Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Christians...we truly need to know our Christianity better...transgenderism, overeating, and a whole lot more...

Dear Christians:

As a Christian I am attempting to write to you as brothers and sisters.  It is not about arrogance, but out of love that I write.  We need to know our Christianity better than we do.  Our failure to truly understand our Christianity is hurting countless people in the trajectory of our lives.  If you are able, please read this blog.  It is long, but I really believe it is important. 

This blog contains two main points that at the surface all Christians accept and know; and yet I am so saddened that we fail to apply these principles to our daily lives and apply it to the lives we deal with every single day.  These two principles should help us understand ourselves and the world we live in and the people we deal with.  Here are the principles:

*  I am a sinner from conception to death. 

*  Jesus Christ died and rose again to save sinners.

I know, I know.  You know this.  I know this.  We say it all the time with phrases like, "we're all sinners." or, "we all need some Jesus!"  Yet, I am convinced we fail to take these two principles and apply them in a meaningful depth in our lives. 

Let me write about me first.  I have struggled with my appetite my entire life.  I am not kidding.  It is a life-long struggle.  I have yoyo'd in diets since I can remember.  My goodness, my mom tells me the story as an infant I was simply insatiable and that I would not shut up unless I got that, "2nd bottle."  As long as I can remember, I have always desired more food than my body needs. 

When I write this, people without this problem really do not understand.  It would be impossible.  I know many people who eat because they are hungry.  When they are no longer hungry, they stop eating.  They are, what I would consider, mentally and psychologically healthy as it comes to the topic of food and food consumption.  Their, "food desire" is within a healthy range.

Yet, my desires are not right.  I know this.  I know that I ought to restrain my desire for food.  This is called, "self-control."  I have an unhealthy relationship with food.  People have asked me, "well, do you have a strong desire eat to find comfort?  Do you eat food when you are sad?  Happy?  Bored?  Depressed?  Stressed?  Relaxed?"  My answer to these questions are, "yes."  I am done with breakfast and I think about what I am going to have for lunch.  I am done for lunch and I think about dinner.  I am done with dinner and I think about making it until breakfast.  My thought patterns concerning food are unhealthy and wrong.  Tada - I am a sinner.  You see, sin is not simply, "the wrong stuff I do" but it is a core psychological, physical, and spiritual disease whereby many of my desires are not right, good, or holy.  The Apostle Paul admitted the same when he says in Romans 7:15-17, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." 

Sin is real.  I was infected with this spiritual disease at conception.  Like I inherited my hairline and my cool looking stubby toes from my parents, I also inherited my spiritual disease called sin.  Sin is the desire to do that which is wrong, bad, and harmful. 

To get a better handle on this, I want to make myself perfectly clear.  If I allowed my desire for food to have its full course, I would easily be housebound within a year or two.  Easily.  If food is presented to me, even after I have eaten, I still want the food.  It takes effort  to say, "no."  I do not believe this is the same for healthy eaters.  [And by healthy here I do not mean the types of food chosen, I mean healthy as in their relationship with food]. 

So what am I to do?  I will tell you what I do.  I fight.  Daily.  I know that nothing good lives in my sinful nature; therefore I know that my gluttonous desires are not good.  I repent daily about them - and then I apply the 2nd principle, "Jesus Christ died for sinners."  Jesus died for my unhealthy eating desires - all of them.  He died for all my unhealthy desires - every last one of them.  And I receive that forgiveness.  I rejoice in that forgiveness.  I am holy in God's sight through that forgiveness. And then I try again to eat correctly.  Every. Single. Day. 

Now, how does this relate to other things?  Well, I recently read a post on facebook from a young lady that desired to, "come out" as transgendered.  In the post she lamented about the judgmental Christians that would reject her [she is heavily involved in church related activities].  [I also want to say, to stop the gossip train, I am not here writing about anyone in the congregation I serve.] 

Now, in the post she wrote that she was no longer going to, "reject the way God made me.  He made me this way.  I am a boy."  Yet, a few sentences later she admitted she was taking hormone therapy and was looking forward to, "cutting off the milk machines" that she has.  Do we see the sad disconnect here?  If God, "made you" with the desires and attendant feelings of a boy...did God not also make you with the hormones you have and the milk machines?  Are you attempting to say that God made the internal you but not the biological you?  [Do not read judgment or sarcasm here - it is not present.  I am asking a legitimate question]  She is not applying the first principle to herself; and therefore cannot avail herself of the 2nd principle. 

As a reminder, the first principle is simple - we are sinners from conception to death.  Your chromosomes are the chromosomes of a female.  You are biologically a female.  You. are. a. Female.  Yet, and this is important, I totally believe you that you are super-uncomfortable with that reality.  I totally believe you that you feel like, "a boy."  I do not deny this at all.  I affirm this is how you feel and I affirm that you have a legitimate desire to be seen as a boy.  I simply know beyond a doubt that these desires are sinful. Just as sinful as a ton of my desires.

I have a ton of lustful, angry, hateful, prideful, boastful, desires that are not good.  They come naturally.  I don't want them but they're there.  All the time.  And I repent every single day for having them.  Every day. 

One of the biggest problems we as Christians are having is this - apply the principle that we are sinners to our everyday lives.  We. All.  Suck.  That is why we need a Savior.  This is what Paul said when he writes in Romans 7:24-25, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

We need Jesus to make a, "new us" and redeem us through His death and resurrection.  Praise God He has given me Jesus to make me new. 

Yet, while still in this realm I struggle with the old me; and that old me needs to be constantly drowned through repentance and forgiveness. 

I cannot help but wonder the damage we are doing to people.  We are telling them, "your sin isn't sin - it's perfectly good" when it is not.  Or we are telling them, "ooohhh...you're so gross and your desires are sooooo much worse than mine" when they aren't.  You stink too. 

To put this in perspective, let me apply this to me again.  What friend, being a good friend, would ever say to me, "dude...your desire and relationship with food is fine.  Just eat whatever the heck you want and you'll be good.  God made you with those desires - eat away!  We'll just keep re-tailoring those pants!"  No good friend would do this.  A good friend asks if they can help - they don't nag me - but they don't affirm bad habits either. 

We are doing no one any favors when we affirm sin.  Ever.  We are also doing no one any favors by totem poling their sin, as if our crap did not stink. 

The two principles at work here are important

*  I am a sinner from conception to death

*  Jesus Christ died and rose again to save sinners

So, final question.  If I am a sinner, how can I know what desires are good and what desires are broken?  Ah, I am glad you asked.  God wrote it down for us.  It is all found in His Holy Word.  The Word of God is the means by which the Holy Spirit reveals to us truth.  Those that say, "yeah...but it can be interpreted so many ways!" have never really read it.  Most of the people using that argument are simply regurgitating what they heard someone else say.  Sin is clear.  Righteousness is clear.  We are simply uncomfortable with the first principle.

Beloved, let us apply these two principles to our life.  Let us admit we are sinners and then rejoice in being forgiven by the blood of Jesus.  It will help us - and others - a lot.

Your Friend,

Chris









Friday, May 18, 2018

Another School shooting, a hotel shooting, and spying scandals.

Greetings friends.  As I write this blog today there are three headlines that caught my eye.

The first is that today there is another school shooting in Santa Fe Texas.  As of this writing the public has been told that there are eight people who have been killed and the shooter is in custody.

Also at this writing a Florida man opened fire in a Trump hotel and was shot in the legs by police officers.

Also at this writing there are two counter-narratives in the political news.  The one states that one or more FBI agents were planted in the Trump campaign in 2016 as a counter-intelligence matter because some in the campaign were acting mischievously with a foreign government and they needed to gather information on this; the other narrative is that the former administration was spying on a political rival thereby criminally using government agencies to spy on political enemies.

What do all these events have in common?  Just hear me out.

I was reading the book of Philippians the other day and something I read jumped off the page.  I have read that small book countless times; yet these words hit me directly in my head and heart - and they have remained there for over a week.  The reading comes from Philippians 3:18-19

"For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."

How does this Scripture relate to the three events described above?  Because in all three instances people are focused on the things of this world.  Why kill people in a school?  Why shoot guns in a hotel?  Why either spy on opponents or illegally conspire with foreign agents?  The answer is actually quite simple - your mind is on earthly things.  You may kill because you have lost hope.  Why have you lost hope?  Because your hopes lie here.  You spy illegally because your hope lies here.  You collude because your hopes lie here.   Bottom line is this - sin, grievous sin, occurs because people's hopes and dreams lie in a dying world.  And that is sad; very sad.

Only a person who truly has not grasped eternity would be willing to sell their soul to gain the world.  Only a person who truly has not grasped eternity would be willing to kill their neighbor without thought to the next world.

The longer I live in this world the more I see how crooked and perverse this place truly is.  Yet, this fact does not depress me.  It saddens me.  It moves me to action.  But it does not depress me.  It does not depress me because I know one immutable truth - this place is not my home.  This place does not hold my hope.  This place does not hold my future.  This place is a dead world that will eventually be completely destroyed.  The Apostle Paul says it in Philippians 3:20-21

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

My home, and the home of every believer in Jesus, is heavenly glory.  We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth - that is our home of righteousness.  So beloved, you and I do not need to get caught up in the hate, fear, cruelty, or dissension of this world.  This world is dying.  We knew that yesterday.  We know it today.  It will be further into its death spiral tomorrow.  Hear me if you have never heard me before - if you believe in Jesus Christ this world is not your home.  We are only passing through.

And those who do not believe?  What, in tears, does the Apostle say?

Their end is destruction.  Their god is their belly.  They glory in their shame.

Let us take the third sentence first.  They honor what is shameful.  Is Jesus not a punchline for this atheistic world?  Is blasphemy not regular?  Is that which is dishonorable uplifted by this culture and that which is good mocked and scorned?  The answer is yes.

What does the Apostle mean when he says, "their god is their belly?"  Are they worshiping their stomachs?  No.  Whether people in this world like to admit it or not, everyone has a god.  More often than not in America our god is the self.  We worship the self.  And the Apostle admits that at his time this was often the case as well.  He says, "their god is their belly."  What he means is that their varied appetites are what they live their lives to please.  Jesus taught the Kingdom of God; this world teaches the Kingdom of desire.  Back in the 60's the world taught, "if it feels good, do it."  Today the world teaches, "if it feels good, it is right.  And if anyone tells you that the way you feel is not right, they are horrible bigots and judgmental jerks."  Our god has become our feelings; and my goodness if our feelings do not constantly change.  When we make our desires our god my goodness it is such a difficult idol to please.  Our desires are constantly shifting, our feelings constantly changing, therefore our actions to please those desires shifting as well.

And finally the Apostle says, "their end is destruction."  Whether we like it or not the Bible is very clear on those who do not believe in the Lord.  The words of Jesus in John 5:28-29, "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."  It is Jesus Himself that says hell is, "eternal punishment." [Matthew 25:46]

So what should be our attitude as Christians as we face a world filled with pain, death, lies, and corruption?  Well it ought not be that we cloister ourselves away.  It ought not be fear.  It ought not be to throw our lot in with the world.  What should we do?

Beloved, tell of the love of Jesus to this dying world.  He is the one true hope.  Imagine if that person who shot eight dead knew there was a person who defeated death who truly loves Him?  Imagine if that person in Florida knew that their hopes were not dashed by one man?  Imagine if, whichever narrative is true, those involved in corruption at the highest level knew that there are no such things as secrets - that they themselves will know and the Lord will know whatever they do?  And then imagine if they simply said to themselves, "I will focus on the two things eternal - God and others."  This can only happen if they know the Lord Jesus Christ, and I quote the Apostle Paul again in Romans 10:14, "How can they know if no one preaches to them?"

So beloved, as you hear all the bad news coming through the news today, remember this - Jesus has already died; and Jesus has already risen again. He rose again and secured everlasting life to all who trust in Him.  Therefore be free of the fear of this world and let us spend our time spreading the hope of Christ to a dying world.  We ought never be satisfied, as much as we can help it, that there are people we know whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetites, and their glory is in shame.  Instead let us share the true God - so their end will be heaven, their God will be the true God, and their glory will be in their salvation in Christ.

Amen.

Your friend,

Chris



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The school shooting today and our fears...

Greetings.

So, I wanted to take a moment as a Christian, a friend, and a parent of a child in a local middle school to talk about how we might process this local school shooting and those like it.

First and foremost, I have personally prayed - and I ask any reader of this to do the same - for the victims, the families, and all those involved in the shooting today at Great Mills in St. Mary's County.  I believe our God is mighty and hears the prayers of His people.  He can bring comfort where there is only fear and anxiety. 

Next, I want us to take a step back.  I want us to seriously ask a question - seriously now - what kind of world do you believe that we inhabit?  What I mean by this is do you believe we inhabit a good world or a wicked one?  Because this is what I believe - I believe we live in a world that was created perfect, but then was changed by humanity's disobedience into something evil.  I believe that we human beings are sinful now in our very nature.  I believe that this world is so evil that God is going to completely destroy this place and build anew.  I am not alone in this - Christians have believed and confessed this for millenia.  Yet, while we confess it is true, sadly, we rarely apply this truth to our personal lives.

So if you have not before, apply this truth.  Come to this reality beloved - we live, work, play, and do all of our socialization in a sinful world.  Jesus Himself calls Satan the, "prince of this world." [John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11] We live in a world where death, disease, sickness, murder, greed, etc...are prevalent.  When I write that we live in a, "sinful" world, too many Christians think this to be a vague, ethereal statement.  It is not meant in such a fashion.  We live in a world where murders occur, where rape occurs, where violence, death, disease, hate, and anger all are real and have real-world consequences.  This was true yesterday as much as it is true today.  Yet, for many in my area today that world has hit home - as there was a local student who turned a gun on their classmate(s).

Because of the reality hitting home today, I wanted to discuss this reality; and then discuss how we ought not react to this.  We ought not react in fear.  Death is a reality for each and every one of us.  We will all die.  We know not how, we know not when, but we did know that we will.  

I understand that at first this is not comforting; but rightly understood beloved it is.  We spend so much time trying to prevent and protect from that which is going to happen. If you and I are Christians, let me say this clearly - living in fear is not only wrong, it is a part of the problem of this world.  You and me, above all people, need to be people of hope.  If we are not people of hope, we become reclusive, ineffective, and unloving.  You and I cannot react to this world in fear - no matter how bad this place gets.   When we act in fear we stop reaching out and we reach only in.  When we act in fear we almost universally pull away from our society instead of engaging in our society. And that my friends is precisely what the devil wants - Christians to disengage.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors; and he wrote something back in the mid 20th century about living in an atomic age that I find very refreshing.  He writes:

"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."

"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."


This is amazingly refreshing.  It faces reality head on and understands the world in which we live.  If you are a Christian you believe in a Jesus that rose from the dead.  Death is not the end of the story.  We have eternal life right now and we will rise again as well.  This is not to say that we take unhealthy risks; but it is to say that we live life - and live it to the fullest.  If the threat of death and the threat of pain stifles you from doing what God would have you do - then repent.  Yes, hug your children.  Yes, as parents protect your children.  But for goodness sake, do not be deluded into believing you can protect your children from death.  That is a lie.  They will die.  We know not when.  We know not how.  But it will happen.  So beloved - teach, pray, work, love, give compassion and aid, read, listen to music, go to the cinema, and live life.  Do not cower in fear.  We have a Jesus that rose from the grave - and tragic events like today make me want to live for Him more - not less.  

Your friend,

Chris

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Social Media Bullies and what to do with them...

Just this past week a good friend of mine posted something she was excited about.  It was not controversial in my book; she was excited about what she was doing and posted to her friends.  Her post went much further than she ever dreamed, and many people read her post.  While the great majority of responses were positive, a few loud, harsh, critics on-line were cruel to her.  It caused her great distress and even caused her sleepless nights.

Just a little while later, someone publicly maligned the church I pastor on-line.  I do not even know the person who did it, I had never met them and, as far as I know, they never entered the church building.  Yet, they had strong opinions about the church.  And those opinions were not so nice...

In addition, the past two months of Youth Nights at our congregation have focused on how to live life as a faithful christian on social media. 

Putting all of these events together, I thought it fitting to write a short blog about how we behave on-line. 

Social Media allows us to do things that we never had the ability to do in the past.  We can share our experiences and share our opinions with a wide array of people that we do not know.  We can network with people with like interests and argue with people with whom we disagree.  Often however I think we forget that when we post opinions there are actual living, breathing, human beings that read what we write.  We type on a computer and forget that the person on the other end reading what we type is also a person. 

Jesus taught a very simple rule; it was reiterated by the Apostle Paul and we are told the entire Law and the Prophets are summed up in one little phrase, "love your neighbor as yourself."  Ah, if we could only live the rule...

So here are a few basic rules that I believe appropriate:

If you have a problem with a person, the first step is to take up that issue with the person personally and without involving a large swath of the public.  This is basic and follows the prescription of the commandment, "do not bear false witness."  We are to speak well of our neighbor and build him/her up, not tear him/her down.  Would you like it if someone who disagreed with you approached you privately?  Me too.  So...do that. 

Also, if you have something negative to say to someone, and you know them personally, almost never put the negative comment in a text or e-mail.  Approach them.  If possible, deal with them face to face.  At the very least, make a phone call.  Being able to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions, and the added reality of seeing another human being will often change the interaction.  9 times out of 10 you will not want to confront them with your issue.  If you do not want to confront them in, "live time" then it is not worth confronting on-line. 

Please remember that your Christianity does not end on-line; it is heightened.  Many eyes see what you write, what you post, what you are interested in, etc...  Please remember that.

Now, a few basic rules for those that post publicly:

If you post something publicly, you must expect people to respond.  Some people will respond negatively.  Some people will be mean.  We must remember that some people do not possess the Holy Spirit and as such we cannot expect people that are void of the Spirit of God to behave as if they had Him.  Therefore, if you post something, I believe that ought to come with an expectation that people respond.  And, some of the people that respond will be jerks.  Jerks exist.  We've all been one before.  They are out there. 

As Christians we know this world is full of evil people who do evil things.  We were once stuck in sin and indeed we still find ourselves being sinful.  Remember that.  We need to be people who give grace when we are treated poorly; for we worship a Savior that uttered the words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 

Paul's advice in Romans 12 is appropriate in person and online, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yoursleves, 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." 

It is that last line that always gets me personally, "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 

The temptation when attacked is to attack or to run.  Both of these responses are poor ones.  When attacked, bless.  When cursed, pray.  When cruelly spoken of, give a blessing.  If you actually do these things let me tell you what happens - inevitably peace ensues; because you have given that person over to God.

In addition, if what you write on-line you believe is holy, good, and true then no amount of criticism should shake us. [I know it often does, but when it does ask for forgiveness for your weakness and keep it moving.] We need to remember that we exist ultimately to please but three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

My advice to anyone who is attacked on-line is this: respond with blessing.  They may continue to curse you but here is the blessing in that - when you are publicly maligned and you publicly respond with blessing, that too is seen.  Everyone sees what that person is doing - and everyone sees how we respond. 

We are in love with Jesus because in the face of the great evil of humanity, He showed love.  If we trust in Him, we are of Him; and if we are of Him, we ought to behave like Him. 

Brothers and sisters, love.  That is all. 

Your friend,

Chris Ogne

  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jerusalem, North Korea, Iran, terrorism, and what are we to do with all of this?

Greetings!

I have been prompted to write this based upon some recent events in the news, and my hope is that it will be a word of encouragement to my brothers and sisters in Christ.  

A lot has been going on in the world.  If you look at or read the news it seems like we are under a constant threat of annihilation.  It could be a missile from North Korea.  It could be nuclear material from Iran.  It could be an act of terrorism.  Is the move of our embassy to Jerusalem going to spark off another holy war?  It seems that with every waking moment our society is more and more torn at the seams.  What are we to do with all this??

Well, the first thing we are NOT to do is fear.  Nor are we to act out of fear.  If you know me personally, than you know that my favorite author [outside Biblical ones] is C.S. Lewis.  I have read his theological material and believe him to be brilliant.  [I do not agree with all his conclusions, but I find his philosophy magnificent.] He wrote a little article entitled, "On Living In An Atomic Age."  Please remember that Lewis died in the 60's; therefore the threat that was getting people all worked up was the Nuclear threat.  He writes:


"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in  an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenthcentury when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."



"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

The first great point about all this is simple - what are we afraid of?  Death?  That was certainly going to happen regardless of any current event.  A great majority of us are going to die painful ones at that.  

The 2nd point made is that this is nothing new.  Are we so void of historical knowledge that we do not know that 25-60% of London was killed by the plague?  As Lewis aptly puts, "a microbe can do that..."  

Death is a reality.  Societal problems are a reality.  Terrible things happening are a reality.  Post Eden this has never, nor will it ever, [until the end of the age], change.  Sin is real. It has real effects.  And those effects are really bad.   

Yet, as Christians we are to be the ones with the most hope; but sadly so many of us have a, "the sky is falling!" mentality to life.  And that is the main point of Lewis' article that resonates so much with me.  We are allowing all the bad possibilities to, "dominate our minds."  And that which dominates our mind will dictate our actions.  If we are so afraid of our neighbors that we never engage them with love and the Gospel, than the devil has won.  If we are so absorbed by the possibilities of the end that we never actually live in love in the present than the enemy has won.  

What I am calling us to is a simple understanding.  


  • This world is sinful.  Bad stuff - really bad stuff - is going to happen.      
  • Because we are sinful, we will die.  No bomb shelter, amount of money, medicine,        etc...is going to change that. 
  • Jesus came to this world to save sinners. 
  • He died to pay for my sins and the sins of the whole world. 
  • If you believe in Him you are saved from hell, death, and the devil.  You are still here on this earth to be His ambassadors to this sinful, dying, world. 
  • If we are all caught up and afraid about the sin and dying, we suck as an ambassador to this sinful, dying world.  If we are worried about ourselves we are not that good at  helping others. 
  • Remember this - Jesus did not just die; He rose again.  What that means is that death  has lost its sting.  Yes, we will die.  But a much greater yes is this - we will rise again.    No matter what this world throws at us, it cannot defeat Jesus.  He already defeated it.  

So yes people, really bad stuff is going to happen.  Guaranteed.  We, as Christ's ambassadors, need to be doing the stuff He called us to do - being neighbors in the midst of this sinful, dying world.  When terror comes to us, which it will, let it find us boldly loving, not cowering in fear.  Let it find us laughing because we have already won.  Let it find us having a good time with friends, because we are looking forward to glory.  Of all people, in all places, at all times, the Christian should be confident.  

Your friend,

Chris

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