If you're not familiar with the name Jason Collins, you may be soon. Collins became the first active athlete in a major American team sport (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey) to "come out" as openly gay. You can find the ESPN column about it here
. If you check out that story or Twitter, you'll find that there has been an outpouring of support for him. You'll find words like respect, support, proud, happy, courage, leadership, etc. It's almost enough to make a person feel misguided or guilty for thinking somewhat differently about the subject. You might have guessed that I do think differently, but please don't stop reading there and write me off as a bigot.
Would you believe me if I told you that even though I believe homosexuality is a sin, that I would gladly welcome Jason Collins if he showed up at our church? I would. Would you believe me if I told you I had a friendly exchange with a lesbian today? I did. Would you believe me if I told you I don't hate gays? I don't.
Yet I can't celebrate someone coming out unless it is a different kind of coming out. You see, every day Christians own our sin as well. But we shouldn't own it as a badge of courage or pride. I struggle with self-centeredness and pride and lust and impatience. I don't tell you that to show you how content I am with who I am or to find acceptance with a community of similar sinners. We acknowledge and confess our disobedience to God as something from which we must find forgiveness and turn away. That's why I'm no better than Jason Collins or any other homosexual or other kind of sinner. I'm a sinner too. I too need God's grace and the forgiveness that only comes through Christ. So if Jason came to our church, I would call him to confess and repent just like I seek to do for others who continue in their disobedience and don't repent. I would point him to the marvelous Savior, Jesus, as I seek to do for all who worship with us each Sunday. I would seek to show him the freedom that comes with knowing and loving and trusting God.I don't doubt that it took courage for Jason Collins to do what he did. But it would take even more for him to "come out" in repentance and faith.
Sin spoils everything. So we live in a fallen world where creation is groaning and we see it in natural disasters. We live in a fallen world where people are not flawless and make mistakes, so there are (apparently) accidental fires and explosions in fertilizer plants. We live in a fallen world where evil people intentionally do evil things like plant and detonate bombs at marathons. That means we need Jesus who came to redeem his people and this world from sin and its tragic consequences. Our hope is in Christ alone whether mourning our own sin or sin's ugly effects in the world around us. Is he your hope? Do you have a Rock on which to stand when the ground all around you is giving way and the accuser comes after you? Here are some scriptures that come to mind in light of recent events. May the sword of the Spirit do its work in our hearts pointing us to our Savior and bringing us to the end of ourselves.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies...What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?...For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:20-23,31-32; 38-39
Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. - Luke 13:4-5
Let us pray for those affected in recent tragedies (here
are some helpful thoughts on how to do that from Pastor Andy Lutz); let's mourn and repent of our sin; let's eagerly look forward to the 2nd coming of Jesus. It won't always be this way. Come, Lord Jesus!
My wife, Erin, has been down with the fu since last Sunday night. After making it's way through our 4 boys, it attacked her with a vengeance. That means for the last 6 days I have been a stay at home mom in addition to my usual roles of dad and pastor. Perhaps not surprisingly, this has given me a new perspective on the life and work of a mother.
This is not a post about the spiritual side of motherhood, the nobility of the job moms do in raising children, etc. It is not about milkshakes and straws
. Others have written well about those things. It's about hard work.
After this past week, I'm beat. Is this how it feels at the end of every day, moms? I would finish one task and think that I had a second to catch my breath when I would remember the washer or drier had sung it's little song telling me it was done (seriously...our washer and drier play a little tune when they finish their cycle instead of buzzing; it's endearingly infuriating). Now, I do some work around the house on a regular basis even when my wife is healthy. I occasionally do laundry and pretty regularly do dishes, dishwasher loading and emptying, etc. This work is not foreign to me, but the unceasing nature of it is. How do moms ever get anything besides laundry and dishes and cooking done? And speaking of cooking. I think
all of our children had 3 meals a day this week, but it takes doing to have 3 squares a day on the table for 4 hungry boys (and their parents). If you catch me complaining about dinner not being ready when it's "supposed" to be, remind me of this past week. The ability to pull off breakfast, lunch, and dinner and not step on one of the kids or spill something on them is impressive. I did it for a week. Wow, good job; pat on the back for me. Erin does it EVERY DAY.
It is easy for me to think, "I'm a church planter. I do the important, stressful, exhausting work around here. Dishes and laundry and cooking are not big deal." I stand corrected. All of those things (and a myriad more that moms do) are a big deal, they are stressful, and they are exhausting. Her exhaustion when she collapses into bed at night may be different than mine, but it is every bit as real. But this isn't the half of it. I didn't do a lot of the things Erin does. One of the reasons I was able to do some of her work was because she has established repeatable patterns; an orderly household without which I couldn't have kept up with laundry, meal preparation, and child care. And boys that do regular chores and can do some extra when mom is down are a testament to the work that mom has done with them when she's been up.
I don't think that I have been unappreciative of the work my wife does. I have always known she works hard and been thankful for it, but now I know a bit more of just how
hard she works and hopefully am far more thankful. It's at this point that I wish I could hear Paul Harvey's voice saying "So God made a mother
." Instead, I say thank you to my wife, Erin, and my mom: two of the hardest working women I've ever known.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in the landmark Roe v. Wade case that abortion, was a woman's constitutional right, under the 14th amendment regarding not depriving anyone of their liberty (from which they somehow deduced a right to privacy). The relevant part of the 14th amendment reads this way, " nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." I'm certainly not a constitutional scholar, but is there anything ironic about that to anyone else?
President Obama recently spoke on a nation's obligation to protect its children.
This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we're meeting our obligations?
Can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?
Can we claim, as a nation, that we're all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?
Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer's no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change.
This is of course taken out of context (ht: someone who created a video with excerpts from Obama's speech and put them in the context of abortion), but he's right: we're not doing enough, and we will have to change.
What's the point of writing about this subject? We could say many things, but here are two.
1. I hope and pray that our nation will very soon look back on what we have done with our unborn children and realize that treating a child in the womb as less human than a child outside the womb is as heinous as treating Jews or people with black skin as less human than those of a different race or color of skin. Make no mistake, this is a blight on our nation; a wicked evil in the eyes of the holy God.
2. Until that day, what a mercy that there are groups who seek to not deprive any person of life by helping moms and dads choose life for their unborn babies and helping them through that process before and after the birth of their baby. Heartline Pregnancy Center
is the organization in my community that is doing this good work. Such organizations are salt in our decaying world and are worthy of your volunteer time, donations, and prayer.
If you've been around this blog at all, you may remember that I enjoy reading
. Inspired by a friend, I thought it might be interesting to create a list of some of my favorite books that I read in 2012. My listing them here is not a blanket recommendation of them (except the Bible). If you'd like more information about any of them, let me know. Here they are in no particular order. The links take you to the Amazon page for each one.The Presidents Club
- A fascinating look at the most exclusive fraternity in the world - former presidents of the United States of America. Learned lots about the interactions between former presidents and what they did after they left office.The Trellis and the Vine
- A book that helped me see the significance of the church as a body of disciple-making disciples. Are we, together, about the work of seeing people transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into his marvelous light; and are we helping one another transform more and more into the likeness of Christ? We should be!The Art of Neighboring
- Applying the 2nd greatest commandment to our literal neighbors - the ones who live next door to us. Useful, challenging stuff. (Picked this one up for free on my Kindle
- In 2012, I read all the way through the Bible. Chronologically. I didn't do the chronology myself, but found a plan that laid it out and found it a helpful way to read through the story of redemption. Love Does
- Pretty far outside my usual orbit, but I quite enjoyed it. Bob Goff tells stories from his life that demonstrate love in action. Didn't agree with everything I read, but was challenged to show love in the way I live.Front Burner
- The story of al-Qaeda's attack on the USS Cole as told by the ship's captain. All the more interesting to me because my brother-in-law was there.The Holiness of God
- R.C. Sproul's classic work on this important doctrine. (May have read part of this one in 2011...don't quite remember.)
I'd love to hear some of your favorite reads from 2012. Leave a comment here or on the facebook post and let us know!
I have spent more time this week reading about, listening to people talk about, and thinking about Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o than I might care to admit. I am a sports fan and am a consumer of sports information, though I try to exercise some measure of moderation and balance. There is much more to life than sports after all. More important things like truth, virtue, faith, and eternal life come to mind. And so when multiple things in which I am interested intersect in interesting ways, my brain starts working overtime. I don't have much to say for all the thinking and consuming of information that I've done. So here are 2 things.
1. For a long time I've wanted to think the best of Armstrong - that he really was clean. What a fabulous story that would be! After all, love hopes all things. Part of me wants to believe Manti is totally innocent in his story. (Maybe OJ didn't do it!) But the more I see of sinful human nature run amok, the more I realize that we are totally depraved. It's not just a letter in an acrostic; it's God's truth. Which brings me to the second thing.
2. Stories like Armstrong and Te'o's make me thankful that there is ultimate, final truth. We may never know the extent of Armstrong's doping, his reasons for doing so, the full repercussions of his denials, or reason for his admission. Te'o's story is so bizarre than one wonders if the full truth will ever be known there either. Did he really not have a clue? Did he know all along that his tragically deceased girlfriend was not real? Did he learn part way through, but continue to play it up? Will all of the publicity gain him sympathy or cause his draft stock to plummet. Some of these things we will learn in time. Some we may never know. In an age of 24 hour news sources, blogs, social networks where people can create their own news and apparently a false identity, there seems to be more information than ever, but less certainty. Strange monster we've created, isn't it? Lots and lots of information; not much absolute truth. Even what's reported as fact (like Te'o's moving story) may prove to be false upon closer examination.
So we consumers of information would do well to return to the bedrock of truth - the revealed Word of God contained in the pages of Holy Scripture. That, my friends is true. Thousands of years and investigative reporting have failed to prove it wrong. When all seems uncertain, the certain truth is that Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, entered our world and lived and spoke the truth. When the voices around you are many, there is one that rings true. God says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."
So tonight we had a guest preacher - Tim Wenger from Switzerland. You can hear his message here
. But he reminded me of a passage of scripture I hadn't thought about for some time. In case you've forgotten as well, I'm just going to put it here without much comment. Just know that the life of the man who wrote it was not all roses. In fact, he had some serious questions about what was happening in his world. But he can still affirm this. I hope you can as well.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Here are a few thoughts following up on the election. I am indebted to Al Mohler, Tom Chantry, and David Wesner (and others) for some of these thoughts. A qualifier: I am sad and disappointed today. I may have been less so, had the election gone another way, but we don’t know what the alternative would have brought. My disappointment with the outcome is largely based on the fact that there is a track record here that doesn't give much reason for optimism regarding the future. The alternative, however, was certainly not ideal.
1. Given the state of our nation, one might be surprised that our country would vote for 4 more years in of the same in the White House and at least 2 more years in the Senate. But given the state of the nation – moral decay, proud of our sin, laziness, calling evil good, perhaps we should not be surprised. As Al Mohler said in a pre-election post
, “Democratic systems inevitably reflect the electorate’s decisions, and these decisions reveal underlying worldviews. And, truth be told, all we can expect from democracy is the government we deserve.” I guess the surprise comes in that perhaps we hoped the American people would get so fed up, they would act. But perhaps we misjudged the American people; perhaps we don’t realize the depth of the sin and depravity and spiritual blindness that are rampant in our nation.
2. Pray for your leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all the people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Our goal as Christians should be to live peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives. One way we do this is by praying for our leaders. You may not like some of the election outcomes, but I urge you to pray for those people that we have elected. Pray for their salvation; pray for wisdom; pray that they would make decisions that would enable us to live this kind of life; pray that they would not promote evil; pray that God would restrain their efforts where they do promote evil. But pray! It seems it’s getting harder to live a peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified life in our country. And so by all means, mourn what’s happening in our nation; mourn that we have leaders that do not do what is right. It is ok to feel anguish and distress and disappointment at the state of our nation. Jesus mourned over unrepentant Jerusalem. But don’t stop with prayer and mourning. If you are concerned about the state of our nation, then go live for Christ in this nation. Be salt and light; point people to the Savior, Jesus. Proclaim the good news of the gospel; tell others where they can hear it proclaimed; bring them to church with you. If you want the nation to change; people have to change. And only God can do that; tell them about that God. Politicians and government are not the answer and neither should we hang our hope upon them. Jesus is the answer to men’s sin problem, and our problem in this country is largely a moral, sin problem. That means we have everything we need to address it head on. Give them the truth!
3. Honor the King. Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” 1 Pet. 2:17 “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” This does not mean you have to agree with their policies and practices, but the cause of Christ won't be well served by harsh, dishonoring vitriol spewed at those in office.
4. Rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of the wise Creator who made and sustains his creation, in whose hand is the heart of the king (and the hearts of the people who elected the king), who is never surprised, and does all things well. (Too many references to list, but Nehemiah 9:6; Lamentations 3:37; and Psalm 33:10-11 are a good start.)
5. This world ain't my home, I'm just a passin' through. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven forever; citizens of the United States of America for a comparatively short time. What are you living for? (Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:17; 2:11).
I have intentionally remained silent online regarding the election. My position as a minister of the gospel, I believe, requires careful use of words and influence. And I don't want anyone to mistake a facebook post or comment or tweet for the official position of the church or as authoritative as the preached word. (Other preachers do not take this approach, and that is fine!) I also don't want my opinions to be the cause of division or rancor where good and godly brothers and sisters may disagree. It is my duty as a preacher to proclaim the word of God. Now outside of preaching and the worship service I can certainly address and offer opinions other areas that are not explicitly addressed in Scripture.
My reason for this post is my desire for our church family (and anyone else who happens to read this) to have some scriptural framework within which to think about the election coming up (or any election for that matter). God calls us to live in this world (John 17), to be salt and light (Matthew 5), to pray for people in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Timothy 2), to be subject to the governing authorities (which are from God!, Romans 13, Titus 3, 1 Peter 2), and to honor the king (1 Peter 2). The picture that emerges is that God's people are to be active in combating evil, promoting good, obeying and praying for their leaders within their societies. Surely election time should be an active time at least in the prayer closet of Christians! Surely we desire to see those elected who will honor God in the way they lead. We desire governing authorities who will not promote evil, call evil good, or facilitate those who carry out evil deeds. So during an election, learn about the local, state, and national candidates and vote accordingly. From what we can tell, who will provide Christians with the most conducive society to lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way? Who will promote and not restrict our ability to practice our Christianity?
The other Biblical perspective we must bring is that of the Sovereign King of the universe sitting on his throne. Whoever is elected, they are placed into that position by God. Part of Romans 13:1 says "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." With the faithful God who makes no mistakes on the throne, his people need not fear. Don't forget everything I said in the previous paragraph. We are responsible for our actions in this world. And whoever takes office will be responsible for their actions, whether good or evil. But over all, God is directing and ordering the affairs of the world, the nations that make it up, and the individuals who populate those nations. This should give great peace to all who claim the name of Christ. God has given him as head over all things to the church. So while the church has a significant interest in the outcome of elections, she also needs not wring her hands in worry. Because for the Christian our hope is not in a president or some other politician, but in Christ who is surely coming again and WILL deliver his people safely into that new heavens and new earth where we will dwell for all eternity. Jesus is our hope and trust; that cannot change regardless of which candidates are victorious on election day.
I enjoy reading. We've covered this ground before
. Today, I want to tell you about reading on the Amazon Kindle. Just the picture here (that's actually my Kindle) and reading those words causes some to shudder - the very notion of an electronic book is repulsive. How could you even consider reading a book that has no cover or pages? Rest assured, that I still love a physical book and have in my study a wall of bookcases with "real" books that I still read. I think the talk of e-readers making books obsolete is overblown. And the notion that somehow I am less of a book purist by owning and reading on a Kindle is ridiculous. Just ask any of my paper and ink books if they feel betrayed. They don't. (Books don't have feelings.)
I believe reading can and should be beneficial to the Christian's growth in grace. This of course starts with reading the Bible, but continues with reading trusted Christian authors who help us understand and apply the scriptures to our lives. It involves reading broadly to understand more of the world that God has made and the good things he has given us to enjoy in that world.
So let me give you a few reasons why I enjoy my e-reader. Just a note - I have the Kindle Touch, which is no longer available from Amazon. It has been replaced with the new and theoretically improved Kindle Paperwhite.
- Convenience - This thing is small, lightweight, and easy to take on vacation, to soccer practice, the reading room, or to bed to read a few pages before drifting off to sleep.
- Reading Experience - It's a lot like reading, well, a book. Unlike a back lit tablet or or computer screen, the Kindle utilizes e-ink technology. You can read it inside or outside in bright sunlight without a glare. (One drawback - you can't read it in the dark with out an external light source; I have a cover with a light. The new Paperwhite has a front lit screen.)
- I read more than I used to. I'm not sure if it is the convenience factor or what, but I am reading more - some leisure reading, some theology, helpful stuff on Christian living, even a book on how to read.
- I can get World Magazine at a discount off the print subscription price. (You can get lots of magazines and newspapers.)
- The Deals! You can find lots of books for free or at steeply discounted prices, and there are often specials that pop up for a temporary time. For example today, I picked up Tim Keller's book on marriage for $3.20. You can get the ESV Bible for free.
- No waiting for the book to be shipped. When I buy a physical book online, it takes a few days to arrive at my front door. When I buy an e-book, it can be on my Kindle in 1 minute.
- Crazy long battery life - unlike my phone which has to be charged pretty much every day, this thing will go 2 months on one charge. It's awesome.
One drawback - I can't easily tell how far I am from the end of a chapter (you know...just a few more pages). The new Paperwhite apparently has a feature to help with this.
What do you think? Sacrilegious? Have an e-reader yourself and love it? What pros or cons have I left off of the list?
As with most any technology, this could be used for your benefit as a follower of Jesus or to your detriment. Read well and use your time well!