I am Dying…Just 1 More Year!

lightIn a conference that I participated in this week, one of the speakers posed the question, “What if you had three and only three years left to live?” How would you lives those remaining days?

As I have been chewing on that, it occurs to me that this is both helpful and painful. It is destructive and edifying…all at the same time.

How so…you might ask? (Yep…me too.)

If you only had a limited and fixed number of days to live, you’d likely spend every one of them in the most productive way possible. You would pursue the most important purposes. You would not allow yourself to become bogged down with the trivial things that so often consume your time and energy. You would be highly sensitive to the investment and outcome of every ounce of effort. After all…today is nearly gone and tomorrow promises one less day to invest in the Kingdom of God.

  • Certainly, you would invest in helping your family know how to live without you. You would pour into your children (in every possible way) the wisdom necessary to make it through the next several chapters of their lives.
  • You would seek to impress your affections for your spouse.
  • You would “bury the hatchet” with that old and lingering enemy. After all…life is short.
  • You would make amends with everyone.
  • You would seek to help others know (if you are a disciple of Jesus) the urgency of Salvation!

What would likely not be so prominent:

  • Your sports team’s record.
  • The fact that your friend hurt your feelings by saying something stupid.
  • Getting another raise (as if ten cents an hour really was important).
  • Buying that third pair of shoes or the latest CD or “rims” for your truck.

The fact is, we spend a lot of energy on things that are temporal and allow that which is eternal get pushed back until tomorrow. This, in light of the fact that we do have a fixed number of days (It is appointed unto man once to die), and that all men will stand before God and give an account for what he/she did with the Messiah of God. He/she will not be judged for his comparative righteousness or his education or heart for social justice…but for what he/she did with Jesus. In light of that…does not our daily concern for the temporal call us to repentance in light of its idolatrous pursuits.

I am dying! This is certain. If I am to be effective in my life and not squander the gift that God has given me, I must act AS IF it is at an unknown but very soon coming date and live purposefully and for the glory of God above all else. God deserves nothing less from me as I respond to His great grace toward me in giving me abundant life through salvation in His Son.

#P5: Obedience includes location

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.’ “ Gen 12:1, NASB

This is where my mind was today when I woke up. I leave in a couple of hours with a team traveling to NY to work with a church planting partner. It is an exciting adventure and for several on the team…is a “first mission trip” experience. Whether it is the first of the fiftieth, this coming week is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is because WHERE you do what the Lord tells you to do is as important as WHAT you do.

Many look at the call the “missions” as a strange consideration. “Why go somewhere else when there is such great need around us?” The reason is…because obedience includes location. If you look at this command to Abram, God gave him very little info: GO…go from, go from, go from…TO a land which I WILL SHOW you. Abram knew more about where and what he was leaving behind than about where he was headed to. He was told to leave the familiar. He was told to leave his security. He was told to leave what was comfortable. Where he was going was undetermined. In fact…the only thing Abram knew about his future endeavor…was that God was mindful of him, present with him, and fully versed on what the future held.

If Abram had stayed in his land and preached powerfully, met the needs of all the people around him, started 1000 soup kitchens, cured disease, and funded 1 million charities…he would still have been disobedient to God. Why? Because OBEDIENCE includes location.

God places us in situations where our only security is Him. He alone is our hope and strength and support. If we rely on anything else…we are in some regard…engaged in a form of idolatry. But…after all…why would we place any trust in anything else since God is greater? WHy hope in less than His awesome love, grace, and purpose.

Go FROM and TO a land I (have yet to show you up to this point but I know perfectly says the Lord and) will show you.

Shalom, CA.

An Open Letter to my African-American Friends

Racism, PeanutsDear brothers and Sisters:

I wish to begin by declaring my love and respect for you. I am thankful for you and for your ministries. In many ways, each of you have had a profound influence on my life and ministry.

I also wanted to share with you a concern of my heart. As you know, I am on a journey of discovery. This journey is important to me because I desire to model grace and to mirror the heart of my Savior. I recognize that there are issues pertaining to race in my community. I know that my ancestors treated black Americans as lesser beings, failing to honor the Imago Dei (Image of God) that your ancestors bore. This was and is wrong. It is horrible and while it was culturally acceptable at the time, it should have been recognized as wrong. I also recognize your claim that latent racism exists in the systems of our culture and community. I don’t see these as readily as you do. Understandably (I hope), your perspective is far clearer than mine in these areas…but I am learning. I do not recognize myself as part of the systemic problem nor do I desire to be there. I want to honor you as a fellow Image-bearer. I want you to know what I believe in my heart…we are brothers and equals in every way imaginable. I feel no sense of superiority to you. If anything, perhaps the opposite is true.

Still, I ASSUME that there are things about my life, my actions, and/or my thought life that may hold to a racial bias. Thought I would adjudicate myself innocent of this, my judgment alone is not sufficient to pronounce my innocence. Only God can know and judge my heart.

One thing I ask of you and I pray you will hear me out. I know that you are angry over the injustice you see. I know that there are things that occur that you earnestly believe are related to racism. I get that. At the same time, when you speak of the culture as racist, or the white community as racist, or the system as racist…I accept some of the weight of that personally even though I do not see it in myself. Yes…I FEEL as if you are calling ME a RACIST! Perhaps you are. If so, I hope to prove your assessment wrong. If, however, you are right, I want to learn better. Doing so requires a willing spirit on my part and I must confess….that is far more difficult to do when I hear you call me a racist. When you immediately declare RACE as the reason you were pulled over, passed over, or looked over…I hear you say that all people who are not black (including myself) did that to you. This immediately places me on the defensive.

This is my pledge to you. I will not assume you disdain me because I am white. (This too is racism). I will defend you at every opportunity if others mistreat you because of your race. Further, if I am acting as a racist…I want to know. Please…I “give you permission” to call me out biblically if I am in error, or if you perceive me to be in error. If I am wrong, I will admit it and seek your forgiveness.

But, please, help me keep the conversation going. Please don’t see racism in everything that occurs. Sometimes you’re pulled over simply because you were driving poorly. Sometimes you are looked over simply because others are distracted. Sometimes you are passed over for promotion at work..simply because there is someone who is more suited for the job.

I love you. You are my brothers and sisters. I want to do meaningful work with you. Help me address the injustices shown toward you, whether by me or others. Let’s address it together, as family…in Christ.

Peace.

Did God lie about sex outside of marriage?

Open Bible 1So today I was assaulted by a young woman’s comments on Facebook regarding this article. I know the young woman and those who decided to agree with her as she agreed with this writer. I don’t know that I have ever been more grieved in my spirit as a man, a Christ-follower, a pastor, or as a dad.

Dear sweet girl…the truth behind “true love waits” is a God truth and did not originate in the domain of the church. The church does not own that truth but it should promote it as God’s truth.

All sex outside of that between a husband and his wife is sinful. It is harmful and it is less than God’s perfect plan or desire. There are many things wrong with the perspective of the writer of this article. Many representations of God and truth that are offered in error. One thing is true though…God desires for a sexual relationship to occur according to its biblical design. It is not guilt-ridden. It is not dirty. It is not a provocateur of shame. There is an origin for these things and he is a slanderer and liar.

You can trust God dear girl. God’s plan is better than your plan, my plan, or anyone else’s plan. If we read and understand God’s Word, we know conclusively that God’s plan for our lives is for our benefit/good, not our harm. He is a good and loving God who often warns us to avoid dangerous conduct because of the harm it causes that we cannot anticipate but God knows perfectly. Trust Him. He is trustworthy.

Finally, for whatever role the church or her parents or others played in evoking the feelings this girl speaks of…I am sorry. I was not there but I am sorry. I wish it were not the case. Furthermore, God can do something good with your experience if you allow Him. You of all people have an opportunity to become an Ambassador of Grace. (Certainly you need to experience that Grace from God first…but you can!) Who better to help others see the difference between a righteousness you work for and try to obtain…and one that is lavished upon you when you enter into a relationship with a God who demonstrably loves you “to the moon and back.” What if, God redeemed this horrible experience of yours and showed you how you could save others from it…not by removing God from the equation but by showing them how God really is.

You lady…I pray God demonstrates His love for you in a way that is experientially real for you.

And for those who wrestle with similar feelings as those this writer spoke of…you can trust God too and He is good to you too. He is and His plan, His perfect plan is the best course for your life. I promise…as someone who has tried my plan without God and God’s plan with me….God’s plan is worthwhile and profitable for you.

Peace.

Pastor’s Perspective…Why weddings are best celebrated within the church community

64-wedding-couple-file-clipartWeddings are full of symbolism! From the selection and role of the bridal party and the groomsmen, to the color of dress and cutting of the cake…everything has a symbolic meaning. Consideration is given to the color and style of the wedding dress, as well as to the wearing of “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” During the service, you may have a unity candle, the lighting of the candles, private or corporate communion, the mixture of the sand (a Florida favorite), the seating of the mothers, giving of a rose to the moms at different points of the service, the wearing of the veil (or not), the tossing of the garter and bouquet, not to mention the cutting and sharing of the cake the decorating of the departure vehicle…and the list goes on. Everything has a symbolic meaning.

One of the symbols that is losing prominence in our culture is the conviction of having a “church wedding.” Now I know the church is not the building. I know that where two or three are gathered… I get all of that. At the same time, I also know the significance of choosing the church community whom you worship with to celebrate this most solemn of commitments…the marriage.

Often times the consideration behind the choice of venue is what would make great pictures…or what would be “cool.” The venue may be chosen because the couple are beachgoers and want to look out across the ocean at the potential of their love. Sometimes the choice of venue is about seating capacity or even economics. Should not the message of the primacy of the lordship of Christ and the value of the church community also be a major consideration?

The symbols of a wedding communicate. If a father doesn’t give the bride away…it says something. If the bride chooses a red dress rather than white…it says something. We may or may not DESIRE for these things to communicate a message, but they do. Doesn’t the “place” we choose to solemnize our vows also say something?

I am not certain that Christians have the right to trumpet the TRUTH that marriage is a holy and lifelong covenant between one man and one woman before a holy God…while at the same time failing to elevate the value of the covenant by choosing to have a wedding ceremony at a ballpark or the beach. Now if the couple doesn’t value the church and the Lord…if they are not Christ-followers…I get it! Skip the church! I probably would as well if I were not a Christian! Make great pictures on the beach or on the summit of a mountain or under a gorgeous waterfall in Hawaii. After all…your pictures are your longest lasting residual impact of the day in this case. You’ve no intention of invoking the blessing of God since you have never trusted Him as your Lord. Don’t confuse the symbolic nature of a church wedding!

For believers…if we truly value the institution of marriage as God’s design and we truly value the church community as God’s community…our people in a “foreign land,” why would we not want this most solemn of commitments to be made in the place where we worship our God weekly and among the people we share our life journey with? Remember, everything communicates a message. Make sure this one is the one you wanted to share.

Pastor’s Reflections…How Christians may lose their edge on the LGBT issue

open-bible 2In the wake of Memorial day Weekend in Pensacola, I have been reflecting on the approach of the church to our city’s celebration of the LGBT lifestyle. By no means am I claiming to have the definitive answer on how the church SHOULD respond to these events in our city, but as I have considered it, I think it is worthy of our conversation. It takes courage to address an issue, considering it in light of the Scriptures until we have come to a place of biblical clarity. To facilitate the discussion, let me state a few assumptions.

  • Biblically speaking, homosexuality is wrong. It is sin. It is no more sin than other sins and it is no less sin than other sins. It is simply sin.
  • The church cannot embrace and/or adopt sin or modify God’s Word as it relates to sin. Whether I like it or don’t like it, lying is a sin, killing is sin, homosexuality is sin, etc.
  • The church is accountable to God for how we represent God’s position toward sin and those who sin.
  • The church is accountable to the culture at large for how we represent God’s position on sin and those who sin. IOW…we cannot say to the culture something that is untrue about God. If God has spoken on an issue, we become a stumbling block to the culture if we do not act truthfully toward them on behalf of God.

With these assumptions in place, I am concerned about the fine line we walk between loving those who sin and celebrating sin itself. As a guy who thinks (unapologetically) like a missionary and who wants all people to accept Christ Jesus as Lord by faith, I am concerned that if we are not careful as the church, we can step over the line from demonstrating love and acceptance toward those who (like us) commit sin…and start to ignore the sin…or worse…we actually celebrate it as normal.

A couple of examples may illuminate the issue:

  • If a gay person comes into the church, it seems appropriate to love him as another person created in the image of God. He should be embraced as a person who is of great value to our King. At the same time, we could not accept him into membership while he still holds an acceptance or affinity with his sin. Until he sees sin the way God sees sin, he cannot come to repentance, thus he cannot be redeemed.
  • If the same gay person came in with his partner to fellowship and sing and “pal around” with church members as they sought to act as a couple…the church may blur the lines to allow unrepentant sinners to persist in the assembly unless we challenge the sin and are seeking a receptivity in the heart fo the gay couple.
  • Finally, if a church sets out to open a hospitality booth at a LGBT parade (or our current Memorial Day festivities at Pensacola Beach) and distribute water bottles, sunscreen, or other items…is it crossing a line and beginning to celebrate the sin itself? If not, why not? Now I understand how this effort might be evangelistic if there is a message of God’s love conveyed (verbally, in writing, etc). My concern is not so much with that as it is with simply being a “presence” in the midst of these activities…as if to communicate love and ACCEPTANCE of the sin and inadvertently communicating that God is “ok” with the sinner’s choice to sin.

While I don’t have all of the answers, I know that there is a message communicated by the church’s actions…so I am curious where you might think the “line” is in our activity. Love to hear your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: