If They Were Killing [Liberals]

justice

“45 liberals- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death.”

Can you imagine the outcry? It would be the only thing passed around on Facebook as every media outlet would be all over it.

Of course you haven’t heard this story because it didn’t happen… to liberals. It did happen to Christians. In late October one of the worst massacres of Christians in a long time happened in Syria. 45 Christians- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death. We don’t need to ask the question why are Muslim extremists killing Christians. We know that answer. We need to ask the question, why isn’t it being reported?

Would it not be reported if it were liberals? Or humanitarians? Or politicians?

The fact of the matter is that we live in a country with a very seared conscience. We care deeply, about ourselves. We care about our agendas, our people, our wealth, and our power. We typically brush off the things that don’t help us accomplish those things.

Liberals are known for their “bleeding hearts” and caring about the helpless. They bring a lot of awareness to human/sex trafficking, they pass policies they believe will help the poor, and they have a significantly more gracious stance on immigration than their counterparts.

But when it comes to stories about Christians being massacred… silence.

Again, seared conscience. The story of 45 Christians, including women and children, being tortured killed is heart wrenching. It is gruesome. It is worthy of reporting.

Let’s be fair and honest though. This isn’t just liberals. We are all guilty of turning our eyes away from some stories and zoning in on others, depending on our agenda.

Liberals, conservatives, christians, atheists, everyone is guilty. This can be seen on the macro and micro level. For instance, when people on “our side” are involved with something suspect or shady we typically always give them the benefit of the doubt. When someone on the “other side” is involved with something suspect or shady we declare them guilty and throw them out.

We only yell for justice when our justice is being infringed. We yell for justice when doing so helps our agendas, our people, our wealth, and our power. This reveals that we don’t really care about justice at all. We only care about ourselves. We pick and choose what injustices to stand against according to what benefits us and our causes.

None of us want to think ourselves guilty of this. It is always they who are guilty. Those scoundrels! America has a seared conscience. You have a seared conscience. I have a seared conscience. This is precisely why we need a moral center that is not made up by man. We can’t be the final determiners of right, wrong, justice, and injustice. We are too self serving. We are too guilty.

Our seared conscience leads to a distorted picture and practice of justice. Yes, I am mad that our media doesn’t care enough to report when Christians are massacred. Especially when we get more Miley Cyrus per week than I want in my lifetime. It doesn’t matter to me who it is; christians, muslims, agnostics, jews, men, women, children- everyone bleeds and dies the same. Injustice is injustice, no matter who the perpetrator and victim is.

When I first read the story linked above I was outraged. I wanted to write a long post railing on and on about how awful our liberal media is. The more I thought about it the more I realized it is a lot deeper than that. This is deeper than one group of people. This is a humanity problem. It is a you and me problem.

It reveals the same thing to all of us: we desperately need God. We need someone who knows, proclaims, and lives true justice. We need someone whose righteousness is not thwarted by man-made agendas. We need someone who is Just and a Justifier.

Personal Reflections from 2013

End of the year is near, crazy as it seems. I always enjoy looking back on the year. We always need to be mindful to take time to reflect. God is always working, moving, speaking, teaching, guiding, and pouring out his grace on us. It is hard to see a lot of it while we are in the thick of it. We see more clearly when we are a little removed.

It is much easier to see the intricacies of a meadow when we are on an overlooking hill and than when we are wandering through it.

Here are some personal reflection from 2013:

  • My roles as Husband, Father, and Pastor have an incredible ability to make me feel like I am the greatest in the world one minute and absolutely worthless the next. Over the last year this has been a great reminder to keep those three roles what they are… roles. They are not and cannot be my identity. If I put my hope in my “success” in those areas my spiritual and emotional life will be dependent on how I am performing at that time. Thankfully, through Jesus, God has given me a better way. My hope is to be in Him and my identity is derived from my union with Jesus, nothing else.
  • I am who I am. I have now been a full time pastor for 2 1/2 years. I have learned a lot about myself in that time, probably most in the last year though. I went through a very tough season spiritually and emotionally this last year. My family and ministry suffered because of it. Through this dark season though I got a clearer picture of who I am. I better learned what my limits are, what pitfalls to look out for, and what my gifts are and aren’t. Some people use “I am who I am” as an excuse. I want to use it as a catalyst to grow.
  • My family doesn’t just need me, I need them. As a young pastor you always hear, “Family first! Don’t neglect your family in the name of ministry.” While I certainly want to follow this what I really learned this year was my need for them. Yes, my family can’t make it if I don’t balance family-ministry well. Along with that though is the realization that I can’t make it without that balance. For the first time in my life my family truly has become a refuge for me. My home has become the safe, encouraging place that I need it to be. I am grateful for my incredible wife.
  • Being a father is getting more fun all the time. I am not a fan of babies. Carrying a car seat, waking up in the middle of the night, holding a child all the time, and changing a ton of diapers is not appealing to me. I know some people love that stage. I hate it. I am so glad that my youngest is now 2 and chooses to be very independent. Having a 5 and 2 year old is a lot better than a 3 year old and a 6 month old. We have gone from trying to get them to eat on their own to playing soccer and jumping on the trampoline. It is awesome.
  • I have to get back to reading more. In Bible college I was reading 30+ books a year (I hit 45 one year!). This last year I read about 8. Horrible. Reading is relaxing, joyful, and productive for me. I have to make this discipline a higher priority again. I am aiming for 15-20 this year. By not being as disciplined as I need to be in some areas this particular area that is very good for my soul has been cut way too thin.
  • I am so very thankful for so many people. I feel like I connect with people in an uncommon way. God has always given me great depth in my relationships while at the same time having significant, widespread relationships. While sometimes it is people that cut, hurt, and wound- for me, God uses people to encourage me an insane amount. He does it in the day to day. I am usually most encouraged when people aren’t necessarily trying to be encouraging they are just being… people. He has simply given me a deep love for people and I am very thankful for them.

In all, 2013 was one of the toughest years I have had. I have grown a lot and am very encouraged moving forward. As always, God was very gracious to me over this last year. He truly is a good Father to his children.

Why the 3 year blogging hiatus?

I went to college at 18. I entered the blogosphere at 18. It started with my own personal blog with a horrific blogspot account. The writing was horrible. Yet, for some reason people started reading it. Mainly thanks to a Southern Baptist blog names SBC Voices. It had an aggregate of blogs that I was on and I picked up most of my first readers from that.

Soon I started a group blog called Evangelical Village (I know, the creativity is overwhelming). This blog started getting 300+ hits a day. This is primarily do to the constant posts on “hot topics.” It could also be described as us milking controversy for all the hits we could get. It worked, but proved not worth it… more on that later.

I got an email not too long after I started Evangelical Village from the founder of the blog that got me started, SBC Voices, asking me if I would be the Chief Editor. I agreed to do it. When I took over SBC Voices it had about 500 hits a day with about 4 writers. When I finished it was at about 1,500 hits a day with 8-12 writers. We were posting something new 5 days a week. During this time I was interviewed by Christianity Today twice and found myself in the thick of a whole lot of controversy.

I led SBC voices for 2 years. After 2 years I decided to call it quits. Below are the reasons why:

  • Life. When I called it quits I was 22 years old, been married for 2 1/2 years, had a 1 year old son, was working full time, and going to school full time online. I did all of that for a year while I ran SBC Voices and was publishing 3-4 posts a week. It just became too much.
  • Things Got Crazy. I kept finding myself in controversy and it kept getting really heated. As someone who hadn’t had a lot of life experience I was pretty thin skinned at this point. It wasn’t a good mix. One of my writers at SBC Voices is the guy that broke the story about Ergun Caner lying, err “misstatements,” about his own personal history and testimony. Most of the articles revealing the shadiness were getting published on SBC Voices and that also brought a ton of angry, aggressive SBC pastors that weren’t happy we were calling out Caner. Ergun emailed me a few times during that fiasco declaring his innocence, but he would never answer my questions and the evidence was overwhelming. So we kept publishing. This wasn’t the only controversy I was heavily involved in, but it was the most heated and it was the one that showed me I was ready to be done.
  • Lost my way. Admittedly, I lost my way a little bit. I started out wanting to be a better writer and the blogosphere was helpful in letting me talk out a lot of things I was processing. Then, for some reason, I started gaining popularity (as moderate as it was) and my college-self very much liked this. I started talking about whatever would get hits and I thought it was cool when several other people would write a bunch of blog posts to counter mine. I thought, “Glad they think I am worth the time.” At some point though, they stopped dealing with my words and it turned to attacking me personally. I wasn’t ready for it. On that note, I also dealt it back. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t healthy. It was sinful. I started writing less and less about theology, ministry, and Jesus. I started writing more and more about the SBC and its politics.
  • Real value. I think blogging is great. Welcome to my blog! But after 4 years of extensive blogging I realized I had blogged more than I had discipled. I had blogged more than I had led. I knew that I needed to refocus my time and energy in pursuing my calling as pastor. I needed to have start having real impact. To do this I had to go offline and actually do something. 2 1/2 years ago I was called to be a pastor at my current church. For the last two and a half years I have been pouring myself out for my family and church. Now, with a refocused, Spirit-directed motivation I believe I can blog with real value. Value that is an extension of my calling as pastor.

I am confident this go around with blogging is going to go much better. It might not go better in terms of “site hits.” It will definitely go better in real value. It will go better in motivations, content, style, and productivity. It took me a year to make sure I was ready to jump back in, but that year is over and I am glad to get it going… again. 

Top 5 Commercials of 2013

I hate commercials, until I don’t. I typically feel burned every time I am watching a show or movie and a  dang commercial starts playing. I feel cheated. But every once in awhile I feel moved. I decided to do this post because I am a communicator. I communicate things all the time as a pastor, through a lot of different avenues. Due to my hatred of commercials I absolutely love when I am caught off guard by one. Sometimes I am caught off guard by a great story, moment, or humor. But every single time one truly grabs my attention it makes me want to really pay attention to the message. Most the time I couldn’t care less about the product being sold, but simply because I was grabbed by the commercial I AT LEAST want to know what is being sold or what message is being delivered.

As a pastor and communicator this is a good reminder for me. I, a pastor, can learn how to better communicate from commercials such as these. Also, some of these are just awesome. I hope you enjoy these commercials as much as I do!

1) Guinness 

This one probably moved me more than any other commercial in 2013.

2) God Made a Farmer

Most of you probably don’t know this, but I come from a family of farmers. I loved this commercial. I also remember hearing Paul Harvey on the radio as a boy riding around with my parents.

3) Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey

This commercial is awesome for many reasons. My favorite reason is the message- pure brotherhood. I think deep male friendships are a lost art today. Thankfully, I have been blessed with more than a few deep male friendships. Every man needs this type of camaraderie with other men. This commercial is also good because of the twist at the end.

4) Volvo Trucks

You had to know this was going to be on the list. It’s Jean Claude Van Damme, doing the splits, between two trucks, that are moving. Epic indeed.

5) GEICO “Hump Day” Commercial

Maybe it is as simple as, I am a Youth Pastor that meets on Wednesday nights. This commercial got a lot of traction with me and I think it is hilarious.

What did you all think about these? Any other nominees? 

Jesus Knows Mess, It is Why He Came

Jesus knows mess: when he was in the womb his parents were talking divorce, his parents forgot him at the temple when they were traveling, some of his closest friends were tax collectors-political zealots, he was betrayed by someone close to him, his hometown rejected him, the religious leaders hated him, and the one who could have protected him chose to “wash his hands of him.” He was tempted in every way that we are, he felt more physical, spiritual, and emotional pain than we can imagine.

Yet, he came anyway… No, that doesn’t catch it. He didn’t come in spite of the mess, he came because of the mess.

The birth of Jesus, amid the mess, was the sign of new things to come. Jesus came into the world in order to restore it to its former state… without mess. For a lot of families Christmas is a time to try to forget the mess, forgot the problems, and forgot the pain. 

Don’t do that. Don’t use the season to avoid the mess. If Christmas shows us anything it shows us that God cares way to much about us and he loves us way to deeply to simply forget the mess. We say “Jesus is the greatest gift of Christmas” because he is. 

Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a perfect sinless life- despite being tempted in every way that we are. He went to the cross, suffered, bled, and died, was laid in a tomb for three days, and then rose from the dead. After this He ascended into Heaven, and poured out His Holy Spirit upon us.

When we feel, embrace, and trust the reality of those truths our mess becomes light, Jesus becomes great, and our families become transformed. Don’t fear the mess, for Jesus has overcome the world.

The Glory of Christmas

Christmas is a special (glorious even) time, for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, Christmas is special because it is a yearly reminder that God became man in order to reconcile us to God.

May the quotes below remind us of the glory of Christmas as we reflect on God’s goodness to us:John-1-41

 

Philippians 2:7-8

Christ made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

John Piper

God doesn’t just want to stock your head with knowledge about his truth and grace, he wants you to receive it and experience it. This Christmas he wants to give you personally a foundation of truth and reality to stand on so you won’t cave in under stress. This Christmas he wants to treat you with grace—to forgive all your sins—all of them!—to take away all your guilt, to make your conscience clean, to help you with your problems, to give you strength for each day, and to fill you with hope and joy and peace. Isn’t that the meaning of grace? And isn’t that why he pitched his tent among us?

Sam Storms

The Word became flesh / God became human / the invisible became visible / the untouchable became touchable / eternal life experienced temporal death / the transcendent one descended and drew near / the unlimited became limited / the infinite became finite / the immutable became mutable / the unbreakable became fragile /spirit became matter / eternity entered time / the independent became dependent / the almighty became weak / the loved became the hated / the exalted was humbled / glory was subjected to shame / fame turned into obscurity / from inexpressible joy to tears of unimaginable grief / from a throne to a cross / from ruler to being ruled / from power to weakness.

John Gill

Christ became man, that he might be a Mediator between God and men; and the better to perform each of the parts of his office as such, he took upon him the nature of man; that he might have something to offer as a Priest to be a Sacrifice for sin, and that he might make satisfaction for it in that nature that sinned; and that he might be a prophet like unto Moses, raised up, as he was, among his brethren; and having the Spirit of the Lord God upon him, might preach glad tidings to the meek; and that he might appear to be a King taken from among his brethren, as the kings of Israel were; and to be the Ruler, Noble, and Governor that proceeded from the midst of them, as was predicted he should (Jer 30:21), and so sit and reign upon the throne of his father David.

Charles Spurgeon

The moment that he came on earth he was a king. He did not wait till his majority that he might take his empire; but as soon as his eye greeted the sunshine he was a king; from the moment that his little hands grasped anything, they grasped a sceptre, as soon as his pulse beat, and his blood began to flow, his heart beat royally, and his pulse beat an imperial measure, and his blood flowed in a kingly current. He was born a king.

AW Pink

It was truly remarkable when man was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). But bow in wonderment and worship at the amazing condescension of God being made in the image of man! How this manifests the greatness of His love and the riches of His grace! It was for His people and their salvation that the eternal Son assumed human nature and abased Himself even to death. He drew a veil over His glory that He might remove our reproach. Surely, pride must be forever renounced by the followers of such a Savior.