Mike Pence and How to Protect Your Marriage

During my 11-12 years of serving as a pastor, I also strove to abide by this rule. 

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The following link will direct you to an article in USA Today. The rule that Mike Pence lives by regarding his interactions with the opposite sex is a rule that my dad (a senior pastor in Northeast Texas) has lived by for decades. During my 11-12 years of serving as a pastor, I also strove to abide by this rule.

Wedding_rings

I have never met anyone that regretted living by this rule. However, I doubt there is enough space to list names of those who wish they had (including spouses, children, and friends who were hurt).

The rule that Pence lives by is not morally right or wrong. Rather, it is wise. Quite often, the question, “What is wise?” transcends the moral right-wrong divide.

Whether you are a pastor, educator, business owner, manager, or whatever else, I hope you will click on the link below, read, and consider this for yourself.

After Weinstein, consider Pence rule to protect your heart and marriage

Colin Kaepernick vs. Martin Luther King Jr.

What I find disappointing is that after kneeling and becoming the face of this movement, he [Kaepernick] is now demanding his rights.

maxresdefaultOh my, have my thoughts been swirling of late. First of all, let me address President Trump’s (as well as most Republicans) attitude toward NFL player’s taking a knee during the national anthem.

He has called for boycotts and even threatened tax adjustments in response to NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. This practice started when Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback for the 49ers, sat during the national anthem on August 14th and August 20th. It wasn’t until he knelt on August 26th that his actions began to receive attention (timeline).

Once his actions were noticed, he was front and center in the national spotlight. Other players began to join. When interviewed, he responded with remarks such as “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” For people who died for this country and for Americans who take great pride in their flag, this was highly offensive. After all, haven’t we made  great progress? Did we not elect our first black president in 2008? And aren’t acts of injustice and violence perpetrated against white officers as well?

Though I seriously question the effectiveness of such a strategy besides getting other NFL players to kneel, I don’t mind it. After all, we allow people to burn the flag, right? Of course, those who have a problem with this are the ones that have a problem with Kaepernick.

For me, their kneeling is yet another manifestation of the great freedom that people gave their life to secure. Of course, there will always be people who use this freedom in ways that we deem inappropriate and even outright offensive. But, the way I see it (which is limited of course), NFL players are utilizing their freedom just as those who are boycotting the NFL in protest of their protest (it is all so exhausting) are utilizing theirs.

Moving on.

My main issue with Colin Kaepernick is that as the poster child of this kneeling protest, he has now filed a grievance against NFL owners for collusion against him. In other words, he believes that the only reason that he is not playing in the NFL is that owners have secretly agreed behind closed doors to not allow him to play. Whether this is true (I suspect that it is) is not my concern at the moment.

What I find disappointing is that after kneeling and becoming the face of this movement, he is now demanding his rights. Really? If you are going to take a stand, you are going to be persecuted. This is true both in and outside of religion. But what does it say about you that rather than suffer the loss in the name of justice, you are demanding your right to play in the NFL?

It struck me as odd when I thought of Martin Luther King Jr. Though I am not a history buff, I don’t recall Martin Luther King Jr. demanding his rights. Granted, he rightfully called for justice, equal citizenship, and true liberty for all of Black America, but he didn’t go around demanding what he had lost personally for taking such a stand. 

I suppose my thought is, “So what will it be Kaepernick? Will you truly care about justice or now fight for what you lost for taking a stand?”

Kaepernick is no Martin Luther King Jr. He took a bullet on behalf of others. Kaepernick is demanding he not lose anything. If you are going to take a stand, you better count the cost.

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Jesus’ words in Luke 14; ESV)

Our Church: Embracing Refugees

At some point, your “red-white-and-blue” should probably take a back seat to someone’s little girl dying because you were afraid you might get bombed (there has never been a terrorist attack on American soil by a refugee).

syrian-migrant-boy-turkeyThough I have not blogged in nearly two months, I figured this was as good of a time as any to pick up my pen again (not really a pen as you can see). Today I came across the article, 25 Refugees’ Bodies Were Found In One Boat in the Mediterreanean Sea (click on title) and am more convinced than ever that America, to be a nation worth anything at all, needs to open the doors wider and wider to refugees. I am not a fan of necessarily reducing the “vetting” process, but rather, for reallocating funds so that we have more people in government helping with this process so that we can admit more people at a faster rate. And if you are a Christian, this should definitely be your position. At some point, your “red-white-and-blue” should probably take a back seat to someone’s little girl dying because you were afraid you might get bombed (there has never been a terrorist attack on American soil by a refugee).

I am a part of River City Spokane Church. It is a collection of Gospel Homes spread throughout the city. Last night a lady from World Relief came and spoke to our church. We have decided to become a “Good Neighbor” team. As a church team, we are signing up to essentially adopt a refugee family when they arrive in the United States. We will actually be at the airport when they get off the plane. Pretty amazing, huh?! After that, we will become their friends, go to their apartment and eat, hang out, show them how to use the bus system, etc.

In the midst of her presentation, she shared a YouTube video that I found very informative. It is only four minutes long, so please watch before going any further (Process of Screening Refugees).

In watching the video, I saw just how silly our fear-based, American-first, let kids-and-women die, mentality is. I mean, think about it. How do you follow Christ and think that prioritizing your red-white-and-blue at the price OF ACTUAL HUMAN LIVES is Christlike? It can’t be. The only reason a Christian can say this in my opinion is that they are not Christ-first. Okay, let me be more blunt: selfish. 

Christ always gravitated toward the most vulnerable. Who is more vulnerable right now than refugees?

There is a major difference between an immigrant and a refugee. A refugee is actually fleeing a country due to a “well-founded” fear of harm. If you recall, Jesus fit this description. When Jesus was an infant, Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt because of coming persecution that was a direct result of a decision by a political leader. If not for Egypt, what would have happened to Jesus? To Joseph? To Mary?

Jesus was once a refugee.

One thing I learned last night is that if anything, our country is almost too intense about the vetting process (I am only half kidding). I definitely see the value of the process being quite rigorous, but my desire is that instead of limiting the number of refugees, we would instead reallocate funds to help speed up the process so that we can receive more refugees. This is not about choosing others over America. As the video points out, this is more about the type of America that we desire.

As for my son, I want him to see the person dying on the other side of the world as his neighbor. They are people, and I can’t imagine Jesus protecting a national flag while more children like Aylan Kurdi continue to wash ashore.

So, donate online. Or if you are in a city, grab some friends or get your church involved.

 

 

 

Is Drinking Folger’s Coffee A Sin?

 You decide. 

Forcechange.com reports, 

“Folgers is the largest coffee brand in the U.S. and the leader in overall coffee sales. While the company earns more than one billion dollars per year from Folgers sales, the average coffee farmer earns only about 300 dollars annually, which is barely enough to feed a family, let alone educate its children. In the face of these sobering facts, the Folgers brand has yet to be certified fair trade and is far from being a green product. These rock-bottom coffee prices have caused a global humanitarian crisis, devastating 25 million coffee farmers, their families, and their communities in over 50 countries around the world. Coffee farming families in Latin America, Africa and Asia are now living with hunger and suffering on a daily basis. Millions of families have been forced to give up medicine and healthcare, take their children out of school, and move off their lands. Reuters reports that in Nicaragua alone, at least a dozen farmers have died and over 1,600 children “are suffering from severe malnutrition.” Thousands of workers and their family members are homeless, left to beg in the streets and forage from garbage cans.” http://forcechange.com/13053/demand-fair-trade-certification-for-folgers-coffee/

In line with my Ph.D. proposal that is attached to my application to different schools throughout the world, the irresponsible purchasing of goods by Christians at the exloitive expense of other laborers in other countries is morally wrong (Kant’s second formulation of the Categorical Imperative is applicable). A “moral wrong” within the Christian metaphysic is more potently labeled, “sin.” 

Ignorance is bliss, right? A little bit of information can actually change what you are accountable for (you can thank me later!). Remember, this blog is primarily geared toward the individual that claims to follow Christ. Would Jesus have bought coffee from a company if he knew that it was resulting in the exploitation, horrendous poverty, and abuse of children, women, and men? Surely Jesus would not have been seduced by the nice little jingle, “the best part of wakin’ up is Folger’s in your cup.” 

So what if you cannot afford fair trade coffee. Here is the conclusion I am coming to: either stop drinking it or drink less. In other words, reduce your consumption level. More is not always better. Oh Christian, which is better, to drink all of the coffee you want or to limit yourself so that the coffee you drink can enrich rather than curse other people’s lives? 

So many Christians in the American south love to focus on moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality. But what about the issues where the rubber really meets the road for people living in the affluent West? 

The link provided above also names a few companies that are 100% Fair Trade. In addition, if you live in Picayune, MS, I noticed the other day that Claiborne Hill Grocery now carries an organic, Fair Trade coffee for under $8. 

Do you want to follow Jesus or keep pretending that the act of purchasing is merely an economic act? As the previous pope, Pope Benedict XVI, stated in 2009, “It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral–and not simply economic–act.” 

Time to change my coffee habits.

Technology Wisdom

“Technology has erased the divide between work life and home life.” -Michael Wyatt

technologyI am signed up to receive an email every time Michael Hyatt posts a new blog. Today’s was titled, “No, You Don’t Have to Work 24/7 to Succeed.” Somewhere along the halfway point I read the following:

“There’s no real divide between home life and work life. Technology has erased the divide between work life and home life. Our phones and portable devices mean we’re always on—as much as seventy hours a week or more. That’s not all happening at the office. It bleeds into nights and weekends, which leaves little to no room for family. And this goes both ways. When our personal lives are out of kilter, it wrecks our professional performance. We eat up family time, and our family suffers. Then we drag that stress into the office. I can’t think of one person I’ve worked with in forty years who’s productivity improved while their marriage ended or their kids were going off a cliff. Bottom line: A culture that encourages employees to work all hours will damage the support structure at home that makes those employees good at their jobs in the first place.”

The two sentences that particularly grabbed my attention I placed in bold. Hopefully the first bold statement is not true of you. If you have already set good, healthy boundaries around your use of technology, chances are you took this responsible step at some point in your past because you started realizing what it was costing you and what you would lose if you failed to implement such guidelines. But, for most of us, we are slaves to our technology rather than our technology being a tool that actually serves us.

When my wife and I go on a date, we either leave our phones at home or we carry them with us and leave them in the car. Also, we made a rule that while one person is driving, the other person cannot be sitting there interacting with technology rather than the other person.

Another boundary I have instilled in my personal life is that when I arrive home after my workday, I walk into my little office and set my phone on my desk. I often turn it on vibrate. At this point, my technology is out of reach of all five of senses (no, my cell phone does not really have a particular smell though I am sure someone is working on an app for that). Periodically, I may walk in my office throughout the night and check to see if anyone has texted or called, but other than that, it is made to bow before my family.

Below are a few questions for personal reflection:

  • Is your technology an escape?
  • Do you hide from your family, friends, and even strangers through your technology? Why did I include strangers in this list? As Christians, are we not commanded to be salt and light to those around us? How can you be an effective witness to people if every time you are in a checkout line or any other public setting, you refuse to interact with people because you would rather check social media, eBay, or fantasy football? Get a grip.
  • Is your technology an idol? Does it keep you from praying throughout the day, listening to the Lord, and being tuned in to the gentle Holy Spirit who tends not to shout? At this point, technology becomes unethical for a follower of Christ because it serves as an obstacle to you fulfilling the moral command to love other people. Another way of saying “unethical” within the Christian worldview is sin.

You get the idea. Use, enjoy, and benefit from your technology, but don’t let it use you.

Dylann Roof: Should Pastors and/or Churchmembers Carry Guns?

 The racially motivated murder of nine black people while inside a church building in Charleston, South Carolina is horrendous. My heart is sad. Family members and friends are waking up today without people they love for absolutely no reason. What needless suffering because of one bitter individual.

I wonder if anyone had a gun in that church building? I wonder if someone would have had a gun, including the pastor, would he or she have had the courage to pull the trigger? And if he or she would have, how would America, and more specifically, Christians, have responded?

Let me be clear on one thing. If Dylann Roof would have walked into any church and told everyone, “Recant your faith or be killed,” retaliatory-based aggression of any kind would seem to be absolutely unjustified from a Christian standpoint. Is this not, in some sort of way, why Jim Elliot and his four other men fired guns into the air rather than at members of the Aucas?

In any instance that one is facing any form of persecution for one’s faith, to act out in violence toward that individual/group would fail to reflect Christ in that instance. One is not called to preserve self when put on trial for Christ. Either profess or deny Christ in that instance. After all, in this scenario, your life is being threatened because of your faith.

However, if a person walks up to you, whether that be in private or public, and threatens your life for no reason associated with your faith, is this different? In other words, if someone like Dylann Roof walked into your church but it was not at all apparent that the aggression was faith-related persecution, do you believe that because the threat/persecution is not faith-related, pastors/Christians have the right (in states where law does not prohibit individuals from carrying firearms) to use a firearm in a house of worship to defend him/her and the congregants?

Let me be clear, this will be one of the hotly debated moral issues within Chrisitanity over the next few months and years. Sadly to say, it is of the utmost relevance.


Follow Up: Would I Attend the Wedding of a Gay Family Member or Friend?

IMG_0632-5Three months ago I asked this question. One of my friends, Kevin Burr, stated that he would and then for his reasons, cited several passages in the Bible that centered around “love.” Kevin did what every sincere disciple of Jesus Christ ought to do, that is, filter your decisions through what you believe God had declared in Scripture. Whether you agree or disagree, this is on the only commendable approach for a genuine Christian.

After thinking about this question, I realized that I took the professor-approach. I never actually answered the question personally. Before I state my view, let me say upfront that my position is not necessarily the right position. Now, I hold the view I do because I believe it is the responsible view to hold, but I am willing to admit that Jesus could tell me I am wrong. This is where we as Christians need humility. There is room for disagreement on these type of issues so long as we are all searching God’s heart and Word with a sincere desire to both know and obey what is revealed. If we happen to end up on opposite sides of the fence, surely we can still respect the fact that each one of us approached the issue with the same desire…to honor God as best we know how.

With no further ado, here is my personal stance: I would not attend the wedding of a gay family member or friend. I hope you will hear my heart on this sensitive issue.

My first thought was, “Shouldn’t I go because God commands me to love people, and by going, I am loving that individual at a very exciting moment in his/her life?” This argument from my standpoint possesses a strong, intuitive appeal. However, it is not strong enough to persuade me. Here is why. Ultimately, when I attend a wedding, I am not celebrating an individual nor am I celebrating the right for each individual to make personal choices. When I personally attend a wedding, I believe that I am implicitly declaring by my presence, “This is union is good, worth celebrating, and am in support of marriage. Congratulations and I wish you the best!” But how can I do that? How can I celebrate a union that is condemned in Scripture? How can I pretend that the sin is not that big of a big deal because of my love for that person? Birthdays are meant to celebrate the person. Weddings, on the other hand, are to confirm and celebrate a union. Though love is paramount and the expression of it commanded, this by no means precludes moral discernment and the fact that our behavior is a moral endorsement of that which grieves God’s heart.

So, what would I do? The week before, I would call my gay friend and ask him/her to coffee. I would explain my heart. It would be a very difficult conversation for both of us. For days leading up to this conversation I would be in prayer that God would help that person see my heart and as a friend, respect my convictions. I would pray against the enemy distorting my words in order to hurt that person. No doubt, my decision will still hurt that person, but so does their decision to enter a cursed union hurt me. So because I love the person, I would want to explain my pending action in detail, but because a wedding celebrates more than just a person, I would not attend.

This is my stance.


I have presupposed in this article that the gay lifestyle is a sin. Below is a quick glance (extremely quick) of the clarity with which the Bible declares homosexuality to be sin.

Before answering, I believe with all my heart that people should have the right to be with the person they desire to be with (this is not necessarily an endorsement of gay marriage per se) just like I believe a person should have the political freedom to choose any religion they see fit (or no religion).

Though hotly debated over the past couple of decades, the Bible is really clear that the gay lifestyle is a sin. Paul wrote in Romans 1:24-27, Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

The gay lifestyle is presented here not just as sin, but as one of the darkest expressions of sin when depravity runs wild. Though sin is sin and all sin requires the blood of Christ (in this regard, we are all alike, and this in turn contains the call for us to love gays just as God loves us), it does appear that on the darkness continuum, gayness is toward the end of the spectrum. In addition, a close examination of 1 Corinthians 6:9 in the original Greek also puts to rest any debate about the moral status of homosexuality from a Christian standpoint. And the argument that Sodom and Gomorrah was condemned for a lack of hospitality rather than homosexuality commits the following error: This moral assessment rests on a needless either/or distinction. Even if a lack of hospitality was part of the reason these two cities were judged, this does not imply that homosexuality was not part of the equation. From God’s perspective, it could easily have been a case of both/and.