)

We are seeing more and more things like this happen.  Last October in China there was a toddler that had wondered out into a city side street as her mother was in another building washing clothes. This toddler was hit and ran over by a van and if this isn’t bad enough 18 people whether by foot or vehicle passed by her including another truck that ran over her again. I thought about showing one or both of these videos but it is far too graphic. (Here is the edited video)

Another example is Black Friday in 2008 in New York at a Walmart. As the store was about to open at 5am the crowds broke down the store doors trampling a store employee. Hundreds of people stepped over, around and on the 34-year-old worker as they rushed into the store. It is reported by one shopper that “Nobody was trying to help him, they were rushing in the store, rushing, rushing, rushing.”

What is happening? Do people even matter? If they do why are people so callous and indifferent to other’s suffering?

Do people matter?

What do you think? Why are people so callous and indifferent to other’s sufferings?