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More Loud and Deep

December 5, 2015 — 1 Comment

bells

I am one of those people that loves the anticipation period of advent and all the symbolism with it even more than I like Christmas itself. Don’t get me wrong… I love waking up on christmas morning at the crack of dawn to race down the stairs and watch my kids have a blast with their new toys as I munch on cinnamon buns and bacon, but.. there is just something about advent that makes my spirit full.

Have you ever tried to truly wrap your head around what it might have been like for the jews anticipating the messiah. Can you imagine your whole life being told that a savior was coming who would put an end to all the governments and people groups that reeked havoc on your people. A season of waiting that had gone on for generations must have felt like it would never come.

They were told in Isaiah 6:9 a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.



They waited in uncertainty for a messiah and it must have been easy to doubt. I can imagine that many would have forgotten to care. The sense of urgency was gone and the complacency with whatever life has dealt them sank in.

Then one day God interrupted time.
For God so loved.. that he sent his only son.
This King of Kings… The son of God. The messiah didn’t come riding on a horse armed to the teeth to save the Israelites.. instead he came as a baby.

Hebrews 2:14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,[h] so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

He came as a man to save mankind… to help us so that we would not only share in his suffering but share in his glory. It’s amazing and all together mind-blowing that our God is that loving.

There seems to be a disconnect these days especially when you turn on the news. The world we live in is such a mess. War is all around us and possibly at our doorstep these days. Terrorists are killing people, extremists are targeting Christians, Sex trafficking is huge in Atlanta, Racism looks like it’s 1950 again, there is video of planned parent hood killing babies and nobody blinks an eye… Our world is in outrage over atrocities and we battle it with fear and ranting Facebook posts in a literally limp wristed attempt at justice by the click of a mouse. Cities are getting blown up by people wearing suicide bombs, politicians are parading their lying evil agendas, millions are starving, There is still homeless in our community, Christians battle each other with hateful words and accusations, prejudice and persecution fill our news headlines, we are afraid to go to the movies and we kick ourselves for profiling people because we never know who to be afraid of. Our response once again is sitting on our couches in amazement and fear.

Where is God in all this?


Where is the God of justice in a world of so much pain and injustice?

These days it is hard to truly appreciate the anticipation of advent. It has been described as an expectation of something we know will come much like a pregnant woman in labor… but we want everything now. We want instant gratification… so every year Christmas gets just a little bit closer and every year we complain about Walmart already having their christmas decorations up in sept… but it’s what we want if we are honest. We want it now! 

In the same sense we want the God of justice and mercy to come in and fix everything and we get upset and frustrated without the anticipation that HE WILL when he returns.

The other night after a church outreach prep, my co-pastor mark, and I were in the parking lot and a cop pulled up beside us in the parking lot. It was dark and mark and I were like.. oh man here we go. The cops have met us outside our church many times asking why we were there at 10PM…
This time it was different. He got out and let us know that he has been assigned to help, serve and protect the churches in the area. He shared with us that he is a christian and in a worship team. A really nice kid. Then he asked if we would be willing to go through active shooter training with him.
I have to say that even hearing that line made me uneasy. These are the times we are in sadly. I have been in ministry for 20 years and I have never heard the words “we should prepare for an active shooter situation.”

. 

The enemy comes in like a roaring lion looking to steal and destroy.

So in the mean time… where is God because if I am honest I want to spend this season excited about Jesus and not afraid about our world, but then my social media lights up yet again of another shooting or some other horrible thing that has come from the dark hearts of man.

“While dining at home on December 1, 1863, The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement.” This story Href

Longfellow writes in I heard the bells on christmas day:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Isn’t that the place we are in sometimes? This world is a mess, our community is broken, christians can be real hypocritical jerks and persecute each other, families are broken, relationships on the rocks, depression… anxiety and fear are devastating and crippling…

It’s one of the reasons why the Church is so important.. because hate is strong, depression is strong and it flies in the face of peace on earth good will to men.

But.. There is jesus..

I was watching interviews with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Bagdad. He was talking about what it is like to have a church in the middle of a warzone. The US is not there of course, but we can learn a lot about what it looks like to deal with fear by Canon Andrew’s church. He shares about kids who are running away from killers and people who have lost everything. The Christians, when asked how do they deal with the fear and the fact that when they are baptized that the next day they might be killed, respond with these lines:

“when you have nothing…Jesus is everything”

“Yeshua is always with me”

If you are reading this and made it this far I want you to sit on those two phrases and then move on to the rest of this piece.

Jesus… Yeshua… casts out fear.

And the angel said “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means God with us.

Where is God? He is HERE! and…
God is not scared of what we are scared of.
God is not bound by what we are bound by.
God is not held captive by our captors
The Creator is NEVER defeated by the creation

Hebrews 11:1 
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Because we know that our God is with us and for us not only can nothing be against us, but we are given a source of hope. Our world has lost hope and is only in anticipation of more evil.
Advent teaches that the hope of the world came…
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The hope of the world, emanuel is with us now
John 1:4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
He didn’t come into this broken world to put a bandaid on it and leave. He came to be emmanuel, God with us. He came to be the good news that “unto us was born our savior”

And Jesus, our hope will return someday and He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Longfellow finished his christmas song of listening, pain and despair with these lines:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doubt He sleeps
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men

If you have lived near a church with bells then you know how loud they can be. For Longfellow, they became a deep reminder of hope. I think about all the times I have been in a funk, wrapped in fear or frustration and then I hear a song or read a verse or God speaks to me through a stranger… and the bells of heaven become more loud and deep in my soul reminding me that no matter how I feel: God is not dead.. He is not asleep. Emanuel is with me.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Church, WE are the light of the world. Jesus gave us life so that we would shine bright for him in the darkness of our community.

As you give food to the hungry or clothe the naked
as you pray for a loved one
as you tell your kids Jesus loves them
As you speak with kindness to your starbucks barista
as you give a coffee and a hug to a homeless person
as you love recklessly
As you do anything for the “least of these”…
YOU become the ringing bells that ring more loud and deep and remind those who could no longer hear jesus or anticipated his presence that He is not dead and he is not asleep.

May our prayer for our world be that the eyes of man would then be opened by the ringing bells of the Body of Christ so that like Jacob people would say
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”.

50shades2There are 5 million posts on 50 shades of grey coming out with people who are for it and others who are against it. When the trailer came out I wrote a post all about my concerns. Over the time period between the trailer release and maybe a month ago there just didn’t seem to be too much media on it encroaching on my space. Then February began and I could not watch tv without seeing the commercial. Everybody on the planet wrote a blog post on it. Every commercial on hulu had an advertisement and every late night host wanted to chat with the actors.

I didn’t necessarily want to flood the internet with more chatter, but I do have a few things to say on this topic as a Pastor, Man, Husband and father… so here we go.

In the last week I have seen discussion on twitter, facebook and other social media from friends and acquaintances about their excitement over the release tomorrow night of this film. I have seen people setting up ladies nights for valentines day to go see the movie instead of staying home with their husband. Most of these woman are Christians and It makes me sad.

As a pastor: I have had the pleasure of doing a bunch of marriage counseling. Marriage is hard and worth fighting for. Porn of course is our new addiction of choice. In the old days guys would hide their playboy under their bed. Porn was underground and secret. Somewhere along the way it became almost an expected norm that Guys would be into pornography. In recent years we have noticed a recognition that this addiction is not gender specific and women are also becoming addicted to erotica and pornography.  Whole ministries are dedicated to working on healing of the minds and hearts of these women, like Whole Women Ministries and Dirty Girl Ministries.  Study after study has been done that porn and erotica doesn’t “spice up” a marriage, but instead it destroys it. It creates in a mans brain a photoshop image that can’t be erased and in the woman’s thoughts a fantasy that can never be duplicated. I have seen this tear apart homes. I have seen it lead to affairs and divorce. Getting wrapped in it, is a perversion of love and an invitation of that perversion into your marriage bed!

I don’t care if the movie/book is good or not good. Arguing over it’s literary quality or cinematography is worthless. It is a twisted view of sex and relationships. Most importantly it is a perversion of LOVE. – From “50 Shade is Black and white

In addition to all of this is the sick and perverted increase of people who are searching for the abusive, submissive and violent world. You can call it what you want, but it all boils down to something commonly known as intimate partner violence. I have friends on the front lines of trying to take down sex trafficking. I have worked with bringing hope to hookers. I have pastored people who have been beaten, abused and almost killed under the guise of love.
This movie does NOT represent 1 Cor 13 and how God describes love. 

This is not a statement that all movies with nudity and violence are evil. It is a statement that 50 shades is designed to normalize smut. I have met with too many couples who’s marriage is on the rocks from issue after issue… Don’t add another one to it! I truly believe the precedence that this movie with make with it’s record breaking ticket sales and normalizing the erotic/porn culture will make the marriage counselors have more appointments this next year than they will know what to do with.

As a man: The word says “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28 and if most of us are honest we have committed that sin.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Simply put that I know I will be tempted, but it’s my choice to take the “way of escape” that has been provided for me.

It is a man’s choice, knowing he is a visual creature, to remind himself to run from things that will be burned into his memory.

A man should be in pursuit of real intimacy and a healthy sexual relationship instead of a selfish, abusive cheap thrill.

“Guard your mind and your body. God has a plan for you and it does not include selfish Love. It is a sex-saturated society… Like David and Bathsheba, Stop looking out at woman bathing on rooftops! RUN!” – From “50 shades is black and white

As a Husband: One of the many favorite slams from the “pro 50 shades people” is that those who are against it are prudes. Let me go on the record here and say that sex is awesome! There is no reason to dance around that statement. Sex is great! God didn’t create something so good that he would also keep it from us. He wants us to enjoy it, but He also gave us boundaries for our sake. Sex is not just physical. It is emotional and spiritual. The Bible says that when a man and woman come together they become one. Most people who have had sex and broke up with their partner will also say that they lost something of themselves because it. God knew what He was doing, but our society has taken this amazing thing and made it common and of little value.
If a woman knows their husband is looking at porn, thinking about other women while having sex with his spouse, or going out to strip clubs… most of them would be pretty upset because they know it has destroyed intimacy. It has brought another “woman” into the marriage bed.
Erotica for women is no different.
As a husband if you found out your wife was reading erotica and pre-ordering tickets to see this movie you would be pretty hurt. What has surprised me about this movie is that scenario isn’t happening. Instead, many men are standing by idly while their wives make plans to see a movie the will add a visual to the fantasy they have already created in their minds from reading the book. This is a fantasy that breaks trust and creates a sexual longing for somebody other than their husband.
Men… Why are you ok with this? 

Men…Pursue your wife today.. make sure they know how amazing they are. If you haven’t told your wife she is beautiful lately, GO NOW! The bible says to treat your wife like Christ treats the church. We are to be willing to give up everything for her. Not treat them as a slave for OUR selfish needs. Love her. Cherish her. Be intimate with her. Pray for her. Protect her. – From “50 shades is black and white

As a Father: I am a proud father of 4 kids. 3 boys and 1 girl. I want my kids to know how great sex is. I want to make sure they never feel weird about it or ashamed in a world where much of the church still treats the word “sex” like it’s taboo.
I also want to make sure that they understand why sex in a marriage was God’s plan for us because that’s where it’s best. I want them to know that intimacy with your spouse is the most amazing thing you can have.
When my boys talk back to their mom sometimes I pull them aside and say “I never want to hear you speak to your mom… or ANY woman like that again”. The reason why is not just because they need to respect their mom, but also because they need to learn that women are a gift. My boys need to learn that women are to be treasured and not lorded over. I want my boys to know and admire beauty without being in the trap of the disease of lust… And I pray for them daily and for their future wives.
Then there is my daughter. I want her to know how valuable she is. She is a jewel and the fingerprint of God! I want her to be strong, powerful, giving and beautiful inside and out. I pray daily that she will never ever seek her self worth in some jerk of a man who treats her like she is disposable. I pray daily for her future husband that he will love her, cherish her, applaud her and protect her.

If my daughter ever gets caught up with a man who is like grey in that he is a stalker, abuser, selfish, domineering, controlling, and violent then he needs to know that I will create my own red room of pain and KICK HIS SELF ABSORBED #$@!

Let me conclude this long and final post on this issue. Well… at least until 50 shades book 2 comes out.

I want to plead with you dear reader:

This is not art.
This is not a romantic chick flick.
IT is warped, twisted, photoshopped and scripted.

DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. Do not fall into the trap that this will be harmless fun. Do not bring this into your marriage bed!

Church Leaders: STAND UP and Don’t be afraid to tell your congregations that NOTHING about this film fits into what God wants in our minds and hearts according to Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Women: Valentines is this week and instead of going to see 50 shades with the ladies, stay home and have sex with your husband. Your marriage is worth more than $9.25! If you aren’t married…

How you choose to live in Christ NOW maatters. God has a plan for you. You are holy and pure because HE IS! Song of Solomon 4:1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! – From “50 Shades is black and white

Men: actions speak loud…Pursue your wife! PROTECT her and your home. Chase after intimacy and love.

If you aren’t married…

Like David and Bathsheba, Stop looking out at woman bathing on rooftops! RUN!

Parents: Teens are going to see this movie. Please teach them that what they see and feel won’t leave their minds. If your kid does go.. Pray and talk to them about it no matter how awkward it is.

 

A few links worth a read on this:

Glenn Packiam –http://mysteryoffaithblog.com/2015/02/10/better-sex-the-subjugation-of-women-and-shades-of-the-real-thing/

Challies – http://www.challies.com/a-la-carte/7-lessons-from-50-shades-of-grey

A real 50 shades relationship – http://endsexualexploitation.org/articles/the-reality-of-a-fifty-shades-relationship/

50 Problems with grey – http://www.garythomas.com/50shades/

Crystal Renaud and Dirty Girl Ministries – http://dirtygirlsministries.com/

 

 

When I was thirsty…

October 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

I have, in the last 37 years, had the pleasure of attending, being associated with or speaking/leading in many kinds of churches. I have been in liturgical high churches, charismatic, pentecostal, ones that speak in tongues, ones that don’t, those that have bands and those that think music is wrong, ones that don’t allow food or coffee in the church and those that eat popcorn and serve lattes, ones that center around communion and others that never do it… You name it and I have seen it.

There is something I want to point out though…
The father LOVES ALL THE FLAVORS of His bride. Even if we as Christians decide which flavors are holier than others (which quite frankly is judging on non-essentials), the Father sees us all on level ground and ALL His children.

So what then marks us as “mature” Christians?

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1

Simply this: How you do Sunday means NOTHING if you are not LOVING people recklessly Mon-Sat.
You are a clanging cymbal and God wants His bride to sound like a band that is in tune!

In the end Jesus will say “when I was thirsty did you give me drink… when I was naked did you give me clothes… when i was in trouble did you come to my aid?”

He will NOT say “when you DID church did you….”

Don’t just go to church… try something radical and BE THE CHURCH!

beeching

My friend Vicky Beeching was interviewed for this article yesterday, announcing that she was gay.

I have had the pleasure of working with vicky for a few years now.
She is one of the nicest and smartest (borderline genius…can’t give her a big head) people I know.

This article was heart-wrenching to read and broke my heart for her. I am sorry she had to walk this walk alone and that the “church people’s” labels superseded the truth in Christ over her life…I have seen so much spiritual abuse over the years, “in the name of Jesus”, and it sickens me when the church paints the wrong picture of the gospel.

I am glad to know this woman.

I may not agree with all her opinions on all things, but I don’t have to.

As she said in her article in reference to her parents disagreeing but loving her:

“It’s a picture of what is possible, even when you don’t agree, that love can supersede everything.”

Love has no strings. Grace has no prejudice and I am so glad God pours that out daily for both of us.

I didn’t post about this to start a theology debate on my site, or on facebook for that matter, so if you have the urge to comment like that… Don’t!

Instead go and love like Christ did!

John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you,

Go find somebody in the church that has been labeled by something other than Christ….
give them a hug and tell them that Jesus loves them with a NEVER-ENDING LOVE.

Tell them that no matter what hurt or baggage they carry that they are a son/daughter of the King and have a seat at His table of mercy.

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

8th blogiversarry

August 5, 2014 — 2 Comments

My blogiversarry came and went; I started blogging in June 2006, about the time my family moved to RI. It’s been 8 years now as a blogger. Yesterday I posted my 800th blog post. There has been close to 6,000 comments and a few hundred thousand hits (fb and twitter changed those things for the worse).

I am amazed at the insights that have come from blogging. As I look back at my digital journal I can see all the places that God moved in my life. I can see the months where I walked away from my site to focus on a newborn child that was now in my home. I am in awe of the connections God has given me and opportunities He has blessed me with because this site existed. I have stood back as I watched God heal others through my writing and pouring out what he was speaking to me. Even more importantly I am floored at the friendships I have that were born out of a digital world and made tangible and irreplaceable.

I started the blog to equip church leaders… God had a much better plan for it. I can see 8 years of personal growth. It’s in black and white the times where I doubted and failed. And now it is documented proof of a gracious God who in his great mercy gave me some of the most priceless memories, friends and treasures anybody could ask for.