Monday, January 26, 2009

A Year Later

This is a few days past, but recently we celebrated our 1 year anniversary at Broadmoor. It has been a great year of learning and growing both as a Christian and as a Pastor. I truly have felt a wide array of emotions through this year, and am thankful to God for every last one.

A couple things have really stuck out to me during this year of service. One is that no amount of seminary training can prepare you for dealing with real life situations of spiritual warfare. The theoretical aspects and principles are useful, but on your first Wednesday when a purse is stolen from one of your students and I had to deal with the Memphis Police Dept, parsing Greek does very little good. There have been other times that I wished I could have taken an elective on youth culture, because it has changed so much since I was 18 and dealing with vastly different issues than students deal with now. Many things I have learned on the fly or still do not truly understand.

A second thing I have learned is that sometimes Satan can use people within the Church to discourage, divide, and attack the ministry. I never knew the depth and viciousness of spiritual warfare until I began truly striving to serve the Lord in ministry and standing to teach the Word of God faithfully on a regular basis. Then, the floodgates opened and I was forced to deal with many different issues. Praise the Lord for having to go through them though, I count any struggle and stress for Christ to be a blessing to endure, and I pray the Lord finds me faithful to Him.

I talked about this with my sister-in-law the other day, that I have never been so tired, so stressed, so down, and with so much on my shoulders as I have now. It made me think back to all those times I heard people talk about ministry not being like work if its truly where you are meant to be and all that jazz, and it was then I realized I had been lied to for so long. Between that and a message on living dangerously from Southern Seminary, I have come to the conclusion that being in the center of God's will often times will result in harder times and more difficult circumstances than any other time. The weight I carry for our students and their spiritual development and for the church as a whole weighs me down constantly, and I feel like I get less rest and less encouragement. But those who came before me in the Bible are the ones I look to, for they endured far greater hardship than anything I could imagine for the sake of following God with their lives.

It is so awesome to know that while my comfort level has gone down as fast as my stress level has gone up, that I am exactly where the Lord would have me, and it is during this I must rely on Him more. Standing to teach the Word faithfully and serve faithfully has opened up assaults on me, my health and sanity, and I praise the Lord for being found worthy to endure such hardship. This is the year of living dangerously, and I say bring it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hopes and Fears of all the Years

Yesterday was an historic day in our nation, as Barack Obama became the first African-American to ascend to the office of President. His journey started in 2004 as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, and many people (including myself) said "that is our next President."

Your thoughts on the last 8 years depend greatly on your partisan identity. President Bush should not be automatically thrown under the bus as his legacy. There is nothing wrong with critique and evaluation, that is all part of the study of history. Truthfully, economic issues are more the fault of Congress and the banking industry than the White House. I have often heard that the President gets too much credit and too much blame for things like the economy. We should remember President Bush as a crusader to protect our national security. He answered a call that very few in our history have had to answer, and in dealing with 9/11 he was an amazing ambassador of freedom and the right person to lead a manhunt to find bin Laden and stamp out terrorism on domestic soil. That said, his legacy will be forever tainted with the double war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Public opinion has swayed based on intelligence findings showing that the war was perhaps premature, and no WMD's were discovered in Iraq. Just because a war is unpopular does not mean it was not necessary. World War II was much more devestating and costly to our nation, yet few would argue that Hitler and Hirohito did not need to be dealt with. The same can be said for Hussein, who led campaigns of genocide against his own people. Iraq has the promise of being a democratic leader in the middle east. We should pull out and leave, but let us not forget that in one day at Antietam there were thousands of casualites, and no crying mothers and protest groups were calling for Lincoln to abandon the fight.

Tuesday was the turning of a new chapter in our nation. We have a President who was brought up in a mixed family, was a collegiate athlete, worked his way through Harvard Law, and crusaded for civil rights and mobilizing communities in Chicago. He has embraced the technology of our day, has sought to strengthen the nation by unity, and has tried to reach across the Grand Canyon of politics, to the conservative evangelicals. Watching the festivities online (was in the middle of the GRE exam during the event itself), I could not help but think how far our country has come in 50 years. Living in Memphis has taught me that some people do still see in color, and that racism is real and still an issue in our society. I am amazed that only 40 years after the assassination of Dr. King, a black man is standing in the White House. It is truly a great day for us as a nation, that the melting pot of America still means something, and that anyone regardless of race or nationality can become President.

All the excitement about the Obama administration must be tempered however, because I cannot support or endorse or stand behind his views on the sanctity of human life. Many times he has asserted that a woman has the right to choose when and if to end her pregnancy, regardless of the state of development of the infant. As a Christian, this is a very tough pill for me to swallow. As a Christian, I believe life begins at conception, and that all life is a gift from God, and that human life is indeed valuable because each person by being a person contains the spark of the Divine, the Imago Dei. The taking of any innocent life is wrong, and I would go so far as to trade in the death penalty if it meant the abortion rulings could be overturned.

It breaks my heart to know that the next four years promise many great things for our country, and many new changes that hopefully will restore America's standing in the world. But my greatest fear is that because of an administration, a Congress, and a general populace that ascribes less and less value to human life, the next four years could be four years of weeping and mourning for the many of us who still believe life is more than a commodity or convenience. I pray that the day comes when all human life is respected, valued, and given worth as more than a thing or cluster of cells. Until then, I pray for all the women of every age who are considering terminating a pregnancy that they would consider other options besides ending a life. May God help us all.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mixed Feelings?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist for anyone to figure out what I really think about the book The Shack. It has caused me great frustration as a spiritual leader to observe so many of the Lord's faithful buying into a book that has a perverted and distorted and heretical view of the Trinity. In fact, I do anticipate that one day Young will have to stand before God and answer for all the people he has led astray and I'll bet God won't be a laid back black woman at that point nor Jesus be some goofy looking putz of a guy. I have a feeling he'll come to understand what it means to fall into the hands of a Holy God.

So why do I say "mixed feelings?" Simply put, I have a desire to avoid conflict and avoid potential issues within the church. But, that said, my calling is not to keep people happy but rather to guide, teach, admonish, and exhort God's people from God's Word. And when there is heresy rampant, it must be addressed. That is how many great works of faith came about, from pastors answering challenges to orthodoxy within the church. It is because of this that the Arian controversy was refuted, and the Gnostic heresy was challenged, and many other issues that have stood to divide the Church. It took faithful men of God to stand in the gap and declare spades to be spades.

That said, I am calling a spade a spade. I am calling The Shack to be one of the most dangerous books to be written in a long time, and it is a book that DOES NOT need to be read by faithful Christians. It presents a false view of God as being real and while it is a work of fiction the response of people to it warrants great caution. People are calling this a work up there with Pilgrim's Progress and other great works of the faith, and I have to look at that and say that it is insane to say that a book that counters the biblical witness to the Person of God can be seen as high as a work of classical Christian literature.

This is a review by Mark Driscoll about the book, and I believe he says it better that almost anyone else can.

I really hope that Young recants his heresy and can be welcomed back into the fold of God. And I really hope that Christians who have bought the lie repent and return to a biblical Trinitarian view of God that is in line with the witness of Scripture. Until then, I will labor to counter this and to admonish the people of God to stay far away from it.

Thank You Tony!

Yesterday was a very sad day for football fans as Tony Dungy announced his retirement as the coach of the Indianapolis Colts. For the last couple years it was speculated that Tony would walk away while still at the top of the league. He is noted as the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, and he has led his teams to the playoffs for 10 straight years, and the Colts won at least 12 games for the last several years. He has been the model of consistency and class both on the field and off. Dungy, an outspoken Christian, is also one of the few universally respected and honored coaches in the NFL. Interviews with former players are a testimony to the character of their coach, because no one can ever say anything bad about him. He treated people with respect, and while being a very demanding coach never belittled people and worked to bring out the best in people by motivation rather than fear. He is still beloved in Tampa where he was fired (probably one of the biggest GM mistakes pre-Detroit Lions), and has an immense impact on any community he is part of. For Tony, football was temporary. Football was something he loved but it was not the primary focus of his life. He could walk away at any time knowing that his life had a greater purpose to it. It is a great day to celebrate his legacy but we as football fans mourn because one of the best representatives of what is good in sports is gone.

In the era of Plaxico Burress getting his gun off on himself in a club and PacMan still managing to find a way to get himself in trouble with his love of strippers and shootings, the steroid era where baseball itself was compromised, betting circles and point shaving, and everything else that is wrong with professional sports these days, thank you Tony for showing us that there is some good left in the game and the joy that can come from doing something you love

A Blessing and Curse in Music

Verse 1
Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began

Verse 2
Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure
What You're worth

Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Revolution of Purpose

So the other day I was reading trying to come up with a message for last Sunday night at church. I did the usual when you're not sure and just flip through until something opens up. One passage that I read was in Ezekiel 2, and it was late Saturday night (after I'd outlined and come up with a sermon, not the Saturday Night Special) that I really came to terms with a purpose and mission as a Bible teacher. Here is the passage:
And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.

In essence, this passage showed me that my primary concern as a Bible teacher and preacher is to proclaim the message of God regardless of the stubbornness of the people. Ezekiel was called to command the people of God to repent and turn back to the covenant. He was not to listen to the thorns and scorpions they would hit him with by their words.

After reading this I came to realize that I should not be concerned with people's happiness, but their holiness. By having a Word-focused and Word-centered teaching/preaching ministry, while the results may not be immediate I must remain focused on the call to stand in the gap. I am not calling myself a prophet, but I do desire to be used as a vessel in such a way that the words of God are what I say so that the people who hear can know that the Lord has spoken.

Pray for me that I might remain faithful to this calling and to be encouraged despite attack and assault from people who do not desire a message from God. Pray for courage to stand and boldly proclaim and not shrink down in fear of disagreement or offense.

Took too much time off

So I tried running the other day for the first time since St Jude, let's just say taking that time off and Christmas eating did not help the cause. Was only able to do a couple miles before I got too worn out to keep going (the cold wind didn't help either)
Back in the saddle here we come!

Just say no

No this isn't a post to say to stay away from drugs. Although, you should. Don't use them, they fry your brain, ruin your friendships, and are a terrible influence on society. There, obligatory save on a statement.

I am instead saying no to spousal travel. Carrie and I have only been married for 2 1/2 months, and she had to go to Louisville for her PhD comps and classes. I had lived independent for years before we got married, but in the last week I have realized how utterly helpless I am! I didn't think I'd be as lonely as I am without her, nor did I think I'd be so behind on keeping up with the house.

Praise the Lord this is the last extended trip!