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stranger at my door

 

 

A stranger at my door by Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove was one of the most personally challenging books I’ve ever read. It’s the story of a man who felt called by God to open his front door to the least, the lost and the lonely and in turn learns how to follow Jesus in a profound way. I found myself asking the question “who would anyone do this”? I thought about the safety concerns of having drug addicts, strange men, and unstable women sharing a breakfast table with my children. How can someone just open their front door, no questions asked and meet the needs of anyone and everyone that God sends their way? Well, thats what Jonathan Wilson Hargrove did and the outcome brings him revelation and enlightenment that he would’t have found if he hadn’t. This book is definitely worth the read but be prepared to be convicted and challenged.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from blogging for books to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

50 Shades of Deception

admin  —  February 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

Child-worshiping-God

There has been so much buzz and discussion about the release of the movie 50 shades of grey.  I have seen commercial after commercial, pop up ads on the Internet, Facebook posts, blog posts, and just general conversation.  I have seen this from both sides of the argument.  The “don’t go see this movie” to the “Get over it and stop being a prude”.  The truth is that regardless of the arguments this movie will make millions of dollars, it will line the pockets of the actors, the director and the studio executives.  The truth is that millions of women, and men will hand over their hard earned cash to be a voyeur into a fantasy world full of sex and domination.  The truth is that many of these men and women are christians and as a man, husband, father and pastor, this breaks my heart.

This morning, via text I was having a discussion with a friend who had written a blog about the dangers of the 50 shades of Grey movie.  I was complimenting him on how great the post is, and it is, you should read it. Instead of Seeing 50 Shades of Grey, She stayed home with her husband and YOU KNOW what happened next!  I sent him this text.

“As a father with two daughters and no sons, I don’t have to worry about raising a child to actively honor woman, I have to worry about raising daughters who demand to BE honored and that is tough”.

That’s kind of where the heaviness of this movie rests for me in a personal way.  My daughters mean the world to me.  They are among the most treasured gifts that God has given to me.  They are beautiful inside and out, intelligent, caring, loving, God honoring young women who deserve to be treated like the daughter of God that they are.  As Augustine said “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us” and I believe that with all my heart.  That’s how I love my girls.  I am unapologetically protective of them and unashamedly, just a touch overprotective, but my desire for their life is that they know God, know that God loves them and that their life is valuable beyond measure. The idea that a man would treat them as other then a jewel to be treasured, other then a daughter of the King of Kings sparks a rage in me.

50 shades of Grey is sanctioned, mainstream pornography.  It sets a precedent for the line to be pushed further and further away from decent and honorable.  It takes the beautiful, intimate, loving, selfless act of sex and makes it an ugly, callous, selfish act where the women is an object of pleasure and not a gift of God to be cherished and desired.  A gift to be cherished and desired because of who she is, cherished and desired in her entire body, mind and spirit, cherished and desired because she is the daughter of a father and mother who love her deeply, but even more importantly because she is the daughter of an unfathomably loving and passionate God who created her for His purpose, not yours.

Ladies, do not defile yourself or your marriage by watching this movie as if it is entertainment.  Do not undervalue who you are.  Understand that God created you to be a mighty woman of God, a women to be cherished, an adopted daughter of the King of the universe, a princess, and a precious life with purpose and immeasurable worth.  If you are married you have an enormous responsibility to the vow that you made to God and your spouse on your marriage day.

Proverbs 12:4 says “A wise women builds her home, but with her own hands a foolish women tears her’s down”.

Cheapening intimacy will tear down your home.  It will weaken your marriage; it will diminish your self worth.

This Valentine’s Day take the price of the movie ticket, a large popcorn and soda and invest into strengthening your marriage, not weakening it.  Invest it into reality that you are a strong and adored daughter of God and not an object of indulgence and gratification.  Invest into the truth that your value is immeasurable, your worth is great, and you are simply much better then a storyline in some movie about cheap sex.  The woman in fifty shades is not a woman to be admired, she is a woman to grieved.  She is a woman who has given away her value and worth in search of carnal pleasure, acceptance and a perverted view of submission.  She is better then that, you are better then that.

short walk

 

I love books about God, especially books that show how God reveals Himself in the most desperate of situation.  I also love books about hiking, and being in the wilderness so when I came across “A short walk to the edge of life” by Scott Hubbartt I figured it was a match made in heaven.  It’s tells the story of the author’s five hour hike in the desolate backcountry canyon of the Peruvian Andes that turns into a multiple day battle between life and death.

For the first 73 pages, I hated this book.  It told the story of a self absorbed, over confident, man who put himself in a tenuous situation through a series of amateur mistakes but instead of taking responsibility for things like, not bringing water with him, forgetting his jacket, not to mention ignoring the warnings of multiple people that he should abandon the trip, choses to blame God for his situation every step of the way.  I almost always finish a book once I start it but I almost gave up on this book.  I’m glad I didn’t.  Something interesting happens to Scott midway through this book.  He begins to embrace his situation and look at the desperation that he faced as opportunity to hear from God.  It lends itself to a peak into a thin space where God meets man in his most hopeless moments.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from blogging for books to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Representing God

admin  —  March 28, 2014 — 2 Comments

 

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In her book Thrashing about with God, Mandy Steward poses a question that is poignant, profound, controversial and quite frankly sad.  Her question is this  “Can’t I have God and not have His people”.  Christians are messy, flawed people in need of grace, that’s what makes us Christians. We are hopeless people who find salvation in the greatest gift of grace ever known to man, our savior’s death on a cross.  We extend grace to one another because our salvation is rooted in that undeserved grace.  However, if I’m honest, there are times when people do things, claim things, declare things that are so egregious, so un-Christ like that I have an incredibly hard time extending grace and so it leads me to pose the same sad question that Mandy Steward posed.

The recent debate and friction around World Vision’s is one of those times.  World Vision released the following statement  “Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues…” This was met with a firestorm of controversy, vitriol, anger and active protest throughout the Christian community.  World Vision’s Facebook wall turned into a battleground.  You could almost feel the anger come off the screen.

“Disgusted by your cowardice. How can you recognize a “marriage” that is not even recognized by God? This is disgraceful, and I am deeply saddened that I will no longer be able to support my child of 8 years because of your misguidance. You lost way more Christians today than you will gain in homosexuals. So so sad”

“Tragic and unwise decision today. I hate that I have to pull my sponsorship but I will as soon as your phones open tomorrow since I can’t do it online. The loss of support for kids and people around the world is the responsibility of those who made this tragic decision, not those who were given no choice but to pull their support.”

Wait….What?!?!  Your Christian response to your disagreement and dissent is to STOP caring for a hungry child?  Your resolution to your perception of World Vision endorsing sin is to WITHHOLD support that would provide vaccination and clean drinking water to a poor child?  This was the answer that God gave you when you went to Him in prayer asking Him how to sort out your Christian morals and values in response to this policy change? Really?!?!  This is what you came up with?  All that time reading your Bible, studying the life and example of Jesus, listening to sermons, and seeking God in prayer and your answer is to tack on “unless your values and morals don’t line up with the guy serving along side you” to the end of John 13:34-35?  It certainly does change the scripture doesn’t it?  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another unless your values and morals don’t line up with the guy serving along side you”.  Only one problem with that, you aren’t allowed to tack things on the end of God’s word, and the scripture doesn’t say that. The other problem is that scripture has something to say about arrogance and pride and maybe, just maybe certain people would not want to serve alongside someone with those attributes.

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5

 

This is where it gets tough for me.  I am a Pastor, called to love and care for God’s people.  Called to show compassion and understanding to His children but if I’m being honest, I have a really hard time showing compassion, understanding and care for someone who shows such an extreme level arrogance and pride and in that sin claims that another’s sin eliminates them from serving.  I have a really hard time understanding how someone who claims to know the Lord, can misrepresent Him in such a blatant way causing people to question the love, compassion and grace of my Savior.  I have a really difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that someone who claims to follow the same God that I follow would take food out of a hungry child’s mouth because someone who helped get that food there is gay.  Is it possible that God would ask us to prioritize our differences over our similarities.  Is it possible that God would have us choose to focus our energy and anger towards what makes us different and not focus our anger and energy towards the injustice that children die because they don’t have enough food in 2014? That’s insane!  Not my God!

The Christian community could change the world.  Let me say that again.  Christians, God’s people have the ability to change the world, I believe that with all my heart but every time something like this happens we sour the world to our ability to do so.  We convince the world that our God isn’t who He says He is.  We cause the world to believe that we are hypocritical, judgmental,  condemning people, and in turn that is what they believe about our loving, compassionate, faithful, gracious Savior and that my friends is tragic and heartbreaking.

There will always be Christians who act well…un-Christian.  There will always be those, saved by grace, who see the extension of grace as a choice, as a case by case decision that they get to make depending on whether it fits their whim. So for me, that question will always resonate.  Why can’t I have God and just God?  The truth is there is only one answer, and even though the question resonates with me, the answer resonates louder.  I need God’s people, I love God’s people, but that doesn’t mean I will sit aside idly and allow them to misrepresent to the world who my God is.  It doesn’t mean that I will stand by and allow people to be alienated from God’s love and grace by those of us who live in the shadow and embrace of God’s love and grace.  It doesn’t mean that I will remain silent when my fellow Christians claim that there isn’t anymore room at the table because your different. Shame on you Christian, who misrepresents our God, shame on you choose dogma over love, judgement over grace, and doctrine over compassion.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8

The truth is simple, God is love.  When given the opportunity to choose between judgement and love we should always choose love.  We should always choose to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the sorrowful.  We should always choose to represent our God as the loving, and gracious God that He is.

Why We Eat Our Own

admin  —  February 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

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“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people”

1 Corinthians 14:33

 

I picture it like this.  A man in modest dress looks out into the distance; aware of the looming danger that he has heard is coming.  The smell of a campfire, the sounds of his sheep, and the smell of the stew heating on the campfire fill the air.  His name is Ananias and he has heard rumors of the man named Saul coming his way with the blessing of the high priest to kill him and those like him who claim that the Nazarene carpenter is the savior.  Although he is a godly man, he hates this man that he has never met, but only heard rumors off.  What happens next is not all that common but by his response leads me to believe its not the first time that God has spoken to Ananias.  God calls his name and seemingly unalarmed Ananias simply responds “Yes Lord”.  The Lord gives him a command that very likely is the most difficult command that Ananias could possibly here in this moment.  Go to this man Saul and lay your hands on him.  In essence, go heal this man who wishes to kill you.  Place yourself in Ananias’ sandals.  God is telling Ananias to go and love the man who wishes him and his friend’s dead.  Ananias does what God commands and goes to Saul, walks into the house and says:

“Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

Did you catch that?  Ananias not only obeyed God’s command, he called Saul his brother.  This man was causing unthinkable torment, anguish, pain and death to the people who Ananias loved and he called him “brother”.  A man who was at this time outside of the Christian faith, unsaved by belief in the savior, not part of the family of God, actively opposing God’s people and Ananias calls him his brother.

Why is it that in so many instances inside the family of God we miss this message?  Why is it that when conflict, disagreement, difference or dispute arise between the people in the church Christians eat there own.  Why is that people, who by the very nature of their salvation are brothers and sisters for eternity, can turn their differences into a reason to destroy, attack, discredit, and hurt someone?

In the midst of dispute and disagreement it is so easy for us to turn our focus away from God and inward towards our self.  It is so easy to assign ill intent or malicious objectives towards those we perceive to have harmed us in order to protect our views or our own agenda.

If Ananias could call a man who wished him dead brother, shouldn’t we as true Christian brothers and sisters be able to call one another the same?  Shouldn’t we be able to see each other’s rights to chose a different path and agree that while we have dispute we are still brothers.

Ananias called Saul “brother” based on the fact that God told him that Saul belonged to the Lord.  Christians are brothers based on the exact same truth.  We all belong to God and our differences, disputes, and disagreements do not change that truth.   Instead of eating our own we should recall the lesson of Ananias and simply call one another “brother”.

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The power of being unqualified

admin  —  October 20, 2013 — 2 Comments

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Somewhere around 1925 a young woman walked into a youth group meeting.  No one knows what the message was or probably who gave the message but whatever it was, it was enough that the young women came back the next week and the weeks that followed.  What she learned in that youth group gave her an interest in the suffering of the people around the world and a desire to do something about it.  Seventy-two years later, that young women would die a Nobel peace prize winner, known as one of the most compassionate, loving, driven, Christ-like people to ever walk the face of the earth.  Her name was Mother Theresa.

How does a five foot tall nun make such an impact on the world around her, that her name becomes known by all, and her work is  felt long after her death.  She didn’t have a fancy degree from Harvard or Yale, she didn’t study under a great biblical scholar or theologian, she didn’t build a resume filled with positions at the greatest institutions.  All she did was say yes to God’s calling in her life.  She called it the “call within the call”.  God called her to be a nun and then he called her serve the poor in Calcutta India and she said yes.

God doesn’t often call the most talented, most gifted, most equipped to carry out His work.  It is often the least talented, least gifted, least likely and least equipped that he calls and when He calls them, He equips them.

Jesus could have picked the cream of the crop.  Pharisees, Priests, Scholars, teachers, and astrologers, but he chose fisherman, and a tax collector.  He chose the unequipped and he equipped them.  He equipped them to be the foundation of the church.

When God calls us to do things that we are unequipped to do, we are forced to depend on Him and not on our own understanding. Depending on our own ability and our own understanding ensures that we can only achieve what is within our human ability to achieve but accepting God’s call in our life places us in position to do things that seem impossible, but most importantly, it gives us an opportunity to glorify Him and do amazing things through Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

For Christians we should never ask if we are qualified, we should only ask if we are called.  If we only answer the calls in our life in which we feel qualified we will never grow beyond our own capabilities.  If we don’t answer calls that require our dependance on God, we will never truly find ourselves in a position to depend on God and that is a true tragedy of faith.  When we do answer the calls that seem impossible, God will do things in our life and through our life that are beyond explanation.

The Road Less Traveled

admin  —  October 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

The funny thing about the road less traveled is that by nature it is a lot less clear and certain.  The road less traveled is usually overgrown, not clearly marked and because of that, a little more dangerous.  This is where my wife and I find ourselves at this moment, in transition and a bit uncertain of our future.

We have found ourselves on our knees, seeking God more over the past few months then at any other point in our life together.  Over the past few months we have been feeling God calling us away from the church that we have served and loved for the past sixteen years.  Early on it was a whisper but as time went on God’s voice became more and more clear until we simply knew we had to leave.  Even with the certainty that God was telling us it was time to go, it wasn’t an easy decision.  So many years connected to the same church community means deep roots and lots of memories not just for Christina and I but for our children too.  So, what do you do when God says step into uncertainty and take a risk?  What do you do when God places two paths in front of you, one is familiar and comfortable and one is “less traveled” and well…uncertain? What do you do when God speaks clearly into your life and tells you to do something that goes against what seems rational to most observers?

It is one of my greatest desires that Christina and I will always choose to follow God, even on the road less traveled, even when it is scary, even when it is uncomfortable and uncertain.  I want to see God move in a huge way.  I want to see the miracles of my faith play out in front of my eyes. I want to see the the people in the homes around me turn to God in the same magnitude that the church of Acts saw, and I believe with all my heart that this will happen.  I believe that revival is coming, but most importantly I believe that God is faithful and so…when faced with the decision to follow the comfortable, familiar well worn road, or the overgrown, less familiar and more dangerous road that God has called us down, Christina and I choose to follow God.

This is a time of great transition for my family.  We share this transition with three other amazing families who are also traveling the road less traveled with us.  We come from very different backgrounds and God has given us all very different gifts, but we have one very important thing in common.  We all want to see God move here in our community in a way that can only be explained by His work and HIs presence for His glory.

I have no doubt that the community that we live in is on the cusp of seeing an amazing movement of God,  I also believe that just like the disciples who answered Jesus in obedience when he said “Come, follow me”, we are in for one incredible ride.