NEW Website coming!!!

Hey all y’all faithful blog fanatics out there – you know who both of you are :)

I’ve not been posting lately, as I’m working on a new site for our family.  The domain this blog is connected with expires May 13th, and I’m getting a whole new domain name, etc…for a blog where we can expand not only on my thoughts, but the kids, my wife, our foster care journey, and a mystery page that will be revealed later this year…

So, keep an eye out – I’ll post the new website a couple of times before this one expires so you can redirect your subscriptions, bookmarks, etc…and stay connected with us!

Modest is hottest…

Okay, so of course that’s not something I say on a regular basis, but it got your attention didn’t it?  I am actually writing today to encourage a new line of thinking when it comes to modesty…here’s the backstory.

Flipping through the radio stations the other day, and I come across this bizarre radio show involving a preacher, some teenaged boys and girls, and what seemed like an endless line of questions about the ways teenage girls dress.  It seemed with each passing question, the whole thing got more bizarre, and there were 2 straws that broke the back for me was this – the preacher asked the question of the boys, “When you see how a girl dresses, what does that tell you about her?”, to which one boy replied, “When I see a girl dressed, you know, not good, it tells me everything I need to know about her character.”  REALLY?  You have the discernment as a teenaged boy to be able to tell EVERYTHING about a girl’s character simply by the clothes she is wearing?  Now let’s bear in mind, usually in these instances it’s not so much what the girl may be wearing but the imposed sanctions on what they think the girl should be wearing that leads to this character judgment.  The 2nd question asked that got me was this, “So when a girl dresses immodestly, how does that affect you?  What would you want her to know about her dress?”  The response?  ”Well, when that happens, I want the girl to know that like, if she dresses that way on a date or something, it will be more difficult for me to not have bad thoughts about her.  In a way, it’s like she’s setting guys up to fail in our morals ’cause of the way she is dressed, and she just doesn’t need to do that to us.”  I. Nearly. Ran. My. Van. Off. The. Freakin’. Road.

I have 2 daughters, and maybe a 3rd coming if baby  J’s court case goes our way.  Do I want them to dress in a modest fashion?  Yes.  But I want them to dress that way because THEY are valued, and THEY are precious and THEY are loved…NOT because if they don’t that somehow gives some hormonal-raging teenage boy the ability to say, “Well, if they had just dressed a little more modest maybe I wouldn’t have succumbed to a weak moment, blah blah blah…”  Let’s stop putting the moral impetus on girls, and let’s instead start holding parents just as accountable for the way their young men are being raised (which, by the way, I have one of those to raise too)!  Young girls need to be aware of the way they dress because of THEIR value, not because they dare not look a certain way that causes a young man to throw his morals out the window in that moment.  You may think I am taking this too extreme, but in a real sense, I believe this nonsensical way of teaching modesty only accomplishes a few things: 1) it creates a mindset in young girls that leads unbelievable amounts of guilt should something happen to them sexually – it leads to a “it’s my fault” sort of belief, as if there is zero responsibility for the boy. 2) it creates a mindset to young men that their ability to keep their morals in check is entirely predicated on what they visually take in and that’s a load of crap – let’s not encourage an already existing culture outside of the church that says women “asked” for it, by including it within the church.  3) It thrusts Christian living for young girls backwards into a legalistic arena by equating their “character” to where their hemline falls, and fails to take into consideration the “character” of the boy who so easily compromises his just because the girls wore short shorts.  Job 31:1 tells us that Job says, “I have made covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.”  It doesn’t say, “I have told all the young women around me to make sure their dress touches the ground lest I have impure thoughts and act on them.”  

Just yesterday we had the girls out clothes shopping and told Kenzie, our youngest, that she couldn’t pick out a particular shirt due to it’s see through back.  We ended up finding another one she liked just as well, in a similar pattern, that was more appropriate.  We did so because we are teaching Kenzie she has worth, value and meaning that goes beyond whether or not her back is exposed as a young girl, not because if she wore the original shirt some 1st grade boy might have been compromised by her choice.  As a former young man, let me fill you in on a little secret – clothed from head to toe or wearing short shorts, if a male wants to lust, he’s gonna lust.  Let’s deal with both sides of this equation, and quit making young girls feel they are somehow less “Christian”  if they make a clothing choice you don’t agree with.

being “biblical”…

At the heart of most controversies over movies, non-profit organization’s hiring policies, and a whole host of other things is the phrase, “being biblical“.  Someone does something, or says something,  or a combination of the 2 and suddenly they are opened up for ridicule, rebuke and regret for not being as biblical as someone else thought.  We’re all guilty of it.  Even this week, I watched a video of a popular movie star from a talk show he was on – in the video he talked about his faith in dark times of his life, and how when he prayed he prayed that ultimately, he was being a good man of God.  He was sincere.  He was firm in his words.  And yet, the first things across my mind were all the movies I had watched of his, in which his characters were anything but good men of God…and I sat in judgment, for I didn’t believe his thoughts about his relationship with God were “biblical” enough. (of course, since I have watched those movies, one could say the same of my choices as well obviously – but we tend to not go that route do we?)

What does it mean to be biblical?  Webster’s Dictionary says it’s relating to, or being in accord with the Bible.  That’s probably as good a definition as there is, but what does it mean?  We typically take the word and definition and apply them as prefixes of sorts to other words and thoughts – so we have biblical marriage, biblical business practices, biblical family/community, biblical money management, and so on and so on.

Of course, when we do so, the percentage of people who are going to agree with our understanding of such biblical approaches in life is most likely going to be small.  Think about money for example – I believe strongly, that the bible teaches the love of money is not something to be trifled with.  It can steal your heart, your devotion and can cause more problems than it can relieve.  Yet there are others who believe the bible teaches that wealth is synonymous with a relationship with Christ.  Their “biblical” view of money is much different than mine, yet both of us could sit across from each other and quote scriptures from the same bible fortifying our position.

Obviously, there are things in association with scripture that need to be considered.  Context of the time scripture was written…the intent and meaning of the words in the original language they were written/spoken in…how the scripture in question melds with the bulk of scripture, so we don’t become guilty of proof-texting (pulling scripture or a piece of scripture out by itself to build our belief on).  The reality is, however, that very few people who are actively sitting in worship services on Saturdays, Sundays and other times of the week are doing these things for themselves.  Most are simply absorbing what someone on a stage, or on a screen, or in a podcast are saying, and they are absorbing that as absolute truth.  It’s ironic that in a day and age where through the internet, we have at our disposal a vast resource of information, knowledge and understanding when it comes to theology and issues of the bible, that we are part of the most biblically ignorant society history has ever known.

So what’s needed?  Better preachers?  More seminary?  Reduce the number of bible translations so that everyone is using a common one?  I don’t believe there is one answer, other than this one – let all of us who claim to be people of the kingdom, and by virtue of such a claim, people of the book, be wise and prayerful in the following:

  • Let us be wise and prayerful in first and foremost applying what we say is “biblical” to our lives-this is the whole essence behind Matthew 7:1-5, not that we should not judge, but that we should not be quick to judge without personal examination first.
  • Let us be wise and prayerful to be good, faithful stewards of this Word.  This means we do not simply believe something to be true just because someone says it is.  Use resources available to you, and couple those resources with an earnest plea to the Holy Spirit to illuminate the truth of God to you (the depths of 1st Corinthians 2).
  • Let us be wise and prayerful before publicly declaring something or someone as unbiblical.  Ask in prayer if that is your place or mine to do so.  My guess is, more often than not, it’s not our place to organize a social media campaign against something or someone – handle it in your local body if you need to, but maybe when it comes to someone else 10 states away, we’re supposed to be silent.
  • Finally, let us be wise and prayerful that we don’t use the bible as a weapon.  2nd Timothy 3:16 is a clear indicator of what the word of God is used for, and even in the word “correction” in that scripture, restoration is at the heart of the word, not destruction.  The bible is designed yes, to be a revealer of the condition of our heart, but with restoration of it, not the death of it.  Truth can be handled in such a way that we do not tear others down with it. (and yes, I know Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God is sharper than any 2-edged sword…but it also says the word itself is living and active, meaning any cutting to the heart of a person will be accomplished by its power, not ours).

NO-ah…

Here you go, faithful readers…my one and only post regarding the movie Noah that is currently out in theaters.  My thoughts on the subject, assembled by “I wonder” statements…

I wonder…why we get in such an uproar when Hollywood doesn’t stay within biblical boundaries when creating a movie – did we really expect something different?

I wonder…what would happen, if instead of orchestrating a huge uproar and social media campaign against it, we offered to take our lost friends to dinner and a movie, then sat down with them to explain the differences between what they saw and what is written?

I wonder…if instead of launching ad campaigns against the movie, what would happen if we used those monies and resources to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and house the homeless?

I wonder…if instead of calling the directors/writers/producers of Noah “Satan in the flesh”, what would happen if we took seriously the commands from 2nd Corinthians 10:3,4 and Ephesians 6:10-12 and fought spiritual battles with prayer, instead of worldly ways?

I wonder…what would happen if instead of lamenting and crying over all the “artistic liberties” taken with the story of Noah in this movie, we examined our own manners and methods of “attracting” people to church to see if we are guilty of taking such liberties?

I wonder…what would happen, if instead of being sad that the wrath of God was so poorly and inaccurately displayed to remind a world that it needs to be destroyed, we were joyful with the truth and loving enough to instead remind the world that there is a cross and resurrection that grants them escape, instead of wrath.

I wonder…

A hill to die on…

In military tradition, before air warfare truly dominated the scene, ground battles were won and lost on hillsides.  Approach a hill properly, and your chances of victory increased.  Approach a heavily fortified hill with error, and mass casualties ensued.  This is the origin, presumably, of the phrase I’m not gonna die on that hill.  Many things in our lives revolve around this phrase, whether we speak it vocally or not.  We choose as parents what hills we will die upon with our kids and discipline.  We choose as family members what hills we will die upon in terms of family relationships and issues.  We choose as community members what hills we will die upon in terms of politics and policy.

In the church, we also have hills.  There is the hill of what you believe about the Bible; is it infallible (which means not only without error but also incapable of error) or is it inerrant (which means as a general text it is without error) or a combination of both?  We have the hill of the Lord’s Supper/Communion – do all believers take it or just members of the local church that is administering it (commonly called open vs. closed communion).  There are minor hills of worship style, separate worship for teens or not, what translation of the Bible to use, etc…

In the recent weeks, one of the biggest hills of our time today came to the forefront in the World Vision controversy.  When WV announced they would modify their hiring practices to include the hiring of legally married LGBT persons, the response was twofold.  Many came out in support and admiration of the decision, while others (commonly identified as the “evangelical” community) rejected and cried out against the decision.  Their rejection was so vehement, that many coupled their outwardly vocal displeasure with action – action that resulted in WV losing somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 sponsors for children and communities, depending upon which account you read.  Richard Stearns, head of WV, has been quoted as saying he believes the number of children affected is close to 10,000.  After WV reversed the decision nearly 48 hours later, “many” of those came back to pick up their sponsorships or start new ones, though we do not know today how many sponsors that consists of.

In essence, what the evangelical community stated with this pushback against WV is that the acknowledgement of married LGBT persons is a hill to die on for them.  It apparently doesn’t matter that WV already hired single, non-married LGBT persons.  It apparently doesn’t matter that WV is an organization that doesn’t represent merely one denomination but a multitude of them (including the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and others who DO support LGBT marriage).  What mattered is that issue of marriage among LGBT persons, and that was the straw big enough to break the proverbial camel’s back.

I have purposely waited for a long time to issue my final thoughts on this, so here goes – an evangelical person is defined by the following (although as with all things, there are variations here or there depending on whom you read): the Bible is authoritative and absolute truth; the cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection are necessary for sinners to be reconciled to God; sinners need to be converted from death to life by virtue of acknowledgment of Christ as Savior and Lord through repentance and being born again by the Holy Spirit; this repentance and rebirth results in a life where the grace and mercy of Jesus is worked out through our lives in every facet of them.  I sit here today, typing this as an “evangelical”, according to the words above.  Yet I am not ready to die on the hill of LGBT marriage, nor am I ready to willingly keep or advocate that others keep resources from persons who need them due to that hill.  If you, as a Christian, cannot in good conscience continue to support WV that is certainly your right.  But there is a right way to do it, particularly when children and communities are involved.  You can let WV know of your plans and give them 3 months to locate new sponsorship for your child.  No one benefits from a super-emotionally charged “I QUIT!”

I firmly stand on the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.  I base this predominately on one thing – when asked about marriage, Jesus always referred to this singular model of marriage.  Not polygamy, not bigamy, not anything else but one man and one woman.  Of course, the argument can be made that LGBT “marriages” didn’t exist in His day like they do in ours, but that argument is always a slippery slope when talking about any topic.  Many things did not exist in Jesus’ day that we have today, but that does not lessen the truth of what He said.  Yet Jesus also talked at length about loving sinners, and doing good, and being salt and light, and a whole host of other qualities those who followed Him should have, and in my opinion, I didn’t see a whole lot of that in the negative response to WV.  Again, not saying people did not have the right to stop supporting children through WV as a matter of conscience, but the way it happened had very little to do with public love, grace, and mercy.  Although I stand on the one man and one woman side of marriage, I am not ready to die on the hill of LGBT marriage for 2 reasons: 1) I do not expect our government to legislate based on my personal beliefs-I may “wish” they would, but I do not expect them to, so when they don’t I don’t get all worked up over it for I didn’t expect it in the first place.  2) Matthew 23 weighs heavy on my heart.  Jesus calls out all kinds of “woes” for the religious leaders of His day, who were living hypocritical lives.  In verse 13 Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  For you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.”  In the Message version, it’s put simply this way – “Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom.”

I shut the door to the kingdom of heaven when I die on hills.  I shut the door to the kingdom of heaven when I use children as pawns in a theological game.  I shut the door to heaven when I point out the speck in other’s eyes while ignoring the log in my own.  I shut the door to heaven when I demand my theological way.  ”But what about their sin?!?!” you may cry out.  ”What about them needing to know the truth?!?!”  Jesus said in John 16, verse 8 and following, “When He comes (the Holy Spirit), he’ll expose the error of the godless’ world view of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.” (The Message)

I can’t be a roadblock to the kingdom – I need to be an on-ramp to it when the Spirit does His work…and that’s why this can’t be a hill I personally die on.

Blogger’s block…

The last couple of weeks I’ve been stuck in blogger’s block – similar to writer’s block, but with blogging  instead of books…not that there haven’t been DOZENS of things to write about, I’ve just been blocked mentally.

But, I will be back on Monday of next week, most likely with some posts that will either endear me deeper into the hearts of my readers, or end with calls to burn me at the stake…either way, should be a fun week back.  See you then…

Did World Vision orchestrate this?

I found a story about WV about the time they made their initial announcement concerning their hiring practices, and I have to be honest – it hasn’t set well with me at all.  I’ll link the story here for you to read, but if you don’t want to/have time to read it, I’ll give you a synopsis -

The story was carried by a local Washington state news source, and it came out March 20th, just a few days prior to their big announcement that they were going to now allow the hiring of LGBT persons in their USA workforce.  In the story linked above, WV is noted to have cut their workforce by 10% over the last 15 months.  Additionally, Richard Stearns who is the leader of WV, sent a letter out to existing sponsors in January of 2014 saying, “The last 12-24 months have been among the most challenging of any we have ever faced,” Stearns said.  “Our costs are rising and we are finding it harder to recruit new sponsors while the needs of children continue to grow.”  Essentially, the story linked above paints a picture of an organization that is bleeding jobs, and losing funding on many levels.

Now why, I ask, would a company that is cutting jobs due to funding issues suddenly make a policy change around its hiring practices?  And why, I ask, would that same company reverse that change just 2 days after it is issued?  Here’s my gut feeling – in announcing they would now hire LGBT married employees, I imagine WV picked up many new sponsors.  Yes, I know reports are that they lost over 2,000 sponsors, but I imagine many of those if not all of them were probably picked up by LGBT persons and supporters. THEN, in the reversal, I imagine that many of the conservative evangelical front became sponsors again as a way of saying “thanks” to WV for reversing the decision.  Of course I have no numbers to support this, other than the one released about the 2,000 dropped, but it’s just very fishy to me – in the south we have a saying: if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s a duck.  I can’t imagine any company who is in a present state of layoffs publicly announcing hiring practice changes when they are hemorrhaging jobs.  Just doesn’t make sense…I hope I’m wrong, and if anyone more closely associated with WV can help make sense of it I’ll gladly retract this post.  But until then, I think we were all played by WV.

 

The other side of the World Vision debate…

Like many of you, I have been watching (reading) the debate unfold over the recent World Vision announcement concerning their policy change to change their conduct code for employees to include the recognition of same-sex marriages.  I’m not yet prepared to divulge my opinion, and ultimately may not at all, as I’m not sure there is any good to come from it.  But what I am prepared to divulge is the following…

Anytime something like this occurs, organizations like WV which are called “para-church” organizations, meaning they often work across denominational lines, and often have a broader scope of belief statements so they can include more involvement from persons from a wider range of life, begin to come under fire.  Para-church organizations are not usually tied to a local church entity, and as such often are dismissed as not being “real” examples of evangelical Christianity.  Other examples would be groups like Compassion International, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Young Life, the Salvation Army, and so on…to understand why these organizations exist, we must understand they exist largely due to the fact that they fill a void or gap in ministry that local churches miss…and I think I can prove it simply today.

In June 2013, there was a list published of the top 1.3% of Southern Baptist Churches in America and their attendance figures.  To be included in the 1.3% a church needed to average 1000 or more in attendance.  There were close to 600 churches listed in the 1.3%, and the SBC has over 46,000 churches registered, so that gives you an idea of how many smaller churches make up the SBC.  I decided to go onto WV’s website and look at their financials to see what kind of money we are talking about when it comes to international sponsorship and community development.  According to the figures on their site, released by KPMG Accounting, in 2013 WV spent a little over $804,000 in sponsorship/community development programs (including all overhead costs associated), and another $970,000 in what they term “support services”, which is salary, travel, media, etc…for a grand total in 2013 of $1.7 million dollars.  Let’s travel back to the SBC churches for just a second…

The top 20 churches in the list I mentioned earlier, averaged 235, 566 persons in attendance each week.  Let’s say for the sake of argument, that 60% of those persons are capable of tithing something…anything.  That brings the figure to 141, 339 persons.  Let’s further say for the sake of argument, that those 141, 339 persons gives just $25 a week.  That comes to a grand total of $3,533,475 each week…$3,533,475.  That’s JUST 60% of the top 20 churches in the SBC.  That’s JUST the SBC.  If JUST those people, in those 20 churches gave $25 a week (sacrificing a meal out, 4-5 Starbucks coffees, etc…) JUST those 20 churches could do TWICE the amount of work that WV does…let that sink in for a moment.

Here’s the deal – if you find yourself appalled at WV’s decision, that’s well within your right to do so.  If you don’t like the way a para-church organization does something, don’t support it.  But understand this…if we would just take back the charge of caring for people where it belongs, in the local church, and if we would just stop the madness of sprawling campuses and ornate buildings with their flowing waters and their escalators and their ridiculously comfortable atmosphere, and if we would just take seriously the command of Jesus to GO and LOVE and GIVE…we wouldn’t need a para-church organization to do it for us.  Gripe if you want to – but when you’re done griping, ask your pastor (or if you’re a pastor ask your church) what you’re going to do about it – and the “it” in question is not WV, but the command to GO.

My hope for the Big Blue Nation tomorrow…

Okay BBN’ers, here you go…

Let’s enjoy tomorrow night.  Let’s yell at the refs and cheer loud when Willie-Cauley slams and clap our hands and say, “It’s alright” when  Young makes a bad pass.  Let’s have fun.  We all drank the kool-aid early on – we all got seduced by high school “Hoop Life” videos, and talk of 40-0 and people saying Julius Randle was a left handed LeBron…we did.  We bought into it…and so did the team.  But now, now it’s 6 games.  6 games that make the difference between what might have been and what should be…and even if 6 games turns into 4 games or 2 games or…gasp, 1 game, you know what?  Life goes on.  These young un’s want to win as badly as we want them to win, so let’s just have fun and see what happens…

and let’s hope Duke gets pounded into the ground…