Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

need for confession and repentence…

Today’s an important day.  “Midterm Elections” are happening all over the US.  Here in our state, I’ve done the research.  A while back, I downloaded my county ballot, and began sifting through all of our choices.  Most cases that have two opponents seem to be “Choose the Candidate Who Makes You Gag Less Than the Other”.  It’s a very narrow margin of gag reflex, for the most part.  People who’ve been in power for many years, or people who have ridiculous amounts of money to spend.  Not that money or power equals corruption, but in our cultural context it certainly doesn’t help gain my support.  After all, the man I call Lord and Savior, as he was heading into his final “push”, seemed to be letting go of as much power/resources as possible.cost20141

So I think it’s important for us to collectively confess, we are a part of this brokenness.  That as much as we love our country, and value the freedoms that others gave their lives for us to enjoy, we have not created something inherently “Holy” out of it.  We never could.  Claiming Jesus in national documents, and even attempts to legislate morality will never make us a Christ-centered nation.

This was not even the “big” election, yet rough estimates show that over $4 BILLION was spent on campaigning this year.  Only slightly over the amount spent in 2010, we see that this is not unusual.  In 2012, the same amount was spent, PLUS another almost $3 Billion in presidential campaigning.  That means every four years, we see about $7 Billion being spent on parties fighting & arguing over who gets the votes.  To what end?  A few more years of having slightly more influence before having to spend billions of dollars once again to either stay, or get, in power.

What could be done with this much money in other areas of need?  CNN says $4 Billion alone could pay for 12,000 students to be educated from K-12th grades, with millions leftover for a graduation party.  Obviously there are a lot more children than that, and even needs like poverty, hunger, and disease are far too large for a few billion dollars to wipe out.  But it can still be said, as a country we are spending FAR too much money on political campaigning.  Even where there are laws to safeguard against special interest groups, donors and powers are finding ways to connect the dots.  We must confess that we are a country with selfishness and ego, and are collectively making a statement that politics and attempts to control/influence power are more important to us than serving the poor and powerless.  Even those who might take a stand, saying that millions of dollars are going to advocate for a candidate who might eventually be able to take a stand for the oppressed – must admit, this is not the best path to such transformation.

So what do most of us do?  We see a broken system, but most of us aren’t connected to the actual brokenness of it all.  Hearing the ads, maybe putting a sign in our lawn, and casting a vote is the most many of us might do.  (Predictions say around 40% will even vote.)  Less than 0.2% of the 310 Million Americans give more than $200 to any campaign.  That’s 620,000 people.  But over 66% of what has been given comes from sources that give more than this.  The maximum one person can give is (officially) $2,600.  How many people gave at least that?  93,000 people.  The percentages certainly make it seem smaller than it is, as 700,000 people giving large amounts is still a pretty good group of contributors.  The largest numbers come from the top, of course, where donations come in the form of Millions of dollars.  The top 20 contributors alone gave about $169 Million.  Sigh.  this is actually a long road to travel, and I think I’ve lost myself even if I have any readers left…

Kinda makes you frustrated, eh?  Gets your blood boiling?  That a country with so much need could throw away so much money on something so fleeting as the next election?  Good thing we’re not a part of anything that puts giant financial contributions above the needs of the poor and powerless…..right?

Oh wait…(NFL makes over $10 Billion annually)

So yeah….we have a need for a National outpouring of confession.  We need to repent (turn away from) these things, and turn toward God.  Not only in heart, but in what we give our time and resources to…

What does that look like?



giving God our scrapple.

We were on vacation, and Sarah had found the restaurant using one of them hip-trendy restaurant-finder Apps.  It was ranked #1 in the area, so we knew anything on the menu was going to knock it out of the park.  As we looked over the choices, we realized the reason it was so highly ranked was probably because they served just about everything you could imagine.  Among the choices, there were several options I’d never heard of.  Always the adventurous type, I decided to take a chance:

Me: Hmm, so what is this “Scrapple”?

Waitress: Well, you know how hotdogs are made out of the leftovers of meat?  Scrapple is made out of the scraps scrappleleftover after hotdogs are made.  Absolutely nothing goes to waste.  Then they add some cornmeal, and season it up.  I grew up eating it.

Me: Sounds great.  I’ll take some.

My stomach an hour later:  (shaking it’s fist at me)  Whhhyyyyyyy!!!!!????

You know what would’ve been great for breakfast that morning?  Ham.  Yeah, ham definitely would’ve been awesome.  I think God knew that as a people, we’d become more and more okay with serving our “lastfruits” not only as an item for breakfast, but as our worship and sacrifice to Him.  We have the commitments we’ve made with each day, whether work or home or play, and somewhere in between all the important stuff, if we really love him, we’ll carve out a few minutes for a devotional or Bible reading.

We’ll stay out/up late Saturday night doing whatever we want, make plans for Sunday afternoon, and feel great about shoving the family in the van – everyone too tired to know exactly what’s going on.  Blurry eyed, we’ll make it through service, check “Sabbath” off our list, and make it to lunch/etc. just in time.

Or the one I’m most guilty of, we’ll arrange our finances.  Make commitments for a lifestyle that fits the American Dream in our context, and with whatever’s left we’ll try to get close to 10%….or something…to give as our offering to God.

I say all of this not as a pastor trying to bring guilt on other church-goers, but as a fellow scrapple-server, realizing I want to give God ham. (I realize the irony in serving God what was traditionally an “unclean animal”…oh well.)  I want to give God the first moments of my day, when my brain is firing well.  I want to give God my focus and energy as if communion with the body of Christ at the banquet table of His Word is the most important aspect of my Sabbath.  I want to give to God sacrificially, making choices to deny myself bits of “The American Dream”, so that I can experience the blessings of being completely yielded to Him.

But instead so many times I offer him my scrapple.  I give to him whatever I’ve got left after I’ve cut out the bits and pieces I really needed for other things.  I’m so incredibly thankful for His grace, and the smile on His face.  As he takes the plate from me, and looks down at what I offer.  He loves what I’ve given.  He eats my scrapple.  He gently reminds me of the pattern He set, offering the very best to us.  He hasn’t left the table…but waits with a loving smile, expectantly….(Proverbs 3:9)

Adoption and Men…

When entering the “world” of adoption conversations, especially when you connect to a blog/Facebook group/other online conversation, you’ll quickly notice the primary voices are women.  Certainly God uses “a mothers heart” in many cases, and speaks into a family through the bride.  In other times, it might be the “fathers heart” that He uses to tug toward adoption.  But even in cases where the couple is equally engaged/pulled toward reaching out to the orphan, most often it seems the mother is the one “out there” with the topic, connecting with others and having conversations about the process.  There are a few reasons that stand out as to why this may be happening:

1. Adoption involves a lot of emotion.  Like, gobbs.  The waiting, the picture updates, how far away this child is from you physically, etc.  And as we all know, emotions are for women.  (tongue in cheek)  Even as young boys, men are trained to have Jedi-like control over their emotions.  When someone is being “emotional”, we instantly feel they’re not being “manly”…whatever that might mean.  So even though a man may feel it, they’ll probably keep most of it to themselves.  There’s also a big chance, that even though they care deeply about what’s happening, they don’t have theimage words or the need to put into words all they’re feeling.   That’s because…

2. Men easily compartmentalize.  “The amygdala is a part of the brain that controls our emotional responses. In men, the amygdala communicates with just a few parts of the brain, like the visual cortex and part of the brain responsible for movement. (source: Lloyd) It’s like the amygdala is a power strip, and men have just one appliance plugged in. In comparison, a woman’s power strip is fueling many different appliances. In women, the amygdala is more connected to parts of the brain that control language, which may be why women talk about their feelings. It’s also linked to parts of the brain that control bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure and digestion, which may be why women get a stomachache or other bodily response when they’re stressed or worried. In comparison, men seem to compartmentalize and show no outward display of emotion. But men still experience all the same emotions that women do, they just don’t cope with them in the same way.” (stolen from a science-ish website)

3. Adoption is much more emasculating than men realize when they “sign up” for it.  It’s sounds like the great plot for a manly story.  “Man helps his family reach out to the other side of the world, where a young child is in need of rescue, he helps bring them home and increases the size and heart of his own family (Christians add here “in the name of Jesus”).”  It’s totally a “knight in shining armor” type thing.  But then the journey actually begins.  He realizes he doesn’t have the finances to do it alone, and has to go around asking others to help.  He’s told by the agency “All of those natural fatherly desires you have to go and do whatever it takes to help your case move forward and bring your child home?  Let ’em go.  We represent you, and it’s in the best interest of everyone for you to let us do so.”  It’s probably true.  With the amount of extortion and corruption trying to seep into international adoptions, it’s really good to have people with experience and dedication to what’s best for the nation and children.

With these elements, and many more being thrown into the mix…our responses are important:

Wives – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your husband.  Offer grace when he doesn’t seem geeked out about gushing his adoptive emotions over coffee.  Love him by asking specific questions, give him time to respond…and don’t expect a book.  Pray with him.  Help him connect whatever part of the process you’re in to his manly quest.  Sure, he may not be able to ride over there on a horse and scoop up your child – but he can certainly put on his shining armor and head out to the fingerprints office.  Be thankful that he can breathe slow and steady when you feel all out of sorts, and how God’s heart is reflected in such steadiness.

Husbands – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your wife.  Offer grace when it seems she’s carrying a giant heavy burden…because she is.  When seemingly out of nowhere, she tells you how hard it is to endure all of this, and wonders if you even care.  This is your chance to be as manly as you were hoping you could be.  Not by rescuing your child just yet…but by scooping up your wife.  Reassure her.  Pray with her.  Use that focused amygdala to your advantage, and let her cry on your shoulder.  Dig deep into the compartment of adoption emotions and try to communicate what you’re feeling to her.  Be thankful for the depths of her emotions, and see how Gods’ heart is reflected in their mystery and force.

trendy witches?

A new article in “Newsweek” recently caught my attention, talking about a growing number of young people (teens through 30’s) who are interested & participate in the occult/witchcraft.  I’ll be honest…most of the time when someone starts talking to me about witchcraft, or the occult, or even the “wiccan” people….I have flashes of this movie play in my head:

But apparently, it’s gotten more hip.  At least, in big cities that define “hipness” for the rest of us.  I’m not too worried, really.  A news-source is supposed to do what it takes to tell stories that sell more copies.  Getting the general public worried about witches, or making the average Joe who’s looking for something new that’s socially acceptable….will definitely move issues.  Especially around Halloween.

But what caught my attention was toward the end when they had statements from a woman who’d recently moved to Brooklyn.  First she says, “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious….But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic.  Spirituality is a lot cooler.”  (nihilism = believes values are baseless, and nothing can be known…denies all established authority and institutions)

So she and many others in our culture have thankfully come to realize the result of nihilism…and how empty that approach is to…well, anything.  But to jump from that to the trendiness of a vague “spirituality” definitely seems to be the move our culture is making.  Whether you follow this article as highlighting an actual trend, or you look out your window…we know people are searching for “something”….and it’s much more socially acceptable to keep calling it “something” than Jesus.

Unfortunately, we find a result toward the end of her interview…as she follows up with:  “It’s hard to say if anyone is actually invested in any of this occult stuff they meddle in…it almost devastates me to say this, but daily life can be so mundane.  Applying thematics of epicness to your life makes it more exciting.”

It’s amazing how spot on she is, and yet because of her rejection of “traditional religion”, she’s missing out on the “epicness” of a life lived for Christ, and joining God in His story of redemption/New Creation.

More than anything, her statements and this article can be an encouraging invitation.  Our world is recognizing now more than ever the internal desire to be a part of something much grandeur than ourselves.  Something powerful.  Something that I can actually live for…instead of just wait to die for.  May we, our families, and our churches continue to be places where the story of God is happening in ways that testify to the power of His Spirit…the Love of God….and the New Creation possible in Jesus Christ.  No goat-leggings required.  🙂

hard sell?

I’m a pretty good salesman.  I’m also a horrible salesman.  It depends on what you’re measuring, I suppose.  When we first followed God’s call & relocated closer to family, I took a couple different sales jobs.  I volunteered at a small church in town, and learned what it was like working 9-5 (or 8-6, as it often was).  A few months was spent in Radio Advertising, and almost a year was with Pitney Bowes, selling “postage meters/folding machines/etc”.  I was pretty good at connecting relationally with my customers.  I even closed deals.  I could talk excitedly about what I had to offer them, and honestly believed I could help them out.  But when they asked me for the best deal – I’d usually give it to them.  So even though I made sales, I wasn’t the profit-generating machine that was celebrated in the sales realm.

Because of working on the world of advertising/ROI and the like, my radar picks up on sales-pitchy things much more than legosit used to.  I shrink back quickly from anything that smells like being a “salesman for Jesus/Heaven/Youth Group/Church”.  Unfortunately, that’s a large percentage of what’s out there for people seeking Christ to consume.  Bible studies, self-help books, and small group curriculum all geared toward convincing/reminding humanity that to come to Christ is to come to the end to all of your problems.  To arrive at the doors of the church is to arrive at an oasis of plenty.  To believe in Jesus Christ is to have all your prayers answered, every day is a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.

In a broken world, that sounds awesome.  We’re in debt, and even credit is running out fast.  We realize that something better than what we’re experiencing must be out there.  So when the man with the Bible, the nice smile and smooth words tells us that coming to church (and perhaps buying his book) will help fill the void we’ve got, and open doors of potential we previously thought were closed….we’re quick to follow.  The problem comes after some time of believing.  Time of offering our devout faith to a God/Genie, and becoming frustrated when nothing we ask for happens.

You might be nodding while reading this, agreeing that yes – we need to be honest about our expectations.  We need to remember that a call to follow Christ, is a call to the cross.  That we’re not promised what we want will work out the way we plan, by simply “trusting really really hard”.  But at the same time, I want my children to know the Hope we have in Christ.  I want them to experience putting their faith in Him, and having a life transformed.  I suppose it all depends on what we emphasize:

1 – We could emphasize the wrong things to our 5 year old.  Tell her that God wants everything to go perfect for her, and if she invites Jesus into her heart, it will enable all her dreams to come true (Jeremiah 29:11, right?).  Or, we could take the threatening route and tell her that someday she’ll either spend forever in flames or in golden streets and whipped cream.  If she asks Jesus into her heart, she won’t have to burn.  Sure, these spiritual things are bigger/different, but it’s important to speak in a language they simply understand, right?

2 – We could be honest with our 5 year old from the very start.  Tell her that people have made some really bad choices, that make this world a hard place to live sometimes.  But tell her how God has moved in our family already, and how He’s calling & enabling us to be different.  That we can choose to love/forgive, even when it’s hard.  We can be humble, and look for ways to serve others & love our neighbors globally.  We can pray, and know that spending time in God’s presence changes us.  We ask him to fill us with His love, so that in the simple ways we live, God is changing the world.

Sometimes that will lead us down paths where people know our name and smile or applaud.  Other times it may lead us down paths where people know our name and angrily yell.   Still many more times it may mean know one knows our name, but God is with us.

We are never alone, and that seems to be a pretty big point to a savior who was called

“Immanuel – which means ‘God with us’. “

But in a culture where more and more churches and youth ministries are selling the fun/loud/exciting/blessing/health/prosperity/nice teeth/etc…it may become increasingly difficult to be heard.  Still…this is what we speak.

If I were a Christian rock star.

There are times when studying for a message that will be praught in the future, a friend of mine will say “Well, that’s only if you think words mean something.”  Sometimes in jest, and sometimes critically asking an important question about the meaning of a text.  Recently I had an experience that really made me want to say something…but I wasn’t the person on stage with a microphone, and I’d probably sound stupid….so I figured this was a better place for me to sound stupid.

We caught a bit of a “Building 429” concert at the local Decatur Celebration, and I recognized a song they were playing as one I must have heard while scanning radio stations recently.  The song is titled “Where I Belong”, and brought up many of the issues I talked about in my recent post about a song I’ve written/recorded.

The lyrics of the chorus being chanted by everyone in crowd go:all-i-know-is-i-m-not-home-yet-this-is-not-where-i-belong
“All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong”

I understand the encouragement these words can bring.  To so many of us living in pain, debt, struggling with a broken world, etc…being reminded that this is not what God intends for us is a great thing.  I’m hoping many of the people in the crowd would recognize, if asked, that God’s desire is not that we would get out of this world…but rather join in carrying His image INto this world.

More like:
“All I know is He’s not done yet
This is not how the world belongs
Lord, Take all I am to give them Jesus
Because this is not how the world belongs”

It’d be easy to hear the song, and figure it doesn’t much matter.  After all, these are just simple side issues.  The main concern is Christ.  That’s true, but did you ever live in a college dorm?  I remember doing some pretty silly things during those years, especially in regard to how we lived in our temporary housing.  I remember duct taping the drains in the shower, and putting a wooden door (lined with trashbags and duct tape) in it’s entry-way so that with all the showers turned on hot – the small “group shower” room turned into a giant hot tub.  There were plenty of things we did, that only happened because we weren’t concerned for what happened to Chapman Hall after we moved out.

But now I live in a house, that we’re continuing to make our home.  It actually turns 100 years old next year.  I’m not OCD about getting nicks and dents in walls….but I would never flood a room just to pretend it’s a hot tub.  🙂  So much of what the follower of Christ is transformed for the sake of – involves living out a transformed God-bearing life into a creation that actually IS intended to be our home.  We believe that God put great care into creating this world, and placing us in it to be His image-bearers.  I love this world.  I’m making myself at home here, and look forward to what it will look like when made new/swallowed up by God’s presence completely.

So when another follower of Jesus looks at me and smiles, shouting “I can’t wait to leave this place!!”….I try to hear them saying “I can’t wait for Jesus to make all things new!”

I know we have the same desire…right?


Once there was a murderer who was the best in his trade.  He was so twistedly good at what he did, and enjoyed bringing death more than any could understand.  Not only did he exist to bring death, he enjoyed playing with his victims…convincing them they were safe while he employed his trade.  Also, he wasn’t content to simply kill.  His true pleasure came in consuming the flesh of his victims.  Sometimes all at once, but often bit by bit, over a long period of time, until there was nothing left but the bones laying on the floor in a room more silent than a winter chill.

But there was a problem.  People had heard of what he had done in the past.  They knew his face.

They didn’t trust him, and ran whenever they saw him approaching.

So he became creative.  He found 7 others who were just as twisted as he, and sometimes even helped twist those who were open to being befriended.  Friends who would move with his movements, and speak with his words.  Who would find out what he wanted to accomplish, and set out on his behalf.  Not many people knew their identities, and many who did found so much pleasure in their company, they quieted any desire to sound the alarm.

But one day, killing through his accomplices ceased to quench his desire to bring death.  His hunger for consuming the living grew to a point where he was unable to suppress it any longer.  But surely he would be unable to approach anyone, right?  After all, they still knew his face.   They still knew his name.  They avoided him at all costs.  They prayed for protection from him.  But being full of pride, he was not easily discouraged.  He decided to reach for the stars, offering himself as a guest in their homes.  He moved on quickly, not expecting any response.

But the responses came.

“COME!!”  “Come on over!!”  “We’ll come pick you up!!”  He smiled, and even laughed deep inside himself.  These were the people so aware of him???  These were the same people he’d been cast out from among over and over again….and didn’t know if he’d ever again taste.  He looked at himself in the mirror one more time….adjusted his collar…and smiled as he set out on a familiar path…


A silly story, yes?  Fiction….horribly written and imagined….right?  Except for the fact that there’s so much truth in it.  We and our families/homes are being consumed by things like anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.  When we recognize these in our homes and lives….we should confront them in the name of Jesus.  Allow our lives to be transformed, made new, and freed from their presence.

Instead, often the opposite happens.

Certainly, we usually leave these things at home while we head to church for a couple hours each week.  But I was reminded 7617-Conjuring2.jpg.220w.tnrecently by the box office success of a film like “The Conjuring”, not to mention shows like “Ghost Hunters”, or any of several other shows these days.  We enjoy poking sticks into the cages of the realms of spiritual evil we believe Christ came to declare Lordship over and our freedom from.  It shouldn’t be surprising when we get bit.  (Eph 4:27)

Standing in life-giving contrast, we re-member Jesus.  Not threatening to consume, but rather offering His own flesh and blood, and saying “Take, and eat…”  Asking if we’re hungry, and offering a banquet.

“Why would you go watch ________?”  Ask the question, and you’ll most likely get the answer, “because it’s scary/freaky!” said with a smile.  I can understand when the movie is about aliens, or even someone who’s pretty messed up.  These are things we are able to safely close our doors and lock them against, or realize they aren’t real (or aren’t coming to our planet because they’re allergic to water).

But to be entertained by the feeling you get when we watch a movie about demonic forces because you believe those forces exist?  To play a game that opens a door to a spiritual realm Jesus has died to keep us freed from?  If you didn’t realize that was not a good thing…..this is my polite way of saying….it’s not a good thing.  It’s true….inviting a cannibalistic serial killer into your home/mind/heart may not result in you being killed and eaten.  But I’m guessing most of us still wouldn’t unlock the door in that scenario.

And no, not because I think you’ll be possessed, or have sharp objects flying around your room or see demonic hands clapping out of cabinets.  Those are obvious ways for evil to be discovered/dealt with.  But rather, I believe the forces I’m talking about here would much rather be manifested in quiet, undetected slowly-building ways of broken relationships, bad decisions, and loneliness.

Instead, may this week find you feasting on Christ…(and go see Despicable Me 2 if you really need a flick)

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