As a purveyor of what is now considered to be classic rock, I ran across this music video: https://youtu.be/bkysjcs5vFU Dio’s “Holy Diver” (nothing profain but may not be work appropriate)
After wiping the tears from my eyes from a fit of laugher, I was struck by a thought. I am sure Dio was going for a “Conan the Barbarian” vibe, thinking that this would be really cool. I am not sure that the desire coolness was achieved, even in the early 80’s. Looking back this video is more like a bad school yearbook picture, likely to elicit snickers rather than awe-inspired gasps.
I think churches and ministers should take away a huge lesson from this. In striving to be relevant or “edgy,” often we can hitch our wagon to the wrong horse. What is trendy in the moment, probably will be (and often already has been) perceived as lame or a joke by the onlooking world. The danger is not in what people think of you or me, but that they will link our personal lameness and frivolity to our message of Christ crucified.
While a degree of relevancy is necessary for clear communication, we must hitch ourselves to the timeless in order to be taken seriously by a religiously cynical and jaded younger generation (mine). Pastors, leaders, Christians, and churches please take notice. The gospel has never been cool, but it is the power of God to rescue broken people (Romans 1:16). The message should define us more than the moment!
A Classic Rocker
The discrimination trump card silences and shames dissenting voices in our culture. Once the label of “discrimination” is placed on you, you become toxic. Many in our society spread propaganda advocating a dishonest maxim, “We are against all forms of discrimination.” They imply that they do not discriminate against anyone, making them better people than those who are “discriminatory.” Is this honest?
Discrimination has come to mean in our society to unfairly treat a person or a group of people. Granted, there are forms of discrimination that are unjust and should be fought, but declaring any kind of discrimination as bad or evil is intellectually dishonest. It is dishonest because those who say they are anti-discrimination discriminate against their opponents. They do the very thing they claim they don’t do. They hate, condemn, and mock those with opposing worldviews. Is this truly anti-discrimination? Isn’t this label false propaganda?
The culture of tolerance and open-mindedness is really a culture of shame, shaming people into conformity. Reservations and dissent are not tolerated, which is not very tolerant or open-minded. This dishonest double-speak is the death of true liberty and progress. To reject all forms of distinctions, differentiations, and disagreements is to advocate anarchy or totalitarianism. A civil and free society cannot exist if we cannot disagree peaceably. Instead, we must be able to have intelligent and honest conversations and disagreements. We need conversations that move beyond labels, name calling, and propaganda. The freedom and health of society is at stake.
DON’T BUY THE PROPAGANDA,
A discerning mind
Are you walking down a progressive path?
You ought to be.
Change, improvement, betterment all can define the word progressive, a different term than Progressive with a capital “P” which is equated with social liberalism. In one regard we ought to all be progressive. We should all desire to build a better society and better world for our children to live in. The problem America faces is that there seems to be a monopoly on what “better” is for America’s future. To question or offer an alternate definition for what is good for culture, society or government, simply leads to name calling or poor characterizations that seek to shut one up. We cannot question our cultural elites’ definition of good or right, while they claim to be open to all interpretations of “good” and “right.” What is really tolerated is that anyone can believe what they want to believe about right and wrong as long as it does not disagree with the cultural definition of acceptability, which is in itself intolerant.
To interject any values, beliefs, and principles that are explicitly Christian orthodoxy are taboo. In fact, to appeal to this particular brand of faith is deemed the exact opposite of progressive. It is conservative. It is regressive. It would be as though we were moving back to the dark ages. It would be like making an u-turn.
No turns allowed. The ability to question the progressiveness of the path we are taking is not allowed. Sadly, this is exactly what we need. We must the able to question whether something is “right” or “good” in order to determine what is better for our country and for our future. We must be willing to dialogue. To not do so is to blindly follow a path. It is to be narrow minded. It is ignorant (not a slander, but ignorance in its literal sense). These very labels are thrown on those who question, who oppose the status quo, but actually apply to those who are labeling to begin with.
A true progressive is open to the discussion of defining what is the common good for society, even if the discussion is with someone whose view is polar opposite to their own. Civil and meaningful discourse is the only foundation on which cooperation and community can be built. Instead of shouting down each other, we ought to be listening. Some may be calling for a u-turn on other seemingly progressive paths because they believe that these paths are not the best paths. It takes courage to examine one’s own path. We ought to be honest enough to admit that sometimes an u-turn is the only right direction to take.
It must be said too that to accept and affirm everyone, except those who do not agree with you is not very accepting. This is mentally is at the heart of the other progressivism, the one with a capital “P”. Saying that you are accepting and affirming is simply making yourself out to be nicer than you really are. It is dishonest. To be accepting and affirming is not a tenable worldview, because everyone has to disagree and reject something. To not affirm or to not accept does not make you hateful and mean. It simply means that you define “good” and “right” differently that someone else. To be able to discuss what is indeed “right” and “good” with other people is what we need today. This is the truly progressive path.
We do not need more people trying to roll over another people with their worldview, regardless of the worldview. This does not mean we cannot try to convince people, because everyone does that even if they are not honest enough to admit it (I certainly desire and try to do so). For the orthodox Christian, like myself, our concepts of right and wrong are fixed, but we can still winsomely and civilly discuss the common good of society with other world views. We ought to do this because we should desire to seek the betterment of our society, which is the essence of true progressivism. I hope you will have the courage to walk the true progressive path with eyes wide open. It might mean an u-turn for you, but you might be surprised at what you will see.
a progressive but not a Progressive
Scripture says that the suffering of a Christian is God’s grace to us (1 Peter 2:19-20). It is quite shocking. Human nature typically seeks to avoid harm and discomfort. We live in a nation whose motto is the freedom to pursue happiness. We often find happiness in comfort, in satisfaction, and in security. The idea that any kind of suffering is God’s grace (a good gift given to undeserving people) to us is jarring.
The type of suffering in view here is not simply suffering for suffering’s sake. It is suffering for the sake of Christ. All of mankind suffers because we live in a broken world that we broke collectively. This means that the suffering we experience is a result of humankind’s rebellion against God, in which we all have played a part. With this in mind, the suffering that Peter mentions is the only kind of genuine undeserved suffering that exists. Christ is King and will one day establish His literal throne on the earth, but right now He is establishing His throne in people’s hearts. While we live our lives under the rule of Christ, the rest of the world does not acknowledge Him as King. This means, if we live our lives ruled by and shaped by King Jesus, those who do not submit to His rule will revile us.
To suffer for the sake of Christ is an honor. He was the only human that walked the earth who suffered total injustice. While we all experience levels of injustice, He alone was completely blameless in every aspect of His life. He was above reproach, yet was killed as a blasphemer and traitor. He was reviled by sinful men because He was without sin. John 3:19, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”
We participate in the sufferings of Christ by suffering for His sake and in doing so suffer unjustly. Suffering for His sake means living for His sake. Living for His sake is having King Jesus define all aspects of life as is expressly written in Scripture. He gets the final word on our morality, our understanding of truth (which is not found in ourselves), our identity, our sexuality, our relationships, and every other aspect of life. This is no private, unspoken faith. This is a life distinctly marked by Jesus, for which we will be hated or loved. To live for Christ is to suffer for Christ (Rom 8:17; Phi 1:29). Both are an honor and a privilege that only subjects to the King receive.
This should not give us a martyr complex (Example: “Look at me. I am sooo much better than you because I am suffering“), but replace fear with joy so that we may live for the King. Suffering does not make us better than anyone. There is not a measuring stick as to who is really suffering who isn’t. Suffering for the sake of Christ comes with many different price tags, but all who live for Him suffer for Him. It is what comes with the territory when our lives are marked by Jesus.
A marked Man
I am not a person who follows these celebrity “scandals” very often. There are too many and they are just people. Since this one has gotten so much traction last week and my wife loves the food network, I have taken notice of the fallout of this situation surrounding Paula Deen. She has admitted to using racist language 30 years ago. This is a fact that has been blurred by most of the media and is being treated as if she had said the N-word on live T.V. The reaction this has been getting fascinates me.
I will be quick to say that I find racist language and attitudes appalling. Mindsets like this demean a person’s (regardless of race) inherit dignity and worth because all people of all races are created in God’s own image. As a white Southerner, I wonder if Paula’s Southern heritage is what makes the image of her using racist language 30 years ago so appalling to non-white/non-Southerners. I should hope that it deeply disturbs white Southerners as well. What I don’t think most people realize is that there is so much cultural baggage everyone is bringing to the table.
My sophomore year of college came flooding back as I read this article on Deen’s debacle. I can remember an Anthropology course I took in college where my professor constantly talked down to our class. She made it clear through the assignments she gave us, her attitude, language, and comments that she thought we were all narrow-minded racists, bigots. My university is in the South and the student population back in 2001 was largely conservative (politically and socially). The professor had newly moved to Texas from New Jersey. Here we had cultural stereotypes built by memories of the past causing aggression between the Northerner and the Southerner. Many students were just as hostile towards this professor, because as Southerners they were trying to move past old stigmas only to find they could not escape the sins of their forefathers. They were being charged with accusations that did not fit simply because they did not share the same worldview as the professor.
I share this because I realize that this a very personal, very emotionally charged issue, even today. Many will run to the defense of their beloved star out of loyalty, Southern pride, or simply because they too have felt the shame of being called an racist or are trying to move on from a racist past themselves. Others will demonize Paula because in their minds she represents what is wrong with South and the reason they won’t get with the program that the more left-leaning politically and socially minded affirm, she fits a stereotype that they are culturally prone to attack, or perhaps they are reacting out of shame and/or justifiable anger they have experienced having been on the receiving end of racists slurs.
While I applaud calls for forgiveness from Jimmy Carter and other such media pieces, I wonder if these are merely wishful thinking. The power to forgive someone truly, can only be found in having one’s own wrongs, mistakes, failures, and hateful words truly forgiven. It is at the cross (where the wrongly accused, racially maligned, mercilessly oppressed, and unjustly punished God-man, Jesus hung) where true forgiveness begins. Until we see ourselves in the hate-filled crowd at the foot of the cross having His blood on our own hands, we cannot find forgiveness in His face. It was over this murderous crowd that He spoke, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:24).” When we truly find forgiveness at His cross, then we can truly forgive others. Without the cross Paul Deen truly has committed the unforgivable sin in American society,
A forgiven man
The title of this blog is not intended to be a theological statement, but a sentiment. This is a thought that is often expressed in the midst of tragedy by both Christians and non-Christians alike. In light of the Boston Marathon bombing and the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, TX, this is a question (or something close to it) that you may have heard from friends, family co-workers, or even from yourself: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
What I am not attempting to answer is the “why” but point to comfort and renewal in Psalm 73. The Bible can be very earthly and gritty. This is not because it is flawed or intentionally boorish. Scripture is merely reflecting reality as it truly is and the hearts of men as they actually are. Psalm 73 is a beautiful expression of a man of faith that struggles with the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous.
“But when I thought how to understand this it seemed to me a wearisome task…(v.16)” Asaph almost loses his way. I believe that he almost walked away from his faith. This reality that bad things happen to good people was too much for him to wrap his mind around. He did not see a point to following God if there was no benefit in this life. It is OK to admit that this issue is a tough one. The reality of the broken world we live in can be hard to come to terms with and we don’t have to have all the answers. It was not an explanation that brought Asaph back from the precipice. It was a change in perspective and of his heart’s affections.
“Until I went into the sanctuary of God…(v. 17)” Asaph goes to meet with God and everything changes. The sanctuary was where God’s presence dwelt among men. It was here at the temple that blood was shed so that God could overlook the sinfulness of His people. It was by coming here that everything was put into perspective for this man. Several hundred years later God Himself put on human flesh and dwelt among humankind. He was called Emmanuel, meaning God with us, a.k.a. Jesus.
If we are to have things put into perspective, we must look to Jesus who is the fulfillment of the temple. He is God among us, being fully God and fully man. It is His death that removes the sin from all who will believe in Him (His people). It is here at the cross that we see that God is not some kind of distant sycophant watching us suffer and struggle through life. He Himself was made to suffer injustice, humiliation, the wrath of corrupt men, religious zealotry, torture, and an excruciating death. It is at the execution of Jesus that we find the God who intimately and personally knows what we are gong through, proving it with His own blood.
He did this not only to relate to us, but to save us from ourselves and his right wrath. We are wired to serve our own passions, interests and causes doing what is right in our own eyes, rather than what is right in God’s eyes. This is rebellion. This is a declaration war against the highest authority in the universe. It is treason. For this we deserve the sentence of death physically spiritually, and eternally, but God being rich and mercy can make you alive in Jesus (Eph. 2:4-10). Jesus died and rose again on the third day to create for himself a people, saving them from themselves and the just and good wrath of God. When we see that our biggest problem is not the broken world in which we live, but our desperate condition before a just and holy God. This changes what we desire and value most in life…
“…There is nothing on the earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (25-26).” Asaph’s desires and focus drastically change, just as ours will at the foot of the cross. He began by desiring the things of the earth (v.3). He desired the gifts of God more than God. He sought to use God to serve his own passions, desires, goals, causes and personal ends. We do the same. When we do that we cannot suffer well, faithfully trusting God. It is only by returning to the cross seeing the love, redemption, justice, and the power of God in the resurrection that our affections can reset in such a way that we love God more than His good gifts.
In Jesus’ work on the cross by grace through faith we are made new creations. We begin to see the world as it truly is as we begin to understand what the intended purpose of life is. Our affections change so that God is what we desire most in life, despite the suffering, trials, and pain. We can do so because this is a hope and treasure that cannot be taken from us by circumstances, the actions of evil men, nor by the corruption of our bodies. In spite of all of this, we are still prone to go back to our old ways. This is why Christians must return to the cross daily in the Bible allowing God to shape our hearts and minds through His Spirit.
A servant of my God and Savior, Jesus the Christ
Another one of those all too common stories broke a couple days ago. A minister gets busted for having an inappropriate relationship with an underage teenager within his ministry. This time it is different for me. I know this guy. We hung out together. We went to seminary together. We weren’t real close but I would consider this person a friend. Perhaps because this situation feels more personal or maybe because I have spent too much time reading the comment sections of the articles, I am compelled to write on this issue. I have a few suggestions on what the Christian, the local church, and the minister should take away from tragic stories like these:
- When reading stories like these we ought to be moved to take our own sin more seriously. The moment we place individuals who fail so horribly in a separate category from ourselves (i.e. “that monster”) we reveal that we are not taking our own sin seriously, but consider ourselves as basically good. As Christians we ought to recognize that we are all sinful and given the right circumstances and opportunity we can act just as evilly. It is only by the power of the gospel that sin can be put to death in us daily. “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you,” as John Owen rewords Romans 8:13 (Mortification of Sin in Believers).
- When we are moved to pray for the victims, consider praying for the offender. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17 ).” He (or she) is in as much of the need of the gospel as the victims of his offense. He will need the gospel to forgive himself, to face his demons and darkness in his heart, to change and put his own sin to death, and to take responsibility for his actions and fully embrace the penalty for his deeds. He will need the grace and mercy of Jesus.
- Do more than a background check!!! Set up a safety policy that provides accountability and oversight. Do not just create a policy, but put it into practice!
- Make sure more adults are invested in ministry to students and children rather than solely your minister/s. Not only does this protect the children, but it also is just good ministry practice.
- Encourage your ministers to speak with a Christian counselor a few times a year. Seeing a counselor is not a sign of emotional/mental illness. It is a good way to insure that your minister has someone to confide in and talk through issues of any kind, instead of covering them up and letting them get out of hand.
- Set yourself up with good accountability. Here is a suggested tool for accountability for web browsing here. Surround yourself with godly men with whom you share authentic community. They should be able to hold your feet to the fire and ask you hard questions.
- Equip yourself or someone else in your ministry to counsel and provide help for those that are dealing with sexual sin. The reality is that every person on the face of the earth is broken sexually. Sin has corrupted all aspects of our humanity. We need the Bible to shape and the Spirit to transform our sexuality, so that we see understand it and practice it in a way that honors God in thought, in desires, and in the act.
- Culture an environment in your church where people can be met where they are, brokenness and all. Many are too ashamed to out their sins, because they know they will be ostracized. They will not seek help until they feel that it is safe to do so. Sexual sins need to be addressed before they come to fruition.
- Learn how to deal with these issues lovingly and with much grace. Many ministers feel that they can just nip it in the bud once and for all if they condemn it from the pulpit and address it frankly and bluntly in a couple of counseling sessions. Healing in this area requires time, community, good teaching, much prayer, and compassion. I have seen a few men shamed so badly and treated so severely in this area by pastors, after seeking help, that they walked away from the church and fell even deeper into their sexual sins.
- Don’t be afraid to refer them to a licensed Christian counselor.
These are just a few thoughts I have had on this issue. If you are dealing with secret sexual sins in your own life, take the plunge and get help. Here are some great resources on these issues:
- Desiring God has great free articles and sermons
- Here are some great books you can buy
- Here is a great small group resource that you can walk through with other men at your church
I pray you will flee sexual immorality and help others do likewise,
A concerned minister
FYI: I have not received any payment to endorse or promote any resources mentioned here.