Culture Posts

The Response to My Sermon This Week

I woke up Sunday morning to the news of another shooting. My social media timeline was filled with a variety of commentaries about the horrific murders in El Paso and Dayton. A wave of emotions flooded over me and I felt it all. Then I remembered that I had a sermon to preach that morning.

I began a conversation with Jesus asking a simple question: what am I supposed to say? I didn’t land at an easy answer to this question, even when I knew it was time to go on stage. I took a step forward at our 8:30am service and began to feel my way through it. Then I sat through our 10am service and I could feel more coming.

Toward the end of the message, I felt an invitation to let go and say what God was laying on my heart. I quickly lost control of my emotions and could feel my voice begin to quiver. I’m not a crier, so to cry in front of hundreds of people feels very raw to me.

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Are Christians Obligated to Support the Government?

Are Christians Obligated to Support the Government?

It’s a common desire for Christians to want the Gospel without any politics involved. I understand that desire if it means a separation from any specific political party. But the Gospel is always political… just not in the ways you might think.

Last week reminded us how the Gospel inherently finds itself in a political stance. Jeff Sessions, the United States Attorney General, cited Romans 13 to enforce why it was justifiable for the government to remove children from their parents. In case you haven’t followed this event, the Associated Press recently reported that nearly 2000 kids have been separated from their families in six weeks time. This has been referred to as a zero-tolerance policy of discouraging illegal immigration. Many of these families are refugees seeking asylum and the stories emerging from this practice have been horrific. One state employee recently quit after receiving this instruction for a sibling group of three kids separated from their parents: “Tell them they can’t hug” (source). Even worse than that, one mother tells of how her child was forcibly taken from her while she was breastfeeding (source). When she resisted this, she herself was handcuffed. And then there was the man who committed suicide after being separated from his family (source).

As we might hope to happen, there has been quite a lot of backlash against this, near universally across the spectrum of Christianity. In defense of the United States government’s actions, Sessions said: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.” Basically, this argument implies that Christians have a mandate to follow and obey all laws from a government. The White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it this way, “It is very biblical to enforce the law.” What’s easy to miss is that targeting children is the strategy currently being used to get the desired results. John F. Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, referred to this policy of separating families as a “tough deterrent.” Jeff Sessions explained it bluntly, “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them.”

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What Israel Taught Me About America’s Election

What Israel Taught Me About America’s Election

The most hyped election in recent memory happens tomorrow. I won’t be in the country for it.

I’ve spent the last week in Israel in the posture of a listener. Listening to the narratives of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Trying to consider solutions between a hundred-year conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s tempting to believe that just one narrative has validity. To believe that the solution emerges without ambiguity. And yet conversation after conversation I’m reminded that despite how much we crave this, any critical thinker will resist the urge for this easy way out.

A couple of nights ago we had a Sabbath dinner with a Jewish family. The dad is a law professor, and his wife is working on her post-doctorate. It was moving to watch the way they intentionally raise their kids to understand the Bible (in particular the Old Testament) and the relevance in which he discussed current events in both Israel and America. He commented to us that America is beginning to look like Israel, and “not in a good way.”

If you’ve spent any amount of time understanding the conflict in the Holy Land, you will see how shocking that statement sounds. It’s a reminder that if division isn’t checked, we end up in a never-ending cycle downward. Which tragically tends to end in violence.

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10 Observations After Writing about Donald Trump

10 Observations After Writing about Donald Trump

Last week I decided to take a substantial risk and share some of my personal thoughts about Donald Trump. After I posted it, I was blown away by both the positive and negative response. I don’t intend to keep blogging on this topic, but I felt it appropriate to at least attempt to summarize some of my thoughts regarding the massive response to last week’s post. Before you read the following list you should read the original post first (see: An Appeal to Christians).

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An Appeal to Christians Who Support Trump

An Appeal to Christians Who Support Trump

I’ve waited more than six months to write this post. I would attribute this delay to three reasons: first, I realize my words could offend many people who I respect and consider friends. I don’t write them lightly. Second, I have a lot to lose and little to gain by addressing this publicly. I recently read a tweet that said: “Privilege = not speaking out against Trump’s racism & misogyny because you don’t want to tarnish your platform with controversy.” That tweet has haunted me for days. Rarely does anyone get upset when I as a pastor talk about believing in Jesus. It’s an entirely different reaction when I as a pastor suggest there might be things we believe in that are actually contrary to Jesus.

Third, and perhaps most frustrating, I don’t have a great solution to offer you. I heard someone argue (if you’ll excuse the illustration), that just because you hate diarrhea doesn’t mean you love constipation. If I lost you on the bodily functions there, basically I’m not going to tell you that you should vote for Hillary instead of Trump. No need to stop reading just yet if you’re not a Hillary fan.

Much has already been written on Donald Trump and this is my attempt at highlighting some of the best of what I’ve heard so far and offering some perspective as you navigate it. This is a spiritual post, not a political one. If you aren’t a Christian much of my argument won’t apply to you. And as a disclaimer: I’m not overly concerned with how to govern America. To be honest, I think our overdeveloped sense of nationalism is one of the American church’s greatest sins. It clouds our view of the Kingdom more than anything else. I’m writing to anyone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus Christ and who cares about living as His disciple.

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Finding Truth in Entertainment

Finding Truth in Entertainment

I’ve always appreciated a biblical guy named Daniel. He can be found in an Old Testament book with his name. Daniel was an Israelite but found himself living in another nation under a foreign power. I find this to be incredibly insightful as America completes the transition out of Christendom (where Christians are the majority and have the power). Daniel also had a few friends who together modeled faithfulness to God in the midst of some challenging circumstances. One verse in particular stands out to me. In describing Daniel and his friends it says, “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (Daniel 1:17).

I love that God gives them something we don’t normally attribute to God: literature, learning, and the understanding of visions and dreams. This knowledge goes far beyond an understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. A modern-day parallel might read like this: “To these four young men God gave understanding of Dostoyevsky, Dickens, and Shakespeare. He also gave knowledge of string theory, quantum physics, and relativity. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams better than Sigmund Freud.”

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

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