Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charlottesville, racism, and where we go from here...

As many of you already know, there was a tragic incident this past Saturday.  Neo-Nazi's and other hate groups gathered and protested in Charlottesville,VA.  There was a violent clash that culminated in a person driving a car through pedestrians murdering one and injuring more.  It was horrific and homegrown terrorism.  The hatred was racial.  The hatred was vehement.  The hatred ended in death.
That was Saturday.

Then on Sunday we had our church picnic.  I am blessed to be the pastor of a very diverse congregation.  I have not sat down and tallied it, however off the top of my head I will say this - we have Hondurans, El Salvadorians, Sierra Leonians, Liberians, Nigerians, Colombians, Puerto Ricans, White Americans, African Americans, etc...in our congregation.  [And forgive me if I forgot a couple nationalities and you read this! :)] Having said that, we are not some huge congregation.  It is not sporadic diversity.  We all sit together and worship God together every Sunday morning.  And this past Sunday was our church picnic.  It was hosted by a couple themselves that are diverse - a white man and a Salvadorian woman.  They have a beautiful home and they were gracious enough to host the church family.

I sat on the edge of their pool this past Sunday and looked in the pool.  White kids.  Black kids.  Immigrant children as well.  All together.  All having fun.  No problems whatsoever.

Later that evening I went to the grocery store.  [Before I go further I will say that our congregation's diversity represents the city's diversity in which I live] In the grocery store I was one of a few white patrons and the rest were of a different skin color than myself.  I did not feel out of place.  I did not feel threatened.  The checkout lady that served me was black.  The people in the line around me were black as well.  We smiled at each other and we made small talk.

Then I got back into the car and listened to the news.  Hatred.  Anger.  Division.  That is all that I heard.  Then I checked my Facebook feed.  Hatred and division;  emotive outbursts from people that I know personally and have always found pleasant in real life interaction.  And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I asked myself a question, "who is profiting off of all this hate? Who is profiting that so many are encouraging and inviting us to hate one another?"  And make no mistake - there is money to be made off of our anger.  All the internet click bait causes advertising revenue.  Every hate group wants more sympathizers that will make them more money.  24 hour news cycles demand viewership.  Politicians need us to be motivated to vote and think in lock-step.  Hate sells.  Anger motivates us to action.  But...to what kind of action does it motivate?

There is a lot of money to be made and earthly power to be kept through the motivating power of hate.  There is very little money made and very little earthly power created through love.

And beloved, make no mistake - racism and tribalism is not new.  Even as Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago He combated racism and tribalism.  The Jews did not talk to the Samaritans.  They were, "half breeds."  The Samaritans reciprocated.  The Greeks hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Greeks.  The Apostle's themselves were not immune.  One of the most comically sad verses in the Bible is when Peter figures out that Jesus wants to save not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well.  He is simply dumbfounded in Acts along with other Jewish followers when the Holy Spirit is given to the Gentiles in Cornelius' house.  This is vv 44-45 of Acts 10, "While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles..."  It is that little word, "even" that always gets me.  "Even them...God wants to save even them!"  

And here is the answer, "yeah people...even them."  Let us simply get this straight - we are all equally sinful and equally in need of a Savior.  Let us all remember that.  Human beings are naturally sinful.  Human beings are naturally tribal.  But remember my Christian brothers and sisters - our nature is what God gives us the Holy Spirit to overcome.

My concern is not that I can add that much to this discussion about race in America.  I am not going to solve the problem with a little blog.  However, I do have a goal.  Please beloved friends - do not allow those who want to pull the strings of hate pull you into it as well; because if we are not careful, the hate we saw in Charlottesville, endlessly reported, will make us look at the people in the pool a little differently.  It may make us look at the people in the grocery store differently.  We are all susceptible.  Please simply remember wise words from Dr. Martin Luther King, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Or if you will not listen to Him, listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 12, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Or if the Apostle is not authoritative enough, listen to the Christ Himself in John 15:12-13, ""This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends."

Please remember - we are all created in God's image.  We all have lost part of that image in that we have sinned.  We are all in the need of a Savior; and that Savior is Jesus, the Christ.  He gave up His life for His enemies.  And if you are unfamiliar, you and I were those enemies.  He died for you before you loved Him.  He died for me while I did not love Him.  He rose again to defeat our final adversary - death itself.  And for all who trust in Him, He intercedes on our behalf.  Please remember that the next time the media tries to get you to hate.

Your friend,

Chris



Sunday, April 23, 2017

''I am god..."

I was forwarded an article by a friend recently.  It is linked here so that you can read it.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/12/health/monogamy-sex-kerner/

As you can see, it's an article about having more than one sexual partner within a marriage.  While both, "sides" are presented, the thrust of the article is to inform the reader that monogamy - staying sexually exclusive with only your husband/wife - is not necessarily  healthy or beneficial for all marriages.  I will quote one sentence at the beginning of the article:

"consensual non-monogamy can be a healthy option for some couples and, executed thoughtfully, can inject relationships with some much-needed novelty and excitement."

I am not going to spend much time in this blog debunking the above sentence - or the article as a whole for that matter.  This blog is not about marriage or exclusive sexual relations within marriage.  I take those things to be self-evident.

Instead, I am going to spend the rest of this blog on the underpinning philosophical grounds that gives license to an author to make such ridiculous statements as the one above - and the grounds are this: I get to decide what is good, right, and moral for myself; and what I decide IS moral.

Basically, as the blog is entitled, the new American philosophy is, "I am god..."

It used to be that the world would look to their, "god" to find out what was good. People recognized that they needed authority to inform them of what is right and wrong.  Well, interestingly enough, that is still true today.  It is simply that in America, to a great extent, we have unashamedly declared that our, "god" is self and the self's desires.  Desire trumps all other things.  If I desire it, it is good.

I know that in the past people have mocked the old adage, "if it feels good, do it."  But I am convinced we have reached new heights in our adoration of self.  No longer do we even hide the fact that we are stripping away any moral constraints given to us from outside of ourselves.  At least in the past we used to make rationalized arguments about why we were allowed to break the moral code; but no longer.  Now, from popular news organizations we simply make it clear, "I get to decide what is right and wrong for myself."

This will not end well.  It cannot.  Reality will have its say.  Or, better stated, God will have His say.  When Jesus stated in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..."  He wasn't being arrogant; He was speaking truth.  He is that which is true - He is truth personified.  So when He says in Matthew 19:5, "A man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one flesh - so they are no longer two, but one" He was not stating opinion. He was stating truth.  This is the truth of marriage.  When the Father spoke to Moses and said, "you shall not commit adultery" He was speaking truth. Therefore, even if it feels good, healthy, and exciting to cheat on your spouse and have multiple sexual partners, it is adultery, it is bad, and it is unhealthy.  Even if she agrees you ought to do it and she can do it to.  Simply because two people consent to break the rules does not for that reason change the rule.  It does not matter if you, "feel" the negative effects of immorality right away - God will have His say.  Truth will have its say.  It will not end well.  

But some people do not find mongamy pleasurable.  Some people do not find life-long marriage pleasurable.  So they fit to change it.  In the past, we used to make excuses for our adultery.  There were reasons why, "well in my case I had cause for my adultery..." The existence of the excuse was evidence that the conscience was not entirely seared; the adulterer thought up an excuse.  But now, no excuses are necessary.  We simply say, "marriage is not what the ancients taught...it can be something that I make up for myself..."

Marriage is not the only area. All throughout the landscape of our society we see the evidence of, "I am god..."  We get to decide what is moral and right in our schools, society, etc...But this will not end well.

Beloved, the Bible calls us all sinners.  What that means is that we have all failed - miserably.  This is why God gave us His Son - so that He could take our sins upon Himself and pay for them; and then rise from the grave to give us new life.  However, if we are not sinners - if adultery is no longer adultery - if we can simply change the rules to fit our sinful desires - who will repent?  Why will we repent?  If we are not wrong, if we get to make it up, then why change?  The Bible's beginning premise is no longer true - we are not sinners after all!  Who knew!

The evidence is in.  You and me making up morality does not benefit anyone; including ourselves.  Reality has its say.  Our over-sexualized culture has produced no good benefits.  Disintegrating families, children born without involved fathers, and 55 million abortions that have left the physical, emotional, and psychological toll inform us of this.  We cannot wish away moral constraint - it is built within us by the God who is - whether we want Him to be or not.

It is time we come face to face with the facts.  If we do not like the moral code, the problem is with us and our sin.  Come to terms with it.  We are wrong.  You are wrong.  I am wrong.  God is right.  His way is right.  His way is holy, good, and healthy.  If we do not like that which is objectively healthy  that is because we are in dis-health; or put another way - we are sinners.

But beloved, here is the good news.  God loves sinners.  He loves sinners so much that He sent Jesus to right our moral selves.  He healed us every place we were hurting or wrong.  He died to pay for our wrongheadedness and sinful selves; and He rose again to give new life.

Beloved, please do not try and rewrite the rules; they are etched in stone.  They cannot be changed.  Let us just admit we have gone awry of the stated rules - and seek forgiveness and restoration.

You friend,

Chris





Friday, November 4, 2016

Ok...my 2 cents about this election coming up...

I am highly passionate about politics.  I get into the nuts and bolts of policy and I really do believe that what is going to happen electorally on Tuesday November 8th will indeed have far-reaching consequences for every person in our country.  Yet, I have not done that much posting on Facebook about my political opinions and that which is my desire for the outcome of the upcoming election.  Around friends with whom I know that I disagree politically, I will absolutely have discussions and we can have very interesting conversations; yet I try to always halt the conversation before it gets heated; and I'll tell you why - I firmly believe that the Lord is far more important than what is going to happen on November 8th; and I am convinced that we are putting way too much importance on who will be stewarding our Federal government for the next 4 years and way too little importance on the God who not only stewards - but holds this entire creation together; and our lack of priority is corroding that which is very important - our relationships with one another.  

Let me try and explain.  I have been blessed in my Facebook friend list to have many Trump supporters and many Hillary supporters.  I find some of the articles posted interesting and I laugh at many of the political memes.  And, if that's all that was going on - people sharing their political thoughts and all, then what I am about to write would be unnecessary.  However, I see much more.

I see much of what people post - and a lot of it is downright hateful: And through this electoral season I have encountered people from both sides basically write something along the lines of, "I simply cannot be friends with anyone who would vote for _____."  I have seen some people simply astonished at those with whom they disagree.  "What!  You're one of them...."  I have seen friendships of years vanish publicly over differing political philosophies.  It is pitiful.

I have seen people become downright vicious with those whom they disagree.  I do not think I am alone in this - I believe you have seen it as well.  [On a side note - I think we have to keep in mind that we are not safe from enacting cruelty while we type behind our computers.  What we write behind our computers is read by someone else behind their's.  We need to keep that in mind before we post something...]

I decided at the beginning stages of this election to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 2:2, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  You see, I already know that He is the rock of offense; and if you are going to dislike me or unfriend me, I hope it is because of my adoration for Him; not my affinity for a political figure.  I yearn to be defined by my love for Jesus - not my love for a political party or a political candidate; because this is what I know - no matter who is elected on November 8th, this world is going to remain sinful and is desperately in need of the knowledge of the Savior.

That is not to say that I think that what happens with this election is unimportant.  I do not believe that.  I believe it is very important.  I simply do not believe it is of paramount importance; and my focus ought always to be on that which is paramount; perhaps better stated - He who is paramount.

Take a deep breathe and look at the nations of the world.  Find the nation that is sinless. [hint - there isn't one.]  Find the nation that has somehow found the secret to governing so well that ALL its people prosper. [Hint - there isn't one].

I know that many of my friends yearn for government as it was when we were founded.  Most of my friends that want that though...are not black.  I would not want to be black and live at the founding of our nation.  That would suck. Badly.

I know that many of my friends yearn for government to give, "rights" to more and more people.  Yet...a government that bestows rights - has control over those rights.  That is terrifying.  According to the Declaration of Indpendence, [of which my Bible agrees in this point] my rights are given to me by God - not government.  It is government's duty to protect rights - not bestow them.  Government needs to stop in the box given it by God.  An ever encroaching government is no good.  At all.

One of the things I find so impressive about Jesus is that when He physically walked the earth 2000 years ago, his political nation was under military occupation by an invading Pagan force.  Yet, in the Gospels, Jesus spends absolutely zero time talking about this political reality.  I truly believe I know why.  It wasn't worth His time.  You see, Rome today [the military force that occupied Israel at the time of Jesus] is simply a city in Italy today.  It is but a mere fleabite of what it once was.  Yet, the people that Jesus engaged with at that time are eternally enjoying heaven or eternally suffering in hell.  Cities fall.  Nations todder.  But people live forever.

Have you ever wondered why the greatest commandment - and the 2nd - are what they are?  For those of you that do not know them they can be found in Mark 12:30-31, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."  Do you want to know why these are the greatest commandments? The answer is actually quite simple - they deal with that which is eternal - God and your neighbor.

I do not want to lose friends over politics.  As a matter of fact, I can assuredly tell you that as long as you desire friendship - it will never end simply because of your political views.  I make that promise.
Beloved, I know a few things most assuredly:

1.  This world is sinful.  I am a part of this sinful world.  Therefore, I am part of the problem.  There is only one cure for it - and His name is Jesus.  I must strive to love Him.

2.  People are very important.  Love them.

One last impressive thing about Jesus.  He chose some interesting characters to be a part of His 12 Disciples.  Two that are pertinent to this blog post and impress me are Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector.  For those that are not familiar with Biblical history, a Zealot was an individual that was part of a faction of individuals at the time of Christ that wanted to overthrow the Romans - by any means necessary.  They were militaristic and violent.

Jewish Tax Collectors were hated by the regular Jewish layman at the time of Jesus.  They were traitors to their country in that they paid the Roman government for the, "privilege" of being a customs officer and taxing the Jews.  They would often take more than what was demanded of them by the Romans and enrich themselves on the backs of the poor Jews that were being oppressed.

Jesus could have chosen anyone to be His followers.  I smile when I think of the first night when Simon and Matthew are at the same table as Jesus' disciples.  Just a few days prior Simon would have wanted to kill Matthew and Matthew would have wanted to hand Simon over...but now - after an encounter with Jesus - they were on the same spiritual team.  That, my friends, is impressive.

I want to work on being that kind of guy.  I am far from it now.  But Lord, I pray I will get closer.  I will do my Christian duty and vote.  I will pray for the direction of this nation. I will most likely stay up late on election night watching the returns.  I am interested.  But Lord, let me not be too interested...

Your friend,

Chris 

Monday, July 18, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter #Hate #Love.

I have hesitated to write or blog about any of what has been happening in the news lately simply because so much has already been written and so much has already been said.  However, I thought that as a Christian and as a pastor it would be important for me to write down a couple of things.

The first thing I want to write about is:

#BlackLivesMatter

I am not here going to discuss any particular methods used by the powers that be in the movement, nor any possible extreme elements of the movement.  I am here going to simply discuss the words and philosophy behind many regular people who say, "black lives matter."

I think the best way to put this so that all people would understand the thinking behind the movement is this:  Everyone who knows me knows that I am Pro-Life.  I absolutely, unequivocally, unquestionably believe that human personhood begins at the conception of egg and sperm inside of a woman.  From the very first cell-division, personhood begins.  Therefore to take a pill to eradicate that conception, to physically go inside of a woman and eradicate this life, is to commit murder.  Therefore, I believe that over 54 million human beings in our country have been willfully murdered.  In this way, I absolutely believe that the powers that be in this country, the structures of our country, do not believe that babies lives matter.

Now, imagine me standing outside of a Planned Parenthood facility - a facility dedicated, in my mind, to infanticide.  Imagine me holding a sign that says, #BabiesLivesMatter.  You would get what I was saying.  I don't think anyone would say to me, "hey-are you trying to say that adults' lives don't matter?  Are you denying the importance of adults?"  No...people would get that I was staking out a position - that this is a place that does not care about babies.  This is a place that indiscriminately kills babies.  Therefore, to highlight that babies' lives do not matter here, I am making the statement that, "Babies matter."

In this way I see that many in the #AllLivesMatter movement and the #BlackLivesMatter movement are talking past each other.  They are not even having the same discussion.

I have many parishioners in the congregation of which I serve that are black.  I happen to live in a County in Maryland where the majority of people that live here are black.  I have spoken to many [not all] but many of the black parishioners I serve - and many of the black parishioners which I serve as their pastor expressed to me that they do not believe that their lives mattered to the powers that be in our society as much as other people's lives.  Many expressed that as far as law enforcement is concerned, as far as opportunity is concerned, as far as the structures of society are concerned, they do not feel as though their lives mattered as much as others.  The great majority in the Black Lives Matter movement are simply pointing to what they believe is their experience - and their experience is that they do not believe that they are treated equitably and fairly.

Now, this is either true or false.  Just as my above example of abortion being murder is true or false. If abortion is not murder, than I am saying Babies' lives matter and...well...no one is treating them as if they do not.  If Abortion is murder, then I need to highlight the infanticide under our nose, I need to work tirelessly to help mothers who are considering abortion to carry to term and value life, and I need to work tirelessly to educate people on the importance of babies.  I will continue to advocate that laws are passed that value human life.  I will not back down - because I believe that to back down would be to passively say that murder is ok.

The same goes with this movement.  If black people are treated by the powerful in our country as less valuable, then that absolutely, unequivocally needs to be addressed.  If it is false, then we need to address the falsehood head on.  I am not going answer the question whether this claim is true or false.  That is actually not the point of the post.  However, that is the real question being asked.  At the very least, let us have a discussion about the real question.  I am very tired of seeing people build very weak straw men and then easily knocking them down.  The question is not, "do all lives matter?"  The question is not, "do black lives matter more than other people's lives?"  Perhaps fringe people think that.  Perhaps people are co-opting the movement to say that.  However, I do not believe any reasonable person is trying to say that - on either side of the issue, I do not believe anyone is saying that.

However, this leads me to my calling as a Christian.  As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor as I love myself.  Remember it was our Lord that said in Luke 6:27-36, ""But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

With this in mind, if I knew that my neighbor thought that Christians were jerks who were judgy and mean, I would be compelled to go the extra mile with that neighbor to show, to the best of my ability, that I, as a Christian, love them.  If I know that they have a pre-conceived notion about me, I take extra care with them.  This is love.  If I know that my black friends and neighbors believe that they are being singled out and treated as if they are, "bad" off the bat, then for the love of God go the extra mile with them.  Tell them you love them.  Tell them you care about them.  Tell them that you cannot solve all of society's ills, but you can tell them that you love them and value them.

If I know that the police in my area are on edge and they feel attacked and hated by the community which they serve, I, as a Christian, believe it is my absolute duty to take greater care as I deal with them.  If I get pulled over, I answer, "yes officer" and "no officer" and give them the utmost respect.  When I see an officer I say, "thank you for your service."  I also have police officers in my own family, and I can say first hand that what they do is indispensable.  This is what is called being Christian - loving those who are hurting.  If I know you are hurting, I am called to be a person of care, not anger.

Beloved, we must remember that there are a great many people that make money off of our anger.  They need us to keep watching.  They want to make us angry because they believe that keeping us divided into groups and sub/groups will keep them in power.  Division is not the work of God - it is the work of the enemy.  Remember that.  Your anger gets them to have you in their grip, but it gets us no closer to Christ and our neighbor.

Please know that I am not here advocating for any government program or political persuasion.  I am writing as a Christian.  I serve a God who loves us so much that though we did not care about Him, though in thought, word, and deed we treated Him as if His life did not matter, He came down from heaven and became one of us.

I serve a God who became flesh and cast out demons, raised the dead, healed the sick, blind, and lame, and walked on water.  Take a close look at His life - He healed the Jew and the Genitle.  He ministered to the Samaritan and the Centurion.  Every single person - no matter what group - was accepted by Christ as they came to Him and believed on Him.

When I treated God as though His life did not matter, He treated me as though I was all that mattered.  That is what the cross is.  He died for my sin and He rose again to give me life.

Beloved, it is time to turn off the news and to love our neighbors - all of them.  Those that feel marginalized, please, go that extra mile.  Walk two with them.  Hear them.  And then give them Jesus Christ - He is better than any party or group or movement.  He is the Savior of the world.

Chris















Saturday, June 11, 2016

Seek to understand, not simply to be understood.

We are constantly asking people to understand us.  "Take a walk in my shoes and then you will know why I do what I do."  "If you would understand my issues, you would understand why I do what I do."

The desire to be understood runs deep.  Everyone wants to be listened to, heard, and understood.  And honestly sharing our pain, our troubles, our idiosyncrasies, etc...is not a bad thing.  I actually believe it is good.  However, I have come to a conclusion - we as people are always asking people to understand us and we rarely take the time to understand others.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as our self.  We want to be understood - so we ought to seek to understand.  You want us to understand how difficult it is for you due to your PTSD to keep appointments.  Your disorder is why you do not call when you miss an appointment, why you are late, and you cannot find the strength sometimes to even get out of the house.  Got it.  I will seek to understand.  I will empathize and forgive.  I will be a listening ear.  However, you too now must understand how frustrating and disappointing it is when people depend on you and you break appointments.  You now must understand why people no longer depend on you.  People no longer depend on you because you are undependable.  I know why you are undependable; but I have learned the lesson to simply not depend on you.

You want us to understand how frustrating it is to be sick.  You are right.  As healthy, we do need to try to understand how one must feel when one is sick.  We are called to have patience, tact, and understanding.  I will attempt to ignore the sighs, the bad moods, and the complaining.  However, now you need to try and understand how hard it must be to deal with someone in a bad mood who has become hyper-demanding because their life has become their illness.  Now understand how becoming a maid/cook/breadwinner while also being a nurse is exhausting.

As a pastor I have gone into the room of a sick patient where they lament that their loved one simply does not understand the pain/guilt/and strain they are going through.  Their loved one, they say, acts as if caring for them is a burden.  I pray with them and minister to them.   I then leave that room after praying with them to encounter that loved one crying because their sick loved one simply does not understand how hard it is to deal with their bad moods, demanding attitude, and unappealing nature.  I pray with them.  I minister to them.

Both parties have legitimate gripes.  Neither party seeks to understand the other but instead they keep wishing the other would understand them - neither party is happy.

We live in a culture where everyone has a megaphone and they are screaming, "understand me!  Understand me!  Understand me!"  Yet - since everyone has their own megaphone and everyone is screaming, "Understand me!" there is no one left to understand; everyone is too busy trying to be understood.

I know of that which I speak.  I have gone through painful experiences in my life - we all have.  I can assuredly tell you that it was of great comfort when people approached me and legitimately said, "I understand what you are going through...I am here for you..."  That was huge.  That was huge when Beth had a miscarriage.  That was huge when our child went through surgery.  That was huge when my father died.

I want to be that kind of a person - the kind of person that goes up to people and says, "hey...I understand...let me help you..."  But that is the kind of person whose focus is not on themselves - that is the kind of person that seeks to love - not to be loved.

Folks, we all have issues.  We all have problems.  We - you and me - need to stop demanding that everyone bow to our issues and instead begin bowing to theirs.  It is the key to joy.  Getting outside of ourselves and investing in other people is the key.

We have a Savior that was at total peace.  He was assured of love from the Father and was filled with that love and poured it out into other people.

My prayer is to be filled with His love so that I can love.  Amen.





Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why I am giving up facebook for Lent...

Well, today is Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent in the church calendar.  It is a time of self-reflection and it is a time of fasting in preparation for the victory of Easter.  And today marks the very first time I have ever specifically, "given up" anything for Lent.

You see, I am of the opinion that if God is telling you through the Word or conscience that a particular behavior, activity, or some other thing is outside the boundaries of God's desires for us, then we ought not wait for a season of the church year.  So, deal with it straight away whether it is the Christmas, Easter, Advent, Pentecost, or Epiphany seasons....

But it hit me like a ton of bricks today.  Facebook has lately done me no good.  You see, as a church we have a Facebook account.  I often blog on Facebook.  I have read good articles and kept up with friends on Facebook.  Therefore, please do not read this as if I think that Facebook is bad - I most certainly do not.  Facebook is a tool - and I would say a good one at that.

However, as of late, Facebook has been an impediment to my peace and joy.  Let me explain.

I have many friends with wide diverse opinions on a great many things.  This is good and healthy.  However, as of late their differing opinions on politics, religion, morality, etc...has gotten to me internally.  I have caught myself feeling and thinking, "ugh..."  More times than not, I have left trolling on Facebook feeling pained and irritated.

Worse than that, my wife will be sitting on the couch three feet from me and I will be trolling Facebook feeling irritated when the woman God has given as my best friend and helpmate sits just three feet away.

So, there you go - Facebook is not evil or bad - but I have been letting it get to me in a bad way.  Therefore, Lord, I repent.  And to help me get things back in check I will be fasting Facebook for the season of Lent.

I am telling you this simply to let you know so you'll know why I might not be commenting or messaging back on Facebook - but also to let you know that we pastors too need to focus on repentance just like everyone else.  When things get outta wack, we need adjustment.

Thank you Lord for your grace - and see you at Easter!

Your friend,

Chris Ogne

Monday, February 8, 2016

Cam Newton

1st Timothy 5:1-3

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers,  older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.  Honor widows who are truly widows.

I don't know why it hit me so, but I am going to be honest - my heart goes out to Cam Newton.  I know...you were probably expecting something different - but honestly, it does.

Here is the thing.  I respect people that are constantly thrown into the media spotlight.  I truly do.  I cannot imagine having so much of my life on public display.  I imagine the work, the effort, the late nights, and all the preparation that goes into being on a Super Bowl team.  I also imagine the emotions after a loss.  So...I just think we ought to give the guy some grace.

And just so you know, I was rooting for the Denver Broncos.  I, like many others, wanted to see the great Peyton Manning go out with a win. [That is, if he is going out...]  Yet, I really do think people are being extremely hard on Cam.  And yes, I think I know why - he's a showboat.  He jumps up after every two yard gain and gets excited.  As the saying goes, "if you can act like that when you win...you need to know how to lose..."  And, to be honest, I agree.  This entire experience, I am sure, will teach him just that - how to be a gracious loser.  But I think I am going to let God do that to Cam; I am not so sure he needs me to rub his nose in it.  I am not so sure he needs the media to rub his nose in it either.  Nothing is more embarrassing than having to deal with yourself the day after you acted foolishly.  I am sure that is what is going on.  He regrets his behavior.

Brothers and sisters, have you and I ever acted foolishly in high tension situations?  Have we ever allowed emotion to get the better of us?  Have we ever been ashamed of how we emotionally reacted to any given situation?  My goodness, I have later regretted how I let a dumb board game affect me!  A board game is not to be compared with the pressure and tension of the most anticipated sports event on the planet.  Can you imagine if in those high tension situations we had cameras in our face and we were being peppered with questions?  My goodness, I can barely contain myself sometimes when I see the political meme's on facebook and I want to comment on every one of them!

I am a Detroit Lions fan.  Two of the most amazing Lions players are Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.  Both of these men are quiet, let their play be seen on the field, and exhibit nothing but humility and sportsmanship.  I always remember Barry Sanders scoring touchdowns and then simply flipping the ball to the ref.  He always acted like he had been there before.  That was awesome.  Calvin Johnson has that same kind of sportsmanship.

Yet, we also drafted and until this year had the man I dub discount double-step [for stepping on Aaron Rodgers] - Ndamukong Suh - on our football team.  He often acted foolishly both on and off the field.  Yet, because he was on the team I loved I often gave him grace.  Even when he said in his famous press conference, "the man upstairs knows!" in reference to his now infamous stomp on the Packer lineman.  I can remember thinking, "yes...Ndamukong...the man upstairs does know...and so do we...it's on video tape..."  Yet - I still rooted for the guy - because he was on my team.

I guess my point is this - as Christians we're to treat the young men like brothers.  The guys we like - the guys on our team - we stand ready to give grace too.  I think we ought to do it to the guys we do not like too.  Someone pretty important said, [that would be Jesus], "if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Sinners love those who love them..."  As Christians I simply think we ought to give people in the public eye more grace - especially when they are acting out of emotion.

It is a good lesson to our kids to show them and say, "hey...be a good sport - this is what it looks like when we are not..."  But I also think it is a good lesson for our kids when we say, "hey...we all get worked up - and he was just sad and frustrated...let's give the guy a break..."

Just my two cents.

God bless,

Chris Ogne