He Made Me Do It

He Made Me Do IT

“He made me do it, dad!”

“Do you mean, son, that he made you hit him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well son, show me how exactly that he made you hit him. Did he hold your arm? Did he promise to break your favorite PowerRanger? How exactly did this happen?”

“He looked at me wrong.”

“He looked at you wrong? His looking at you made you hit him?”

If you have more than one child in your family you have probably had a very similar conversation at some point with your children. If not, you’re probably not properly interviewing the prime suspects in the destruction of one or another’s choice toys, artwork, missing Lego’s, hidden clothes, and the various joys of sibling rivalry. I would offer you a discount rate for my next Disciplining with Daniel series but my manager has informed me that you can’t discount free and they no longer want to be liable for any of my advice. Bummer for you.

Here’s the thing: kids grow into adults. Jim Hancock has written a book (no recommendation: haven’t read it) which points out that we should be reminded that we aren’t raising children but rather we are raising and training adults.

It is in this adult realm that I want to dally for a few moments. I wrote a post last week about our discovery of life-changing, Biblical truths by having a steady and consuming diet of Scripture. Two days later I read through a passage of Scripture that I want to point out to you today.

In Genesis 13 we see Abram arriving in Canaan. This is the land that God has promised to him and to his heirs forever. The first reality of Abram’s arrival is that he and Lot cannot continue to dwell together as they are without some change. Lot is Abram’s nephew and as such is very much under Abram’s rule or control.

At this point Abram offers the first choice of the land to Lot. The land that has been promised to Abram is extended to another (could really go on about grace here, but suffice to say that Matthew 5-7 is a great passage to read with this in mind) and Lot takes full advantage. He chooses the best. He chooses that which everyone would desire. He chooses the plains of Jordan.

After Lot departs to claim his prize God reappears to Abram and says this:

Genesis 13:14-17
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Here’s the point; God’s promise and God’s blessing to Abram was not at all influenced by Lot’s selfish claim. God’s promise was not impacted by Lot’s assertion of himself. God’s plan was not altered by Lot’s simply act of looking out for himself first.

Here’s to you and I

I can’t count on all of my fingers and toes the times just in the past month that someone has made a comment to me similar to these below:

I was having a great day, and she came along with her attitude and stole my joy.

Everything was great in my life until I had to deal with the idiot at the repair shop.

My blood boils any time he walks by. I know what God says, but …

On and on I could go but chances are that many of us have come very close to those three statements above.

Lot couldn’t take Abram’s blessing because the blessing was from God to Abram.

Psalms 28:6-9
Blessed be the Lord!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

If The Lord is our strength then our joy will come from him. Therefore, no one, no one, can take our joy unless we surrender our joy to them. This surrender is usually in hopes of some self-satisfaction, some selfish ambition. This could have bound Abram but it did not, and as we trust in The Lord, we can rest assured that it won’t bind us as well.

So the next time you are convinced that someone has stolen your Happy Jar, just allow this truth to remind you that this is a symptom of not trusting in the One who has made the promise that He will one day make all things right. Remember that the One who has said that He will be the shield of those who trust in Him.

An Idol Built From Strength

The Idol of Our Strength

In Isaiah 44, God points out to the Israelites the futility of their pursuit of idols. Too our detriment we often look at idol worship as something done by uneducated and ignorant people who are somehow behind us in their intellect. This is to our detriment for we rarely see our own behavior pictured in the lives of the nation of Israel.

Isaiah 44 is unique in that it points out three types of idols that the Israelites have built and worshipped. I know, I know, you may ask why a preacher can only have three points. I don’t know why things sometimes work out that way, but in this text there are three ways that the Israelites crafted their idols. As I read the text a connection seemed clear to me as to why these idols were built.

Now, if you have read much of the Old Testament, or even if you just heard some of the stories growing up you are probably familiar with the overall why – rebellion against God. However, it wasn’t rebellion simply for the sake of rebellion. Rebellion, of any sort, is so that someone may profit in a way that they are not currently experiencing.

The child who passes a note in class, in spite of strict warnings not too, does so, not just from spite towards their teacher, but because they have something to gain from passing the note. I believe it is important for us to consider this when we look at the idolatry of the Israelites and, more specifically, the areas in which we seek our own personal gain today. These three pictures of idolatry are areas in which we still struggle today.

Isaiah 44:9-12
Those who make an image, all of them are useless,
And their precious things shall not profit;
They are their own witnesses;
They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed.
Who would form a god or mold an image
That profits him nothing?
Surely all his companions would be ashamed;
And the workmen, they are mere men.
Let them all be gathered together,
Let them stand up;
Yet they shall fear,
They shall be ashamed together.
The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals,
Fashions it with hammers,
And works it with the strength of his arms.
Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails;
He drinks no water and is faint.

The Idol Built From Strength

The picture of a blacksmith is of one who takes strong metal, heats it, and forms it into a desired shape. By his strength, control, and the heat of the fire, the metal is formed. As someone who does not have the strength and training of a blacksmith I would find myself at a loss in attempting to fashion anything within his shop.

The same would certainly be true for some believers. They are without much strength in living what we might call a “Christian life.” You could hand them the hammer of legalism, and the tongs of self-control and they would be at a loss. They might could come near the fire of self-righteousness but would not understand how to shape and form the metal if they were able to heat it.

Not so for I. I have swung the hammer of legalism. The tongs of self-control, while sometimes used for personal gain, are not unfamiliar to my hand. Please don’t misunderstand me to say that self-control is not needed and necessary, but as the Apostle Paul so clearly points out it can be a danger.

Colossians 2:20-23
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self- imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

An Idol Built From Strength – Power

To see if have an idol built from strength lurking around our lives we would do well to check the things that we admire about ourselves. Do we spend too much time admiring our ability to do or not do certain things? Is our measurement of others based on the fact that they are made in the image of God and in need of a personal relationship with Christ? Or is our measurement of others based on how they match up to the “strengths” of our lives.

If we value individuals based on how closely they resemble us then I would imagine that an idol of strength is hidden somewhere within the confines of our home. It is our power that encourages us to see others as less than us unless they can match our abilities and strength.

An Idol Built From Strength – Control

Every individual that I have ever met has some area of their life in which they desire to have more control. For some it may be in controlling their tongue. Others may seek control in their anger, their lust, dependence upon , and anything you might can think of that would fit into that blank.

When we judge others from an area in which we believe we have control then we are asking that they be measured by what we can achieve. This isn’t to say that there are not any standards but I am speaking of our willingness to begin our evaluation and judgment of others from an area in which we feel comfortable.

Therefore, before we mock the Israelites for their idolatry, we might do well to check and see if there is a blacksmith’s forge lying somewhere around our house. We should also check the smell of our clothes to see how close we may have been to fire by which we can shape and bring into being our idols.

20130813-164310.jpg

Don’t Shoot The Jukebox

Bubba shot the jukebox last night,

Said it played a sad song that made him cry.

Went to his truck and got his .45

Bubba shot the jukebox last night.

Shooting Jukeboxes

I would say that in my life I have shot a few jukeboxes. A few messengers, if you will. Moments in my life when I was confronted with the realities of a situation that the jukebox exacerbated by it’s plaintive mournings, or disconsolate jiving.

Much like Bubba though, I find that the momentary relief from shooting the jukebox does very little to mitigate the future consequences. A jukebox could be seen as anything that makes us think of a particular person, place, or thing; a noun, so to speak. The noise/words of the “jukebox” take us to a particular place. Unfortunately for many jukeboxes they probably never know why they were shot.

Jukeboxes I’ve Shot

This may bother some, but I have certainly lashed out at my children when their behavior has brought to my mind some of my own shortcomings and failure in behavior. We are in our second week of summer and I am strongly pushing my children to accomplish something this summer that will be a continued blessing in their life. I have to admit that some of my own frustrations with their lack of motivation may be frustrations with my own lack of motivation at times.

I would certainly be remiss if I did not point out that often in our spouses we become annoyed by the same behavior that we perpetuate. Too much info for you to hear from a pastor? Sorry, but I wasn’t called to act like I’m perfect, although at times it is certainly the easier alternative.

I’m sure that we can all think of random jukeboxes that we’ve shot. The cashier who is sllooooowww at the convenience store, although we are the ones who pressed the snooze button five times that morning. The friend who points out a small inconsistency or annoyance in your behavior and we reward them with a week’s worth of ignoring.

Should Jukeboxes Be Shot – Ever

No. What if the jukebox is playing a country song about a dog, a woman, a truck and the other prerequisites for being a country song? Still, no. To a large degree the jukebox is not the problem. Certainly some jukeboxes bring their own playlist to the table but still, it’s just a jukebox. The problem is the emotions that the jukebox conjures up. Anger, Annoyance, and Antipathy, are just a quick Alliteration of what the real problem is – Me.

You see, Bubba simply shot the jukebox because of the emotion that it stirred up in him. Folks, if we go around destroying all of the things that bring up a negative emotion we will simply go around destroying our lives. And the real truth is, that if everyone where to behave in the way I just noted, then some of us had better be ducking, before we are shot.

What’s Playing On The Jukebox Of Your Life?

A Few Thoughts on Activism

A Few Thoughts on Activism

 

What does Scripture say?

            I am an individual who is very guilty of reacting and then researching whether I reacted correctly at a later date. As a believer, who is indwelt by the Spirit of God, I believe that to not always be sinful behavior. At times it certainly can be as I react based on my feelings, my emotions, my ideals, or even just my desires.      

            As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples he assured them that they would not be alone, He was sending a Comforter. He further encouraged them by telling them that the purpose of this Spirit, part of the Triune God-head, was to lead them into all Truth. So that they weren’t confused as to the source of this Truth, they were told that Truth was found in God’s Word. (John 16-17, loosely)

            Therefore, on the issue of activism I want us to consider it from God’s Word. Were there activists in the Bible? What was their focus/goal? How did they teach and promote their agenda?           

            The first thought that came to my mind concerning activists in the Bible was the prophet, Elijah. 1 Kings 18 tells us the story of God’s great victory on Mt Carmel as Elijah was obedient to him. I think that this point is very important as we understand that it was God that poured out the fire and not Elijah. 

            Elijah stood on top of Mt Carmel surrounded by 450 prophets of Baal, a king who was complicit in his worship of Baal, and a portion of the Jews of Israel. Elijah mocked as these “prophets” sought to bring fire down from heaven. He taunted them as the cut themselves and became frantic in their behavior. Ultimately God poured out fire on Elijah’s offering after Baal failed to respond to the pleas of his “prophets.”

            There are a few things about Elijah’s behavior that I want us to notice. First, Elijah made it clear that the people were choosing between two different leaders. Either the children of Israel would see the power of Baal or they would see the power of God. Secondly, Elijah committed to only one thing, prayer. Thirdly, Elijah mocked them, because they depended on their idea of god to save them. “He is busy, he is sleeping, etc.” He did not mock them personally, but rather how their behavior represented the shallowness of their “god.” I believe that this is very important as we consider some of the dangers of activism for a believer.           

            Lastly, and most importantly, Elijah had a sincere desire for the people of Israel to return to true worship of God. He brought the people before him and used their attention to focus them on the Lord. He certainly could have used this time for self gain or even for continued mockery of the prophets of Baal. With grace, he reminded them that they were the chosen people of God, Israel. He took twelve stones to signify this truth and used it to build an altar. Now the Jews were looking at a man who was determined to serve God personally. To signify his trust in God, and to remove his name from the equation, he had the wood, altar, and sacrifice completely covered with water. God showed his mercy and poured out fire from Heaven.

            The Apostle Paul was another man who was fervent in his convictions. When the Jewish church struggled with the acceptance of non-Jewish believers Paul was determined to act without their blessing. In fact, he stood face-to-face with what we now know was one of the most recognized of the church leaders, Peter, and told him that his behavior was destructive to the church. (Galatians 2)

             In each of these cases, Elijah and Paul, there is a concerted effort that the true God not get lost in the shuffle. Do you remember what Elijah did after he confronted the prophets of Baal? He went and hid in the wilderness and God sent him encouragement through an encounter with Him, and by sending another prophet to serve with him, Elisha. Paul left the Jerusalem church and immediately embarked on another missionary trip. None of these men stood around to admire their work, their ability, or even the aftereffects of their actions.

            It is not that I don’t believe that Scripture doesn’t advocate activism but rather it is very clear that it should never be about the individual. When Paul asserted that he was a Roman citizen to keep the Jews from stoning him in Jerusalem, he then willingly allowed himself to be subject to Roman law, corrupt as it was. He did not use his time in prison for self-gratification or self-promotion but each time that he was called forward he gave his personal testimony of God’s grace in his life (Acts 23-28, Philippians). The focus was always on God’s grace. When Elijah stood on Mt Carmel prepared to call down fire from God he looked at the Jews, and said, “You are Israel, the twelve chosen tribes.” (1 Kings 18 – paraphrase) 

            In fact when Scripture speaks of acting many times it is prompting us to “defend the weak, feed the hungry, etc.” (Psalm 82) Oftentimes though, we are acting out of defense to ourselves, our sensibilities, our agendas, motives, etc. If we are going to be people who are willing to take a stand on issues then we should be prepared and understand the consequences of our actions.

 

The Dangers of Activism

             The number one danger that I have both experienced and seen is the danger of arrogance. We are right, they are wrong; let me have my way no matter others. In some cases it may actually be that simple. However, there is a danger here because of our tendency to grow arrogant in our conviction. We think that our position makes sense. We think that others positions do not make sense. We begin to think that their intelligence meter is lacking, and that they simply just don’t grasp things as we do. 

            WARNING! When that happens our position moves from a position of seeking to reveal the grace, mercy, and yes, even judgment of God, to justification of our actions. Arrogance in any position leads to a dependence upon self and is the exact opposite of the reflection of Christ that should be happening in the life of a believer. An arrogant person cannot and does not desire to show the love of God to others. Once we have switched to arrogance we are outside of the grace of God and have removed ourselves from the opportunity to stand as a witness of God’s grace. Once again Paul writes in Colossians 2 about the dangers of becoming focused on our actions to the point that we are disconnected from Christ, and are actually serving our flesh.

            This does not mean that we have to lack passion or remove it from all that we do. Not at all, it simply means that we are more reluctant to stoke the fires that stir us and instead humbly seek the face of the Lord. A coach can arouse passion and dedication from his football team by cursing and demeaning them – it does not make him a good (morally upright) person. A good coach may not arouse the same passion but his goal is not just to teach football but teach how we should live and react in the circumstances of life. For this reason I always appreciate when a coach pulls a player off the field due to their antics and spends time discussing and working with that behavior. Most of us could stand to be pulled off the field many times over and would spare our cause and our testimony an unsportsmanlike penalty that we incite. (Proverbs 18) 

            The second danger in activism among believers is the danger of a non-believer joining with the crowd and feeling as if this solidifies their position with God. Are we able to clearly articulate the need daily for the grace of God so that anyone who joins with us sees this dependence in our lives? There also may be a young believer or one who hasn’t matured in their walk with Christ and they begin to think their spiritual life is measured by some algebraic equation as defined by their “work” for God. 

            Think about this honestly for a moment. When is the last time that you sincerely corrected yourself? Now I correct myself but usually it is fussing at me for staying up to late watching the Olympics, finishing the double-cheeseburger, etc. How often do I correct myself for sin in my life? Anger, bitterness, lust, jealousy, and the list goes on and on. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9 that he lived a life that was so focused on reaching others that he was constantly examining his life and the way he behaved. Interestingly he says this after he corrects the church at Corinth for not seeking to care for him materially. See, you can have a cause, speak to it, and still minister.

            Do we hold in contempt those who do not approach the issues of activism as passionately as we do? If we do so then I would hold that there is a possibility that we are depending on our actions to endear us to God. Also, the reverse would absolutely be true as well. 

            The last danger that I see in a focus on activism is the fact that it pulls our mind away from Heaven and places it here on the earth. I spent some time with someone not long ago who wanted to reassure me that very few things affected them as much anymore – they were spiritually mature and just waiting on an opportunity to show it. Yet, there were a few opportunities during my time with them when a simple opportunity to allow another to go first, speak first, hold up the line, etc were presented to us. In each of these situations this individual fussed at the one who cut them off, spoke up first, or in any way impinged on their space. They are kidding themselves – they are still absolutely focused on themselves – something we all should be battling. 

            When Peter attempted to procure the head of the High Priest’s servant in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus rebuked him and assured him that what was happening was permitted. Later, in the presence of a corrupt and wicked priest Jesus assured him that if his kingdom were of this world then his servants would fight. (John 18) In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stated that we are either building treasure on earth or treasure in Heaven. Later he reminds his disciples that you cannot serve two masters because they will tear you apart. (Matthew 6)

 

Final Thoughts 

            I’m not particularly an activist. Some would say it is laziness, others disinterest, but the reality is that I think confrontation is overvalued. So often I have seen confrontation used as a tool to empower the confronter and as a means of self-promotion. I struggle enough with this in my own life that I choose to avoid it where I know it lies. I believe that a believer in Christ can perform the role of an activist but that they must closely examine their motives and actions to see who is being served – Christ or self?

The Inconvenience of Truth

Truth can be such an inconvenient thing. It certainly has been in my life, especially when I have avoided it or sought to manipulate it into something that is not true. James wrote concerning a mouth that both blesses and curses that “these things should not be so.” (James 3) This certainly should be the same thought we have when it comes to recognizing and addressing truth. As a child of God our dependence upon God should be what defines our life not some fear over whether we are hearing something that is damaging to our world or situation.

The bearer of truth doesn’t impact whether something is true or not

 

Some have sought to discredit truth because of those who present it. Such is the case in the argument between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney on the issue of releasing tax records. The truth in this situation is that Romney himself once admonished an opponent for doing what he has done now. Certainly Mr. Romney has the discretion to do as he wills but the truth is that he is withholding information that he once accused an opponent of withholding. Truth does not choose whom its advocate is based on that person’s inherent ability or goodness.

When Pharaoh sat on his throne distressed over his two awful dreams he was told of one who could help him, Joseph, by his chief butler. Let’s remind ourselves of who this chief butler was prior to his assuring Pharaoh that he knew someone who could help him. He had been placed in prison by the same Pharaoh with death by execution likely in his future. He had been freed after being told by Joseph that such would happen to him and yet for two years he never mentioned the name of the Hebrew slave who had foretold his release. However, he was the bearer of the good news that brought Joseph to the attention of Pharaoh.

While I don’t know the significance of Mr. Romney releasing his tax records I am confident that Mr. Obama and his campaign, based on Mr. Romney’s previous actions, have the right to request such information. Mr. Romney is certainly able to withhold that information if he so desires. Certainly Mr. Obama has an agenda; however that should not detract from the truth – Mr. Romney once demanded the same information. We cannot make our decisions concerning what is true or not based on the fact that those presenting the information may have an agenda of some sort. Yes, this behavior may be repulsive or seem self-serving, as may have been the case of Pharaoh’s butler, but the truth should not be something that we seek to escape.

The means of the revelation of truth doesn’t impact whether something is true or not

Recently, inWareCounty, a murder was solved that was over 20 years old. In fact, while a murder was presumed, it had never been confirmed because a body was never recovered. The man who is accused of murder, Craig Thrift, had become drunk and spoke to others, confessing that he had murdered the missing man, Terry Rouse.

Not once did any of the Law Enforcement Officers mention that they were unwilling to act based upon the fact that the individual who confessed to the murder was completely inebriated at the time. Yet in churches I have heard pastors and other leader’s whisper that they wouldn’t listen to reported truths because they had been received in a way that those receiving it had deemed illicit in some way. I’m certainly not saying that one should go seeking to pry gossip from others but that if we are presented with a truth from someone that repulses us we should still examine whether the information being presented is the truth.

In writing to Timothy (1Timothy 5) Paul does give instruction for how one should receive criticism from within the church. What the Apostle is not doing is removing the elder from any reproach, nor is he so restricting the report so that only those reports that fit the agenda of the leaders can be received. In my research on by-laws for our church I ran across numerous documents, adopted by churches, which seemed to completely absolve the leadership of the church of any wrongdoing prior to any wrongdoing being accused. If we do not recognize the leadership of our church as having the same ability to make mistakes and distort facts as those attending then we are headed for disaster.

In fact, it was just such behavior that led God to prevent Moses from entering the Promised Land. Moses had been specially blessed and led by God. He had been permitted to see God’s glory and yet he chose to act in a self-serving way and God punished him by refusing to allow him into the Promised Land. Later God buried him so that the Israelites wouldn’t worship him. This shows that God understands man’s desire to propagate their own idols and gods.

Folks, if the alcoholic on the side of the street tells you the bridge is out you may question his ability to determine such a thing. You may even doubt the veracity of his report or the sanity of his mind. You would be a fool though if you did not at least examine the bridge in question before proceeding on your way.

Unfortunately the church has deemed in to many instances that those in the church are the final authority on truth and have taken the approach of the monkeys; hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. The case of the gentleman in Arizona, who was supposedly arrested for holding a Bible study in his home, comes to mind. People have taken up the rallying cry for this man in a way that absolutely disgusts me as it shows there is little desire for truth, rather that our ideals be exalted, from many within the church. (http://sbcplodder.blogspot.com/2012/07/dont-get-suckered-by-pastor-jailed-for.html)

The facts of truth should be just that, facts

One of my brothers once jumped from the roof of our house holding a blue tarp as a parachute. He did so just as my mother stepped inside our room looking for him. He performed the act in front of our bedroom window so that we could see his bravado. It worked. We saw, we were amazed. Mom saw, she went for a switch.

It is amazing how often the facts are overlooked when it comes to the issue of truth. This one thing is what brought about this outpouring of though today. I was watching a special on CNBC’s show, American Greed, detailing a pyramid scheme fostered and perpetrated by “pastors.” These men defrauded thousands of people out of millions of dollars, proclaiming that God would “bless” these individuals for their faithfulness to Him them.

I was amazed as I watched the show that not one of the individuals who had given their money to these men seemed really interested in the facts. The only fact that they would state without some sort of caveat was that they had given the men and their ministry organization, a certain amount of money. This became so obvious to me that I pointed it out to my 15yo daughter to see what her response was.

The two of us came to the conclusion that these people were unwilling to accept all of the facts; these men were never truly Biblical in their teachings, this was a profit venture on the individual “investors” part and not ministry as some sought to claim, the men who perpetuated this fraud were out and out liars.

Do you see why they would not accept the facts? They would have had to particularly study the Bible concerning the issue of giving, and God’s blessings, instead of hearing what they wanted to hear and acting on what they already wanted to hear. They would have had to agree that while they said they were giving money to God’s Word they were really seeking personal gain and not godly gain. They would have had to acknowledge that someone who had at one time brought them such material hope disguised as spiritual truth had completely lied to them. They had been snookered, completely.

Their behavior was probably an embarrassment to them but instead of acknowledging their foolishness and selfishness they chose to ignore it and instead used “Christian” code words like “faith” and “hope” to describe their behavior then and now. Excuse me, you cannot choose to accept some truth that is favorable to you and reject the truth that is not favorable to you. Unfortunately I believe that were these folks to once again have pockets full of money that they would be ripe for the plucking again.

This final thought leads me to the story of Jesus as he stood before Pilate. I believe that all would agree that Pilate was an afflicted man as he sought to make a decision concerning Jesus. You can read the accounts of what I mention here in John 18-19, and Matthew 26. Pilate’s final decision, to act according to what seemed to best suit him, is unfortunately what many of us choose on a daily basis. However, due to his transparency at times, we see the absolute inconsistencies in his behavior.

He’s innocent. I find nothing wrong with this man.

What is truth? (directed at Jesus)

I have the power to destroy you

I am innocent of the blood of this man

Pilate seemed to accept some truth but chose to reject it all in favor of preserving himself – he thought. May our behavior reflect a trust in God that allows us to accept truth, no matter how difficult, when it comes our way.

What happens when the crowd (and our emotions) get involved

What happens when the crowd gets involved?

Several years ago I read a book by Frank Peretti titled, The Visitation. Quite honestly it challenged my thinking in a way that still resonates. Every writer hopes that someone will agree with their perspective or accept the possibility that their viewpoint may be correct and I must say that Peretti caught me in his crosshairs.

I won’t reveal the entire plot of the book but will simply address a few of the points that Peretti makes. People are simple to control when it comes to a group and people desire to be controlled. It should go without saying that I strongly recommend Peretti’s book for no other reason than it challenges you to think. Peretti is willing to take a stance in an area that is increasingly becoming a sparking point in churches across America – the hyper-glorification of pastors.

I know, I know, I am one. I bring Peretti’s book to the forefront due to the simple fact that over 5 years ago I was forced to think about this truth by reading a book of fiction before I saw some of its truths become a reality in my life. If you will do a simple search of the name, Ergun Caner, you will shortly be able to see some of the very things that began to challenge me personally. If you will spend an hour or two reading what is available about Ergun Michael Caner, or, Ergun Mehmet Caner, as he prefers to call himself when he is in full-blown Islam mode, then you will probably have your fill. Somehow I got caught up reading about the Caner saga as it began to unfold in the world of internet blogs. I don’t remember what first clued me in but I remember thinking that the entire process was crazy.

Caner lied. He has been defended by so many prominent people that they hope the regular old peons like you and I don’t see through their smoke, but the truth is really that simple. I could bore you here with the details but this post isn’t about him. Rather this post is about our desire to fit into a group and an unspoken desire to be controlled.

Peretti’s protagonist is a young man named, Brandon Nichols. Nichols had a difficult childhood that was further compounded by a very controlled time in a mega church in California which was led by a charismatic controlling pastor, who lived as if he was bigger than God himself. After reading about Nichols experience I have been specifically interested in a pastor’s use of their persuasion and ability to bring a group of people into agreement with them. As a pastor I hesitate to seek group agreement as it may be mine own manipulation that brings someone to a point that they don’t fully agree with or it may simply be the small thing that we refer to as peer pressure.

These things have been in the forefront of my mind over the last several weeks for various reasons and after yesterday’s debacle at Dollar’s Castle I wanted to say something. (my links are broken)    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/10/creflo-dollar-denies-punching-choking-daughter/ The folks at Creflo Dollar’s church gave their pastor a standing ovation, after he was arrested for allegedly punching and choking his daughter. AND, AND, AND, before you say that Dollar isn’t a true pastor – please don’t. Not because you may or may not be correct but because in every case that I have ever read of or been told about personally the reaction at this church was not unique. I don’t know what really happened with Mr. Dollar’s family but I do know that  pastor who has been accused as he has been does not need his congregation to applaud him.

The hyper-glorification of a pastor goes into full swing when the crowd responds to his statements and gives him a ringing endorsement. I am quite sure that many people left the church that morning with some doubt in their mind, but more than likely they were one of the thousands standing and cheering just moments before. We must learn to respond as directed by the Holy Spirit and not in some emotionally-induced state that leads to irresponsible actions. As a pastor, who has enough personal struggles, I don’t need the people that sit in front of me thinking that I am in any way their better, or morally superior, yet this is exactly what these actions show us. Unfortunately there are many who are hoping for this sort of response to “quench” any flames of dissent. In short, it works.

The second issue that struck home with me in Peretti’s book is the seeming desire that people have to be controlled. I know that many may want to disagree with me here but seriously think about this for a moment. When the water-softener salesman comes by we usually laugh nervously about all of the supposed impurities that he shows us are in our water. We then rationalize that surely our city or county wouldn’t allow truly harmful stuff through and we refuse to think about it.  Now I’m not saying that we should all rush out and buy water softeners, but I am saying that we should resist the tendency to simply believe what is easiest to believe.

In the world of hyper-glorified pastors it is uncomfortable to believe that they may have committed a true and egregious wrong. Why? Is it because of them or is it because of us? I submit that we don’t want them to fail because in too many cases they are easier to follow than it is to follow the Holy Spirit.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not saying that pastors should not be above reproach and should not seek to lead their people. I am speaking against a leading, or a level of participation, that over time supplants the individuals personal relationship with God. Years ago, I remember my dad having a book on his desk entitled, God told me to tell you. I think dad had it as a joke, and I never read it, but the picture showed an angry-looking pastor pointing his finger out from the cover.

What I am stumbling around in saying here is that it is simply easier to process what a pastor says in a 30 minute (ok, ok, 45) sermon and take steps to do, or don’t do, those things than it is to live a fleshed-out, Gospel-filled, Spirit-directed life. One, simply requires action coupled with willingness while the other requires a moment by moment willingness to allow God to speak to you individually through his Holy Spirit. Quick note; the Holy Spirit will never, NEVER, contradict the Word of God. In fact, yesterday I heard a pastor state that he believed we could understand that it was the Spirit of God working in us when we we’re prompted to do something that goes AGAINST our natural instincts. He was using this as an example in how God’s Spirit prompts us to minister to others.

In closing I would just say a few things. I’m a pastor. I am as susceptible to sin as anyone else. When I came to the church that I pastor now I was asked several times in the beginning; “Pastor, what is your vision for the church?” Honestly, I was taken aback. Later, I was angry. Now I am working.

I was taken aback that they felt that I would have a clearer and distinct vision from God than they did. I became angry because I saw this as an attempt to foster on to me the entire responsibility of the church. I am working because now I understand that a man’s true vision to live for God doesn’t come from a pastor, a book, or even a set plan but rather a true vision is one in which the Spirit of God molds and shapes a man into the image of Christ.

So the next time you hear of a pastor failing don’t jump to defend him. Pray for him. Don’t get caught up in the emotion of who he has been to you, remember he struggles just as you do and look to the one who never fails and is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

What does the end justify?

I ate McDonalds tonight. I know, I know, everybody does at some time or another, and its really not that big of a deal. Well, it is somewhat of a big deal when you are going to compare some folks to McDonald’s in a not so positive way. I actually “enjoyed” my meal; if you call eating a fish fillet at 10pm an enjoyable meal. I really am seeking to answer two questions concerning our measurements of success and the steps taken to achieve what one deems success.

Last night, John Calipari coached the University of Kentucky to a National Championship in men’s basketball. Oops, I should have written supervised. Unfortunately this too quickly reveals my thoughts of Coach Cal, as he is called. I probably should give a little background.

I love watching college basketball. Since I began to coach and referee basketball eons ago I began to look for and appreciate some of the nuances that go into coaching a basketball game. It became very exciting to watch a role player, a guy who normally sits but is used to fulfill a specific role on the team, step up in a large game for his team. Whether it is a rarely-used shooting guard or a lane-enforcing forward, those are exciting and fun things to watch. It is also fun to watch a coach experiment with the chemistry of a team and see things just take off in the middle of a game. It is also great to watch the emotions of guys who have given years to a coach, a university, and a fan base, and see them be rewarded by passionate support from those people.

Over the last several years much of college basketball has changed. Sure, the majority of teams still have those role players but a new group of teams has emerged. These are the teams which have stocked themselves with potential pros who will stay for 2 years at maximum, and they simply hope to overwhelm everyone they play. There is nothing technically wrong with these teams. They are following the rules as outlined by the NCAA and the influence of the NBA. However these teams seem to be a natural prohibitive to many of the things that I love about basketball.

When I began to write this short article I had been listening to ESPN radio as I traveled that day. Foremost on the short time of broadcast that I overhead was a discussion as to whether this championship truly crowned Coach Calipari as a great coach. Really? Are we so simplistic as a culture that winning a championship with arguably 7 out of the top 30 or 40 players in college, deems that you are crowned as a great coach? A great recruiter of NBA talent is certainly a worthy crown for Coach Calipari, but I’m not so sure that I would crown him a great coach.

You see, McDonald’s is a restaurant that we have all probably eaten at. However, I doubt that very many of us would list any of their sandwiches in our top 10 of sandwiches. Is this because they are horrible, or is it simply because we realize that McDonald’s top priority is making a profit by efficiently serving as many people as possible? For this reason I am willing to recognize Calipari’s success in college basketball but will do so without calling him a great coach with a great legacy.

I can’t stop there. Recently I have been reminded of how I need to be intentional in dealing with my children. Too often I take the McDonald’s approach instead of seeking to understand each one of my kids, their particular quirks as well as their potential needs. I respond in such a way that makes it very clear that I am only interested in my immediate command being obeyed than I am in whether or not as a dad that I am correctly leading and directing them.

As a pastor I also have to guard myself from manipulating Scripture or failing to examine the entirety of Scripture when seeking to make a point or in dealing with an individual. When someone disagrees with me it is certainly an easy reaction to seek to defend myself or my viewpoint in a very controlling or authoritative way. Sadly, just as with my children, I have done this. Unfortunately I have often reassured myself later with the same assurances we give ourselves after consuming an 1100 calorie meal from McDonalds; I was in a hurry, it was the only way (only place open), or I just felt like it at the time. In the end hopefully we all realize that we will have to pay for those excuses and those decisions.