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Jesus slept…

We all know the famous “shortest verse” in the Gospels ... Jesus wept. It was in response to His coming upon the scene of Lazarus’ grave, encountering Lazarus’ sisters, and His humanity and divinity responding with compassion and love. It is a beautiful moment, a real moment, and a reminder that tears are not despair as much as catalyst of desire to see Heaven meet earth. However, there is another powerful phrase and moment that we remember less in the Gospels… Jesus slept.

Matthew 8

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.


I think one translation of this passage says, “Without warning…”. The disciples were caught off guard, and they were in a panic, but Jesus slept. The story goes on to say they woke Jesus, He confronts their fear and doubt, speaks with authority and power causing the storm to disappear, and the disciples are amazed (once again) at Who Jesus was.

Jesus was not caught off guard… they were. Jesus was not in a panic… they were. Jesus dismissed the storm without being dismissive of it. There was a moment that needed to be addressed, but Jesus didn’t panic like His disciples did. The result was not just that the storm went away, but that a lesson was offered that it was going to be ok because God was there.

How often do we assume that God is asleep? Meaning, how often do we think God has forgotten about us because we don’t see Him doing anything? Our panic comes when we think we have lost hope… but God never loses hope. He has never been caught unaware of what you are going through, but He is also not overwhelmed by it.

In my experience as a leader, there are times that I am working behind the scenes on an issue that most under my leadership don’t even know exists. When people become aware, it is easy for them to panic / doubt / question / react because it came “without warning.” However, behind the scenes, without fanfare or attempting to “cover myself”, I have been working on the solution to a problem that was not even known to the masses. I have also found that a person who is in panic wants those he or she goes to for answers to be in panic mode as well. If not, then it is easy for them to think that the leader is unaware… is unconcerned… is unqualified or unable to help and must be dismissed. I have had people come to me to make me aware of a nuclear-sized problem and be aghast that did not fall to my knees in dispair about their issue that was greater than all issues. In a moment of doubt of competence or lack of understanding, they say, “Oh, you must not know what’s really happening…” My response (at least in my head, and sometimes on my lips) is, “Oh I know about it… but I’m just not freaking out like you are.”

This past Sunday at City Church Dayton, a woman shared about her brother being in a motorcycle wreck. She told of how she learned about the wreck and immediately began to petition God for her brother’s health. She explained that as the details emerged regarding the miracle that was her brother’s survival, she discovered that she had found out about the accident some 2 hours after the miracles were needed. She told the church, “Even before I knew what to pray, God was already working in response to my prayers.” Wow!

You don’t see what is happening behind the scenes all of the time. Pray for our leaders, because they are working in ways we don’t know, at times we don’t know, on things that we don’t even know about. Trust in God, because He is working on our behalf even when we don’t know there is a need to pray for. He is not ever caught unaware by what we panic about. We might think He is “asleep,” but He is simply aware of Who He is, that the winds and waves obey His command, and that His Name is greater than any other name on earth (and beyond).

Trump, Separation of Children, and What a Christian Should Do

Herm Edwards is famous for a phrase… “Don’t press send!”

No one knows how many tweets I delete before pressing send.  Honestly, some are mostly harmless, but my wife sees things that I do not and I have learned to defer to her judgment because she is usually correct.  Sometimes things that are completely innocent are seen by another in a different way.  However, there are others that are correct factually but are not typed in a correct spirit.  So, I delete them.

Some of those deleted tweets are really, really good though.

Another reason that I delete some tweets before I press “send” is that while I feel I understand what others don’t seem to, it is impossible to change another by a 240 character soundbite.  That tweet can be retweeted and liked and even rally those who are already on my side, but it will also spark the vitriol of those on the other.  Neither of these responses serve to right a wrong, but only make me sound intelligent or insane… depending on your point of view and biases.  I have attempted in these times to instead privately message those that I can in order to properly engage in the discussion needed to understand another and work toward solutions.

The border issue is a prime example of this, so I move toward this “blogisphere” to try to address a few things.

First, there has been much said by church leaders and others about what is the “christian” thing to do.  Those in the secular world decided to bring the Bible into the fray and began to jostle back and forth on compassion of children and immigrants vs. obeying the laws of the land.  The fact that we view these two correct biblical thoughts as being against each other should be the subject of another time, but this is actually part of the problem in the case of the day.  Both sides need to stop.  Anytime a verse is used against another it only shows that we are still trying to make a god in our image while calling out the other for denying the god we create.  It is not helpful.

It is also passive aggressive.  “A real Christian would/would not…” is code for “I am a better Christian than you are and you are what is wrong with the world.”  It is also assuming.  To agree with one point is not a stamp of approval of all points.  We have to stop labeling beyond the idea before us.  If I tell you that I believe “blue” is a good color, and is in fact my favorite color, you would be wrongly assuming if you then surmised that I believe anyone who prefers red is a Nazi.

Again, please stop.  It’s the way the world thinks and works and is never going to change a culture.

Second, there are some issues that need to be thought through and not simply reacted to.  I am a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ.  I am a Christian.  I am also a pastor.  I understand the Scriptures, and also understand that there are a lot of things that I don’t understand about God and the Scriptures.  I try to hear God’s heart in the matters before me and try not to cherry pick a scripture that fits my agenda.  So, with that in mind, here we go…

There is not really an easy solution, nor one that is more “Christian” than the other.

The border problem and mass people crossing unknown is not a great thing.  There is a process for people entering any country, as well there should be.  There is an issue of security that cannot be overlooked, and a government is in place to secure and protect the people it serves.  There is a fiscal responsibility of the government as well, and the welfare of a nation’s citizens are the primary focus of that responsibility.

There is also a history of our nation extending its hand to those in need.  We are to be a place for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  We are a people who have come from everywhere to be here.  A proper vetting process does not go against that history, but when someone is fleeing oppression, there should be a way to provide a safe haven in our great land so that they can enjoy freedom without fear.

A family has the responsibility for their children.  The government is never meant to care for our children… the family is.  Separation of families happen every day when a member of the family commits a crime.  It is awful, but it is not the fault of the one enforcing the law, but the fault of the one who put their family in that situation by committing the crime.

The church must stop asking the government to shirk its duty, but instead look for a solution to help in practical ways.  In fact, both of these is the way God has set things up.  Those put in legal authority do their job, and God’s people offer compassion and grace and prayer for those in authority.  These two are not mutually exclusive, but instead they work together, because God designed how everything should work.  Those who are pastors, at the very least, must glean from their own knowledge of how things work in their own leadership roles and begin to lead with the understanding that sometimes others don’t know all of the details of what is going on behind the scenes.  This is why you do not just do what the masses are screaming for you to do, but you attempt to follow God’s heart and do what God would have you do. This is also why your role as a citizen is to pray for those who are making decisions based on information that you do not have.

We must be consistent.  We must champion the lives of children… period.  We cannot ever be pleased when a child is crying or harmed because of a decision that another makes.  Our hearts must go out for that child.  We must respectfully petition those who could implement change and pray that proper decisions would be made for long-term solutions that make sure children are never endangered.  Championing the lives of children also applies to the unborn in a mother’s womb.  The two are not different… they are the same.

Be honest that you do not want Trump to win.  If you were against Obama and wanted him to fail, be honest about that as well.  Then repent.  Stop perpetuating a narrative that is based on preferences and assumptions given as “fact”.  Our prayer should be that every President does what God would have them do and our nation prospers because of it.  If one did not agree with a policy of President Obama that did not make them a racist.  That was the narrative pushed, and it was wrong.  If one agrees with President Trump on an issue, it does not mean that they have sold out as an evangelical.  That is the narrative pushed, and it is wrong as well.  Some of our problem is that we do not have a proper knowledge of history, we do not understand how our nation is set up, and we have accepted that we are to be against the other side so vehemently that we will not sit down to hear the other out.

Here is what has happened (in a very overly simplified way):

1997 was the beginning of a policy that children could only be incarcerated for 20 days.  While every President has openly declared that they would be tough on illegal immigration and have been very clear about the real issues illegal immigration has on our nation and its resources, none have really attempted to get to the core of the issues.  The optics are too bad, so there is much talk and no action.  Over this time frame the political climate became so charged that the focus was on disagreement with and vilifying the other side and no one wanted to sit down and find the best solution.  Under President Obama, there is debate on the conditions of containment and separation and all, but the decision was made in the end to let the families go into our country with the order to those families to report to court to decide their fate.  3% of those families reported to court.  President Trump considered the situation at the border unacceptable (as the previous Presidents had) and implemented a zero tolerance policy.  The families would be taken through process without letting them go with an order to report at a future date, and the children would not be allowed to be held with the parents.  This had been the policy for a time, but it created an optic that was bad and brought about the fervor of the last week or so.  The agreement of most is that there was probably a better way to handle the children, but the decision was the decision.  Now, the President has changed the policy to allow the children to stay with their parents, but the parents will still be processed and vetted before possible release.  The complicated issues have been secondary to a disdain for President Trump.  Even today the accusations have turned to complain that President Trump is wanting to keep children incarcerated indefinitely.

So what should Christians do?

If an action is contrary to the Bible, speak out in Truth AND love.  Do both… because one without the other cannot truly show the heart of God.  If an action is against our laws (constitution), call your Representative or Senator.  They want your votes so they will work on your behalf.  If an action is just something you don’t like, then say you don’t like it.  It is your right to speak out if you wish.  However, there are two things that must follow that right to speak out.  First, if you see a problem, never stop at complaining but come with a solution.  The goal should be to get it right, not just be right.  Show why the action is less than what is preferable and give the steps to get things where they need to be.  Second, remember you cannot demand that someone accepts your preference.  Others might have different opinions and different approaches.  That does not necessarily make them evil, or even wrong.  Biblical things cannot be compromised on.  Unlawful things must not be allowed.  However, likes and wishes cannot be imposed on another, but can be catalysts to convince another of a better way.

In all things, stop and read your tweets (and posts, and conversations) before you press “send”.  Do they sound like love?  Do they come from a heart of anger, hurt, or political bias?  Do they reek of “SEE!!! I told you he/she is bad/evil and they must be stopped or your are not a real Christian like me.”?

Don’t press send.

Repent.  Pray.  Be humble.  Realize that there are probably things you don’t know.

Ask how God’s glory can be displayed and how healing and reconciliation can come.

Do that instead.

We Are Better Than This

We live in a world where if you are for anyone thing then you must be against the other thing.

If you are conservative in any way, then many of those who are liberal will believe and accuse you of being conservative in all ways.  In fact, not just conservative, but to the nth degree, with hatred for all things the liberal holds dear.  If you are liberal, many conservatives feel the same way about you, that you have a hatred for the things the conservative would value the most.  Name calling ensues.  Pandering takes precedence.  No common ground can be discovered over the noise of the demand that the other disavows their hatred and denounces all who would espouse such.  Moral superiority is announced as our side cheers us on and the other looks for a moment to do the same to you.

If you come out in support for an idea that will help one people, then you must be against all other people.  It is not just that you have not helped the other people, but you must hate them because you have chosen to help the one you helped.  It is also not enough today to attempt to help the person that everyone might agree needs helping.  If you attempt to help them in one way that is contrary to the way another would want then you are seen as the enemy and one who wishes the destruction of the one who needs the help in the first place.  Differing solutions for the betterment of people involved are seen as the equivalent as hatred.  This is where we are today.

We refuse to look past the rhetoric and see the heart.  We scream from the “twitter-tops” that we are so humble and how glad we are not like the other side that is not as humble as we.

How arrogant are we?  A world is hurting and we are content with pandering to those who agree with us that the other people who do not are bad.

Keep these things in mind:

  • You can be for one thing that is right without hating those who did not get their way.
  • You can have recognition of a common problem, while still having a different solution to solve that problem, and that doesn’t make you evil.
  • You can maintain a belief that others also believe, without believing everything else those others believe.
  • You can stand for the Truth without being void of compassion.
  • You can disagree with another on some things that are really, really fundamentally important to each of you (on different sides) and still demonstrate love and respect for that other person.


We no longer dialogue.  We no longer listen.  We simply hate and call names.

We are better than this.

Houston, Hurricanes, and our Heart

Every time there is a disaster throughout the world our hearts turn toward those affected.  Mine is no different.  However, I do struggle with knowing what to do and how to do it.

You see, I do not believe it is enough to just do “something,” because we need to look to do the best thing.  In recent years we have seen and heard of organizations handling money poorly, even criminally, during times such as these, and this makes me leery of giving blindly.  We see redundancy in certain areas while other areas remain without proper assistance, so simply “going” is not enough, because “what if I don’t go to the right place?”  We feel small / insignificant, so we do nothing because the task is so great and we don’t feel as if we could even make a dent.

However, I saw a post yesterday that stated: if you feel a burden / tugging in your heart for an issue, then don’t dismiss it.  In fact it is the Lord who has placed that in your heart for you to take action.  I think this is correct!  I believe that everyone is called to action to do what they are capable of doing.  In fact, as a believer in Christ, I feel that my action is the way to show that my faith is real (see the book of James in the Bible for my thoughts on this…).  So, I would encourage all to continually look for ways they can do whatever it takes to help, in every situation they come across.

I also want to encourage those on social media to watch their hearts in all of this.

Don’t let your humble gifts become moments of arrogance and “humble brags.”  Give to give, not to be seen giving.  I know you are happy you played a role, but resist the urge to post “Blessed to be able to donate…” and the like.  Donate / volunteer / etc., and provide the link for others to do so as well, and then go about your business looking for the next opportunity to serve.

Don’t get caught up in issues that have nothing to do with helping.  There will always be questions of government response, etc., but the arguments only divide and do not actually do anything of value in the moment of need.  Become a part of the process in order to fix the problems you see if you want, but also realize that it is always easier to problem-solve from the sidelines than if you are actually in the game.  We need more people in the game… just know that it gets harder.

Don’t believe everything you read / see / hear.  Much of the time we make (or listen to) a false premise and then allow it to set the stage for our arguments.  In the age of social media, anyone can post anything and all too often no one takes the time to verify the facts before the world runs with it.  There is a saying, “It’s easy to let the cat out of the bag, but impossible to get it back in.” (I think the imagery here is hilarious, by the way.)  Case in point, people everywhere have railed against Lakewood Church and Pastor Osteen during this crisis.  The reality is that most have no idea of anything they are railing against, but their vitriol for a man or a ministry is causing them to jump on the bandwagon of bashing.  I say be careful… because most of the time if you take the time to learn the full story (which always comes out) then you will realize that you spoke out of turn.

I was probably dishonest in the subject title, but I want all to look for ways to help, look for ways to give glory to God more than themselves, and look for ways to stay out of the judgmental fray and belief of disinformation in order to allow wisdom and grace to win the day.

The End is Exaggerated

I have seen tweets and posts, news reports and editorials, all on the wish for a quick end to 2016.  I am not naive to the use of hyperbole, or ignorant to the nuances of irony, so I understand the joke regarding the number of tragic events of the year and how “2016” was out to “get us.”  However, I also see a year end that some truly believe was one of the worst in history.

The events that seem to gain the most ground with some who wish the current times to end are the deaths of icons, the political climate and election, and the recent events at the UN regarding Israel demonstrating the departure from a 40-year stance of the United States regarding our ally.  (Ironically, as I opened up WordPress to type this blog, there was an inbox message referring me to an old post of mine regarding Israel, found here.)  At the risk of the firestorm that might come my way or the inevitable misunderstanding that I see daily from twitter feeds or Facebook posts… I am going to weigh in.

Everything is going to be OK.

I would suggest that we are either poor at remembering history, or for some, we have no knowledge of history.  Either way, we tend to be creatures of the moment.  What we witness on any given day is too often declared to be unprecedented.  Because of this, we develop a false premise that all tragedy happening before us will cause the demise of the world as we know it.  I have even seen some Christian leaders use words to describe the political system of our nation as “unraveling.”

I have been alive for seven (7) transitions of Presidential power, and if God allows me to live another month, I will witness an 8th coming on the 20th of January.  I remember first understanding the transition to a new President as a 9-year-old in 1979 as Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, and I remember an elementary school teacher was sad about the change.  This statement will sound like it comes from an out of touch old guy, but our political system is not unraveling.  It is actually working the way it is supposed to, and it has always meant that a number of people will be either unhappy or pleased with the results.  This year’s election was unique in some ways, but it was also very much like any other election.  The problem is that we tend to be more reactionary these days and we also have the ability to voice our concerns or celebrations instantaneously and to greater numbers through social media, so this time seems different but it is not.  Regardless of what is said, and with all respect to the outgoing administration, “hope” is not at all gone.  Our hope is not in an administration.  At a governmental level it is based on a document signed 229 years ago.  At a infinitely more important and personal level, it is based on a baby born, who became a Sacrifice on a cross, and who then rose victorious 2000+ years ago.

Decisions made by those who are in power do matter, and can be detrimental, so without a proper perspective we can become worried.  There are times that we have proper perspective and our concern is justified.  Such is the case with the recent vote at the U.N.  The United States abstained from a vote taken against Israel.  Some might not understand the situation in the Middle East other than from what they see in an occasional tweet, might not have the perspective of a 40-year history regarding our stand on the issue brought up again in the last couple of days, or might not see the problem because technically we did not vote “against” Israel in that we only abstained from the vote.

Understand that we have been the only nation (at most times) that has stood with Israel.  We had the power in a veto to stop any decision made by the United Nations Security Council.  Instead, we let their action against Israel happen.  The saying goes, “evil prevails when good men do nothing.”  We did nothing.  There are reports that our nation’s leaders did more than nothing in that the US actually orchestrated the vote, but that is denied by our leaders.  So, for the sake of this post, taking the administration’s word for it, then what we did was to allow evil to prevail while we, as good men, did nothing for our friend, Israel.  For those who are looking for the tragedy of 2016, our reversal on Israel is the one that needs to be mourned, and in an expedient manner, it needs to be righted.

As 2016 comes to a close, you are right to feel sad if someone that you admired or enjoyed was taken away through death.  You are reasonable to know that the election seemed to be odd and to wonder what it will all mean come January 20th.  However, you are also encouraged to take a stand for things that really matter, and to attempt to make your world a better place.  Then, you must refuse to lose your mind over things that you have no perspective of or are simply reacting to out of fear, and at the same time refuse to back down from taking action on the things that really do matter.  History is filled with those who believed that “it” was over, only to find that the “rumor of [the] demise was greatly exaggerated.”

Do not live in fear.  Do not panic.  Look for and work for the best that is possible before you.  Right the actually wrongs and fight for what is right regardless of the voices crying against you.  While the world is crying that the sky is falling; you be the voice that declares the foundation is strong!

Thoughts on Love & Correction

I was reading this morning from the book of the Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The first three chapter have a set up and then some words written to various churches.  These words amounted to the fact that God liked some things about them and also disliked some things about them.  God gives correction to the churches, then John begins to pen the rest of the vision that is found in Chapter 4.

God shows John an open door and invites him in.  There are angels and elders worshiping and it must have been a pretty incredible vision.  It begins with a cry of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and ends with a declaration of the “worthiness” of God.  He is worthy, and the chapter is awesome… but I couldn’t get past one simple thought.  God had corrected the churches, but then offered an open door to come in.  I see a perfect joining of correction and love.  Then, these thoughts came to my mind about what our love should look like, because its what God’s love looks like.

The following are my thoughts on the joining of correction and love, not found in the Bible, so take them as such:

To love so much that your direction to others is seen not as a slight against them, but as an act of compassion.

To say “this is a problem in your life” without coming across as “you are worthless as you are” can only be done when love is present.

To declare that “those things in you and around you are harming you and leading you wrongly, and I value you so much that I don’t want to see you destroyed by those things that are in your life.”

Change because of guilt will absolve the past.  Change because of love will give life for the future.

Yet Another Pastor and Church Response…

I have been watching tweets, posts and blogs throughout the day to see the response to the Election of Donald Trump as President-Elect yesterday.  I spent 8 hours watching the election results from 7 pm (EST) last evening until I turned off the TV at 3 am, having never seen anything like this election and wanting to see the final results.  It was fascinating to watch as those in the know were coming to the conclusion themselves that they knew nothing.  Wow!

Today some are angry and some are gloating, which despite what others would think or say is nothing new the day after any election.  There are those who are trying to figure out what happened, what this means going forward, and a hope that we can all come together and heal.  Again… this is nothing new.  Elections have been won and lost going on over 200+ years in this country, and each time after one I am amazed more and more that the Founders who wrote the Constitution figured out a system of government that would work in spite of who was in leadership or the political climate of the day.  It is sheer brilliance.

However, we now live in a day where our thoughts are shaped more from the tweet or a sound-bite than from rational, developed thought; and we substitute hyperbole for facts then believe a narrative based on reactions to opinions rather than digging deep to find out the truth for ourselves.  We not only name-call but we stereotype based on assumptions, and those assumptions do not come from the words that are said but from what we are told by others that those words mean.  We lump entire segments of the population into categories not based on actual beliefs of the individual, but based on what other individuals who are “like them” believe.  Then, in all of the vitriol, we blast any that might even remotely fit into one of those said categories as the source of the problem.

So, what do I do with what is before me… in the climate that I am in… in a world that is what it is and where everything will be taken out of context?

I love.  I serve.  I worship.

I am called to love everyone.  It sounds grand, but for anyone who has actually tried there comes a realization that it is hard.  People are hard.  People are self-righteous, and it is the nature of all of us to be self-righteous right back at them.  But I cannot, because that doesn’t look like love.  I cannot name call, even when I have been on the receiving end of the same, because it doesn’t look like love.  I cannot write a group off, or stand with boastful thoughts over them, or despise their existence because they came out on top, because none of that looks like love.

When the tweets are tweeted and the posts are posted and the memes are, well, you get the point… then I must stand before them and demonstrate the love of the Father who is in heaven, Who loved so much that He gave His best so they could be changed by love.  I must walk into a room of those who my flesh does not like and from a genuine heart feel a love for them that would make me do whatever it takes for them to know that they are loved.

I am called to serve my world.  Serving is easy until you are treated like a servant.  My pride gets in the way, my sense of justice gets in the way, and my dreams and plans get in the way.  When another can do for themselves but doesn’t I am still called to serve.  When it is not my place or not in my schedule or when it is hard I am still called to serve.  When I will get no accolades and when it will not advance my agenda I am still called to serve.

I must be willing to go to both those who have looked up to me and to those who have cursed me and take my towel and humbly wash the feet of the one before me.  I must bend down to pick up the pieces, even when I was not the one responsible for the brokenness.  I must find those that would be better because of my sacrifice and do whatever it takes to demonstrate a selfless spirit to give hope that there is still a servants heart in a sometimes selfish world.

I am called to worship my God.  There are times when I don’t understand, and there are times when I seem to have all understanding.  I can worship in both of these times.  There are times when the tears flow, and others when the laughter is gut-wrenching.  I can worship in both of those times as well.  When I get my way and when I don’t, when I walk in bravery or cower in fear, when I nod my head in agreement and when I shake my head in disgust, I can still worship.

I learn to worship God not because of what He does but because of Who He Is!  I sing the song that changes the earthly atmosphere to one where I sit in heavenly places.  I can partner with Him to see His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  I can understand that from both my position behind the pulpit and from my position as a dad, husband, citizen, and friend I find a place to worship.  When the wisdom of the world is declaring the end, I can declare that God gives new beginnings.  That is worship.

So, to add to the talk…

Love. Serve. Worship.  That is my response.