Where Everybody Knows Your Name

23 Jul

Rich Tatum at the Blog Rodent just posed the question, “What’s Different? Church vs. Bar” on his blog. He asks basically the same question I have about church? Why isn’t church more like the neighborhood bar? His experience and question is very similar to an article that I have been working on entitled, “Jesus, Beer and Rock & Roll”, he just articulated it better than I could. 🙂

Read Rich’s post and leave him a comment! I’d love to read your thoughts on the question!

Time for a discussion in the church about Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Issues

18 Apr

I just read an interesting post from Rich Tatum of the Blog Rodent entitled, How to get arrested at Central Bible College. Plus: The Unremarked Transgendered Issue. He talked about two Gay-Rights Activists from a group called Soulforce who were arrested at Central Bible College and used that story to comment on how the modern church – and Assemblies of God in particular have dealt with the issues of gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

Reading posts like this always stirs up a certain angst inside of me. It’s a feeling that I know something is wrong but I don’t know how to fix it. For years, our society has been slowly pushed into believing the normalcy of gay, lesbian and transgendered lifestyles. Now, if we believe differently, we are labeled as “homophobes”. I have wrestled with how to minister to people who believe this for years. I keep asking myself – how can good people, who believe they are Christians, embrace this lifestyle? Even to the point of encouraging more people to “come out of the closet”. My heart aches, as it does with anyone I see who is openly sinning against God. I want them to know that God does love them but He desires them to not act on their desires. Everyone sins – no argument there – but I believe that it is the person that is embracing his sin that is endangering his eternal outcome. Rich uses some great analogies in his post that describe the difference between someone who is tempted to sin and doesn’t act on it and those that do.

The transgendered issue is one that I haven’t thought much about. Rich lays out his personal view rather nicely and has me thinking. I would love for this discussion to continue. I encourage you read Rich’s post and also read the comments as there is likely to be a lively discussion.

Understanding the Emerging Church

1 Mar

I have been disturbed by the “emergence” of post-modernism in the Church for quite a while. I couldn’t articulate my feelings. I had a lot of thoughts and opinions, I just couldn’t find the words. What I did do was to start reading. I read a number of blogs and recently came across a posting by C Michael Patton of the Parchment and Pen called “Understanding the postmodern mind and the emerging church“. When I read this, I thought he had been reading my mind. He is clearly a better writer than I could hope to be. I recommend that you read this excellent post.

Because of their distrust of tradition, my conversations with those in the “emergent movement” have led me to reevaluate why I believe what I believe. Sometimes this has softened my stance on the issues in the church that the Bible doesn’t speak clearly on (infant or adult baptism, sprinkling or submersion, pre-trib,mid-trib, post-trib etc.) and it has strengthened the foundation of my beliefs on the things that matter most (salvation, redemption, grace). I used to tell people that there is Doctrine and Dogma. Loosely, doctrine is man’s interpretation of what we believe and dogma is God’s truth that is undeniable. We can agree to disagree on doctrine as long as we both agree on the dogma.

One of the authors points, and one that I see too much in emerging churches is this attitude that you can’t take a stand for anything or you won’t be liked. They come to this because they believe that in our limited understanding, we can not fully know the truth. So, if we can’t know the truth, who is to say who’s truth is correct. My truth is true for me and your truth is true for you. We are both right, can’t we all get along? Like he says in his post, the less you stand for, the more people will like you. I was even told once by someone professing to be a Christian that although they believe that Jesus is their answer to salvation (their truth), they believe that God might have provided alternate truths and who are we to condemn a whole group of people who might have another view of God or how to attain salvation. He believes that there might be alternate paths to Heaven! Now if that isn’t compromise, what is?

Again, my words aren’t scholarly. I wasn’t just taught these beliefs and now I’m just regurgitating what I’ve heard. The formation of what I believe and why I believe it is a process. I have gone from belief to unbelief and back to belief. I have seen physical evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit. I have seen lives changed by Christ and their belief in His redemptive sacrifice. I have seen the miracle of the birth of my four daughters to my wife who we thought couldn’t conceive. I have been miraculously healed of a 20 year smoking addiction. One day, God just took the addiction away – I have no memory of what it is like to smoke. I know that God is real and I know that He wants to have a personal relationship with all of us. All we have to do is acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. We’re going to mess up – and because we can’t help ourselves, we aren’t worthy to enter into a relationship with God on our own. But God has provided us a way. Jesus said that He was the Truth and the Light. All who believe in Him will be saved. I believe that God, in His grace, sent His son, Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. He paid for our sin with his blood and because of this selfless act, we are assured a permanent residency in Heaven with Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit where we will be able to ask Jesus Himself all of the mysteries that we can’t even hope to understand here on earth.

One last thing…to those planning on watching the Discover Channel’s program about the possibility of finding Jesus’ bones? It isn’t possible.

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God where He will rule until He returns. I would give up my life defending that…. would you?


I almost ended it here but then I thought how appropriate the Nicene Creed was. Shouldn’t we all say a creed such as this everyday to affirm (at least to ourselves) what we believe? If you wish, you may want to read this out loud. Think about what is says as you read it.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Pimping Jesus

5 Oct

I just came across this post today. It caught my attention!

I was standing before 200 people at church when I said it: “Salvation is not a walk down the aisle, a prayer, and wham bam, thank you ma’am, you’re done.” Jaws dropped; some faces turned white; some turned red. I was clueless, so I just kept teaching. It turns out that the phrase, “wham bam, thank you ma’am,” meant something different to me than it did to the rest of the world. Afterward some of my listeners enlightened me. I was embarrassed. I didn’t intend to equate one’s conversion experience to some sort of sexual encounter in the red light district.

Over the last few years, I have pondered the statement, and despite the fact that I originally meant nothing so profound, I believe the statement to be true—we are tempted to turn conversion into something of an act of prostitution. We are the consumers, and we might as well say it—we’ve turned Jesus’ invitation into a seductive, greasy, trick-turning lifestyle. Doesn’t that make your blood boil?
[read the rest at Out of Ur: Pimping Jesus : Consumerism and the red-light gospel]

One of the problems I have had with many once-saved-always-saved proponents is that to them, all you have to do is ask Jesus into your heart and you will be saved forever – nothing else to do. There are many of those who believe in the existence of so-called “carnal Christians”. Someone who is “saved” but lives a life of unrepentant sin. “Sure”, they say, “they will still go to heaven but they just won’t enjoy as many rewards”. I have had long, long discussions with people who believe this. It saddens me. That theology, to me, cheapens the gospel of Christ. It cheapens the sacrifice He made for our sins.

Another theology that has saddened me is the thought that there are different ways to come to God. Someone close to me said that although he chose Jesus as his path to God, he believes that other ways (Buddha, Mohammad etc) are valid belief systems and those choices are just as valid as his choice. My big question then is why did Jesus have to die on the cross? If there are other ways to reconcile your sinful self to God, then why did Jesus have to die?

I’d like to hear your thoughts……..

God and Culture

21 Sep

Next week, we begin a study on the book of Daniel. Pastor Bart will teach each Sunday on a chapter and I will write a daily study that will hopefully provide some daily food for thought. You can subscribe to the weekly podcast and daily emails at http://www.gracelearningcenter.com.

One of the ideas I get in studying Daniel 1 is that culture doesn’t have to be God’s enemy. If it does not violate His commands, it can aid in accomplishing His purpose. As followers of Christ, we are free to be leaders in our culture, but we are required to pledge our allegience to God first. Daniel and his friends learned all they could about their new culture so they could do their work with excellence. But while they learned, they maintained steadfast allegience to God and God gave them skill and wisdom.

The Ultimate Doctrinal Question

14 Sep

I attended a church once where I was made to feel very unwelcome because I questioned why they believe what they believe. It seems that because I held different opinions on different doctrinal issues, they didn’t want me as part of their “Christian” community. So, needless to say, my desire has always been to be involved in a community of believers that understand that we can have differences in opinion when it comes to doctrine. I have found that at Grace. I know that I can talk to Bart about any issue and he won’t make me feel unwelcome.

So, what’s the answer to all the people who would rather argue about their doctrinal opinions? I just listened to Neal Christopher at Sandals Church and he has come up with the ultimate doctrinal question. A question so powerful and enlightening, that if you can answer this question, all other doctrines and beliefs will fall in place. Here it is:

Did God create homosexual dinosaurs, to choose to drink alcohol or is their alcohol consumption predestined?

Don’t spend too much time thinking about this. The point is, as believers in Christ, we need to spend more time loving others like Jesus did and not worrying about things that just don’t matter.

False Advertising

30 Jun

Here’s a clip from a story in Ministry Today:

The staff and congregation at the United Pentecostal Church of Harvey, Ill., are convinced you’ll like their church–so convinced that they offered $25 to the first 75 visitors who showed up at each of their Sunday morning services….

I am amazed that a church had to resort to paying people to come to their church. Then after reading the complete article, I started thinking about it a different way. How many times have you heard from a church that they have a “dynamic children’s ministry” or a “contemporary worship” service only to go there and find that what passes for a dynamic children’s ministry is a new coat of colorful paint and contemporary worship is ancient hymns played on an electronic keyboard. Then the preacher gets up and talks about anything but Christ’s gift of salvation and our need for it!

Are most churches today guilty of False Advertising?

My Dad wrote a piece in his church’s monthly newsletter recently that asked, “Why don’t we really worship like we have been miraculously healed?” He tells the story of the crippled man miraculously healed by Peter and John. He had been lame his whole life and now all of a sudden, he could walk. He was so overcome with thankfulness and joy that he followed Peter and John into the temple, walking, leaping and praising God! (Acts 3:1-9) As sinners, we all know our punishment should be death – eternal separation from God – but because of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection we are saved from certain death and will join Jesus in heaven for eternity! Doesn’t that warrant a little leaping? I think you would be hard pressed to find a church in suburban-America where people feel comfortable walking, leaping and praising God! Why is that?

Is your church boring?
Can you dance during worship?
Raise your hands in admiration of His wonderful gift?
Do your kids really want to go to Sunday school?
Are you looking for authenticity?

If you’re in the Omaha area, please come visit the church that I attend, Grace Community Church. You can find out more information at the church’s website and if you want to listen to a few recent sermons, check out our Grace Learning Center site where we post our weekly podcast and devotionals.

I’d like to hear your opinions. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Link to the full article: False Advertising

For I Know The Plans I Have For You….

15 May

Have you ever asked – Where is God? Why doesn’t he answer? Is He even listening?

How many of you know Jeremiah 29:11?

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Even today, I have that verse hanging on the wall of my office. But recently, with my latest inward look at my own faith, I have come to learn more about this verse. You see, most people only know verse 11 but they don’t pay attention to the preceding verse. Read what verse 10 says:

The truth is that you will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.

You see, God had just told Jeremiah that the Israelites were going to be staying, in captivity, in Babylon. In essense, God was going to withdraw his glory for 70 years. They would be taken care of, but it was going to be in God’s time and not theirs. You see, God periodiocally withdraws Himself from our life (imagine a veil) so that we will draw closer to Him. God doesn’t want us to love Him because of what He can do for us. He wants us to love Him because He Is God. He is “the Name”. He’s not our buddy, pal or friend. He’s all powerful; a terrifyingly beautiful God who can’t even show us His full glory because we couldn’t stand it.

There are countless others who have experienced this “veiling” of His presence. One was another guy named David. Read Psalm 77:

I cry out to God without holding back. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I pray, with hands lifted toward heaven, pleading. There can be no joy for me until he acts. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and think about the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be kind? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

Does this sound like someone who is hearing from God? No! If you continue reading, you see that the Psalm will show you a full range of emotion. From dispair to pleading to remembering the good times when God was there, to acknowledging the faithfulness of God. I really love reading the Psalms. They are packed full of gut-wretching emotion – something I sometimes have a hard time letting out myself.

So what’s the point of all this? It’s something I’m learning the hard way. Lately, I’ve felt that God was distant. There were days when I couldn’t even pray – I didn’t have any words. I’ve cried, yelled, lashed out at anyone and everyone. I’ve had anger and bewilderment. I still don’t know what happened. But there is one thing I do know. I’m not perfect – God is. And there is hope.

Continuing with Jeremiah 29:12-14…

12In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. 14I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land.”

In God’s time, He will be there. When you have drawn closer to Him, he will listen when you pray. He says, “I will be found by you.” That’s refreshing. That’s something to look forward to. That’s hope! He continues: I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.

In God’s time, He will make himself known to you again and will reward you for your faithfulness. Want another example? Read Job.