Truth in love

I listen to a sermon nearly every day.  I’ve listened to a hundred Francis Chan sermons.  I’ve listened to a lot of David Platt, Matt Chandler, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, David Jeremiah, and the list goes on.  Do youtube searches to listen to any of their sermons and they will not disappoint.

As far as people I would call friends, one of the people I love listening to is David Cartwright.  This morning I listened to his sermon from Sunday.  I commend it to you.  You can watch or listen to it here.  He said his job in preaching wasn’t to try to make friends and it wasn’t to try and make enemies.  His job is to preach the truth in love.

As a preacher, it’s fairly easy to stand before a congregation and tell them God loves them.  People love to hear that and need to hear that.  It is more difficult to stand before a congregation and call sin sin and call them to repent.  It is difficult to stand before a congregation and tell them that their lifetime of service to the church without a relationship with Jesus will get them nowhere with Jesus.  As you listen to pastors and listen to sermons from me and from others, I pray that you know how difficult it is to speak God’s truth about sin and repentance when it flies in the face of our world and so few are doing it.  And I pray that as we speak with love that you can tell it comes from love.  It’s easy to preach the sermons that you like to hear.  It takes love to preach the tough sermons we all need to hear.

*

*

*

Posted in Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lukewarm Fans

I saw some pictures on Facebook last week making fun of WVU because Marshall was ranked in the top 25 football poll and WVU was not.  This week WVU is ranked ahead of Marshall in one poll, but I won’t gloat because with games remaining at OK State, at Texas, against #11 Kansas State, and #10 TCU, odds are we will lose another game and drop back out.

I have tried to become a less rabid Mountaineer fan over the last few years.  I confess it still bothers me more than I would care to admit when Mountaineer haters post things.  I still watch every game and was jumping off the couch when we stopped #4 Baylor late in the game sealing the Mountaineer win.  I went to a couple of basketball games last year.  I’m still a big fan, but I sometimes worry about caring too much.  Pastor Matt Chandler said one time,

The same goes for following sports. It’s not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that’s a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him.

He’s talking about being consumed by sports.  Some people are.  I don’t want to be.  Matt Chandler has made the decision not to follow sports (and he played college football) because he can’t be a “lukewarm fan”.

I think I can still be a fan, being careful not to care more about the Mountaineers than I do the homeless or the lost.  When my teams lose, it no longer ruins my day.  If that makes me a lukewarm fan, I’m OK with that.  I just don’t want to be lukewarm about Jesus.

*

*

*

Posted in Obstacles | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What a difference 20 minutes can make – tough times

IMG_2009This morning I took a picture just before the sun came up.  It was a little haunting looking around the church.  If the church windows had been all busted out it would have looked like a horror movie set.

Yet in just 20 minutes the sun had come up and the sky was gorgeous and it looked like the set for a commercial about attending church on Sunday mornings!  It was literally just 20 minutes.

IMG_2011It reminds me of the difference a few minutes can make – or the difference a day can make – or the difference a week can make – or the difference a year can make.  Sometimes when we’re going through a rough time we cannot possibly see how things would ever be OK again.  But if we hang in there and cling to Jesus, we can make it through.

I remember an episode of the TV show Psych.  When Gus was in a tough spot and afraid, he would repeat to himself, “Low moment.  Low moment.”  It was a reminder that it was just a moment in time and it would pass, just as moments had passed before.  Even when things so difficult that they change the course of your life and things will never be normal again, with Jesus you will be OK.  Cling to him.

I pray that when you feel like you can’t make it through, that you will remember these pictures.  Hang in there and hang on to Jesus.  He will make a difference for you and get you through.

*

*

*

Posted in Hard times | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

MSNBC, Fox News, Ebola, Jesus, and truth

In America, we have become experts at “spinning” things.   And by spinning, I mean we twist and contort facts to support/meet our objectives or perspectives.  The other night I was flipping the channel between MSNBC and Fox News.  They were both talking about Ebola, and specifically about the way it has been handled thus far in the United States, including the nurses getting it.  Fox News was blaming the government and CDC for allowing the hospital in Dallas to treat the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the US.  MSNBC was blaming the hospital for not providing the nurses with the right training and equipment, claiming it was primarily because the hospital was merely another big business only concerned about their profits.

Christians in America have become experts at twisting and contorting Jesus.  In my Bonhoeffer devotional this morning it says, “We are equally good at making the disturbing words of Scripture seem reasonable and making the concrete command a nebulous (unclear/vague) attitude.”  For fear of offending, some people are willing to say that all roads lead to God.  You can believe in Allah and I can believe in Jesus and we’ll see each other on the “other side”.  For fear of offending, some people are willing to disregard sin and repentance.  Some people act as if the Good News of Jesus means jumping directly to forgiveness.  It reminds me of the Monopoly game that says, “Go directly to jail, do not pass go and do not collect $200.”  Some people are willing to act as if Jesus’ word says “Go directly to forgiveness, there is no sin, therefore you don’t need to repent”.  Bonhoeffer calls that cheap grace.

When we spin, twist, and explain away the disturbing words of Jesus, we may be well liked and never offend anyone, but we will most certainly never see anyone changed either.

*

*

*

Posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

When you assume it makes…

You know the old saying.  This morning there was a message on the answering machine at the church and as I listened it was clear that this was the typical call from someone who needed a utility bill paid.  I prepared to write down the number to send it to the person who takes care of utility bills on behalf of the Short Gap church, but this person said something different.  They said they were looking for a church to attend.   That never happens.  OK – now I can’t say never.  That hardly ever happens.  I believe that is a first for me in 7+ years in the ministry.

In the Book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cybala talks about preaching at an inner city church.  If I remember correctly, he said that one time a guy came to the front of the church as Cybala was preaching and he could tell that it was another homeless guy looking for money.  As the man walked toward the front of the church, Cybala reached into his pocket for money to give the man.  But the man, with an indescribable vile smell, said he did not want money, but wanted what the preacher was talking about – Jesus.

We often make assumptions.  We might assume everyone at the homeless shelter is on drugs and has made choices to be there.  That sounds better than saying, “They deserve to be there.”  We might assume young people in the church like more modern worship and the older people like more traditional.  We might assume that people would not be receptive to us talking to them about church or about Jesus.  When we assume in that way it makes us ineffective witnesses.  We need to assume that Jesus is sending people into our path so we can represent Him – with our words and our actions.  It’s Satan who wants us to assume the worst.

*

*

*

Posted in Opportunity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s going to keep getting more absurd – don’t be alarmed

In 2010 when Diane and I went to Ghana in Africa we had a layover at the Amsterdam airport.  The two things I remember most about the Amsterdam airport are these: a fish sandwich at McDonald’s was over $7 and female janitors walk right into the men’s room to clean as men are going to the bathroom.  I was in utter disbelief over both.

I just read today that the city of Houston passed a law IMG_1985in June that allows men to use the ladies’ room and ladies to use the men’s room in public places.  Why?  It’s all in the name of trying to be inclusive of people who identify themselves as the other gender, or neither of the two we typically think of.  It also will give ‘creepy Rob Lowe’ legal standing to stalk the ladies’ room.  (It’s a commercial reference, if you don’t get it – just forget it).

I just used the bathroom at Potomac State last week while Diane was doing some paperwork there and I took this picture.  I took the picture because the wording was so odd.  It soon will be normal, because it is the direction our country is headed.  Our country is headed to absurdity, if we haven’t already arrived.  Last week, a judge ruled in favor of a man who was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial taking pictures up the steps under women’s skirts from behind them as they walked up the steps.

It’s going to get really challenging (and I would say exciting) as followers of Jesus seek to live out their faith in this country and this world.  It’s definitely going the way the Bible said it would:  “And because of the abundance of evil, the love of many will grow cold.”  (Matthew 24:12)  May love be our motive as we confront evil and times become difficult.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 10:34)

*

*

*

 

Posted in Hard times, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

People who look like their dog

looklikedogHave you ever heard the idea that people and their pets begin to look alike?  I did a quick search on that topic and I found this picture from a dog food ad.  I don’t know if that’s real, but that’s pretty funny.

This came to mind when I heard Mike Slaughter say something in a sermon this morning.  He said if you are married and you primarily hang around with a whole bunch of people who are recently divorced and/or have marriage problems themselves, odds are that if you don’t have marriage problems – you soon will.  If you hang around a bunch of people who are irresponsible with their finances and/or are always in financial trouble, the odds of you having financial problems yourself increase.  If you do drugs and keep hanging around others who do drugs, what are the odds that you will ever quit doing drugs?  Or if someone does not do drugs, but all their friends do – what do you predict will happen?

On the other hand, if you are hanging around with people who love Jesus, people who go on mission trips, people who help at the homeless shelter, people who go to church, what’s going to happen?  Odds are you will begin to “look like” those whom you spend the most time with.

It’s one of the reasons I love our Wednesday night dinners.  People in our church and community now have the opportunity to hang around other church people twice a week.  It’s one of the reasons I look forward to some small groups beginning in our church.

And I’m not saying we should not have friends who do not go to church.  We absolutely should.  I’m not saying if you have a friend who’s getting divorced that you ditch them!  I’m saying that you bring them into your group of church friends to lift them up and encourage them.  You don’t console them at the bar with a whole bunch of other people who have marriage problems.  You’re not that strong, nor am I.

I hope I’m getting my point across today.  I’m not saying the church is a place full of a bunch of perfect people.  People who go to church are not better than those who go to the bar.  I admit there are some judgemental and mean people in every church.  But they are not the majority.  Most of the people (at least in our church) are people seeking to live and enjoy a life pleasing to Jesus.   And the church is certainly a place where your odds of heading in the right direction exponentially increase.  The church is a place where we can journey through life together, seeking to live a life of contentment serving Jesus.  And if you will come to church, or if you will bring your friends who are going through hard times to church, I know you will find that it is a step in the right direction.

*

*

*

Posted in Hard times, Obstacles, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment