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Why the Attack on Clemson Football Coach Exposes the Double Standard of Anti-Religious Movement

April 17, 2014

On the commute to my office this morning, I was listening to ESPN radio, as I often do.  Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) is filling in for Colin Cowherd today and discussing the activity of the Freedom From Religion Foundation that has filed a complaint and called for the firing of Dabo Swinney, the Clemson Football Coach, over allegations that he has forced his religion upon players.  Coach Swinney has apparently distributed Bibles, encouraged prayer and devotion exercises, and even baptized a player.  The FFRF claims that his actions are a violation of Church and State given that Clemson is a public institution.

So go ahead and do it.  Tell him that he cannot involve his students with certain religious activities and conversations.  That’s fine.  As an evangelical pastor and a follower of Jesus I can be fine with that IF YOU SHOW SOME CONSISTENCY BY CALLING OFF ATHEIST PROFESSORS WHO PREY ON CHRISTIAN STUDENTS.  Jorge Sedano’s “take” is that you can’t push religion on these “kids” as a football coach who is the “gateway to your future.”  Well, Sedano, what do you think is happening every day to Christian students who enter the class of an atheist professor?  Atheism is a take on religion, isn’t it?  It makes a claim about God and a philosophical viewpoint of the world.  Are professors not also gatekeepers to a student’s future?  Do they not also have power over their students?  As a pastor, I have seen scores of students launched out of our church to attend a university only to be inundated with atheistic or anti-religious beliefs by professors.  They distribute atheistic material to these students (just like Coach Swinney distributes Bibles) and they make a joke out of people of faith.  What a DOUBLE STANDARD!

Some will say that college is a place to explore worldviews and to be challenged.  It’s a place for a free flow of ideas, therefore the atheist professor is covered by academic freedom.  Then we must say the that the same is true for Coach Swinney.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can either tell Coach Swinney and others like him that they cannot use their position to influence people toward faith, and then do the same with atheism, or both must be free to express their views.  I’m not asking for Christianity to be given the freedom to violate anyone’s conscience.  I am, however, asking for consistency.

Why Selfies Make You Hate Yourself

March 20, 2014

A study by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reveals that selfies are responsible for a rise in plastic surgery.   If you don’t know, a selfie is a picture taken of one’s self using a phone.  Apparently, selfies have resulted in leading many people to criticize their appearance to a greater extent, which has led to more plastic surgery.

How do you see yourself?  I’m not talking about your physical appearance alone.  I’m talking about how you see the entirety of your life – your attitudes, priorities, relationships, behaviors, and soul.  This is an important determiner for each of us concerning how we live our lives.  For Christians, it is especially important because the Bible has much to say on the topic.  Here are a few thoughts about self knowledge.

(1)  We all have blind spots (Psalm 139:6; Matt. 5:3-7; James 1:23-24).  There are things you don’t see or know about yourself.  Physically, you have never seen your own face directly with your eyes because the placement of your eyes won’t let you.  You and I are limited to know ourselves just as easily spiritually and emotionally.

(2)  Other people can harm our view of ourselves (James 3:1-12).  Toxic and ugly words flung by injured people can infiltrate our minds and blur the foundational worth we have of being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27).

(3)  Other people can help us come to see the truths that escape our own sight.  A person who loves you and can speak the truth (Eph. 4:15) can help you come to know your self better.  Accountability and soul-reflection are universally needed.  Blind spots hurt us.  They keep us in destructive patterns.  But exposing the truth (Eph. 5:13), as difficult as that can be, sets us free.

(4) The Christian gains self-knowledge in Christ (find the phrase “in Christ” throughout the NT).  Christ reveals three things about us.  First, Christ reveals the truth of our sin by exposing it on the cross.  Destructive blind spots are revealed and our denial is challenged.  Second, Christ reveals our worth to God through His gracious love that cannot be stopped by our sin.  Third, Christ reveals wisdom about the best way to live, in that He shows us the goodness of a selfless life.  The example of Jesus is the wisdom of God right before our eyes.

The Myth of a Pastor

November 25, 2013

Also published on http://www.ronedmondson.com/2013/11/the-myth-of-a-pastor.html

Leprechauns, the Yeti, vampires, and the American pastor have one thing in common.  They are all subjects of mythology.  A rich folklore exists for each of them.  However, the pastor is the only one being smothered by myth.  Why?  Because only pastors are real, and only pastors are dying by trying to live up to the myth that surrounds them.

If you are a pastor, you need to be aware that your church has built a narrative about you that you can never live up to.  It’s not completely your fault, although you are probably contributing to it.  The myth was well and alive before you ever arrived on the scene.  The focus of this myth is that you are hardly human.  Here are a few possible myths:

  1. You can meet needs without having needs.  Your calling is to empty yourself in the lives of others, but very little room exists for you to be lonely, hurt, insecure, tempted, and needy.
  2. You are the perfect family member.  Your marriage should be strong at all times.  You are to be a parent like Ozzie Nelson not Ozzie Osbourne.
  3. If you happen to struggle, make sure it’s with something minor and in the past.  The myth would love to state that you never struggle, but if you must struggle, it needs to be with something harmless.  Certainly depression, lust, addiction, and broken relationships are off the list of viable options unless they occurred years ago and have been triumphantly defeated.
  4. Your spiritual life constantly sizzles.  You have a special “line” to God.  Your moral life has no failures, and you always “feel” close to God.
  5. You live up to your sermons.  Every preacher must decide whether to preach up to God’s standards or down to his own life ability.  Many people who hear you think there is no difference.
  6. You are excellent at all of the various aspects of ministry.  You’re an introvert that can study like a scholar.  At the same time, you are an extrovert like a cruise director.  You must be funny and stern at the same time.  You must be simultaneously creative and well structured.

The result of the myth is that pastors are burning out, falling out, and breaking down morally in record numbers.  Souls are empty, leaving pastors susceptible to moral failure and depression.  What can we do?

First, it is up to every pastor to avoid the pride that desires to live up to the myth.  It’s not simply a matter of workload management or needing more encouragement (although these can help).  The issue comes down to whether or not a pastor tries to live out the myth or if he rests in the truth and grace of God.  The myth demands so much energy, while authentic and honest living, including confession concerning our neediness, brings rest.

The heart of the Gospel is that we are helpless and needy.  The Gospel does not become obsolete once we are initiated into salvation.  It becomes the anthem of our new existence, resulting in a Gospel-spirituality that operates out of the same daily, honest confession of neediness.

Second, our churches must adopt a culture of nurturing the minds and hearts of its leaders.  Most churches spend more time and money on landscaping than on cultivating the souls of their leaders.  Churches can begin to demand Sabbath, healthy boundaries, strong investments into family time, and regular spiritual feeding for pastors and leaders.  Unfortunately, the culture of many churches is skeptical, oppositional, and unrealistically demanding.  If churches nurture and safeguard the wellbeing of their leaders, it would be to their own benefit.  Inspired, enduring, and motivated church leaders will empower a church as much or more than any other factor.

 

Rekindle Fire – Song of Solomon, Oct. 13

October 10, 2013

Can attraction increase through the years in marriage or is it destined to fade?  How can a marriage rekindle its spark if it’s been lost?  How would God lead us to think about sex, romance, and intimacy?  Join us at Heartland Worship Center for our “no holds barred”  study of Song of Solomon.  It’s steamy and biblical all at the same time!  Starting Oct. 13th @ 9:15 and 10:45 a.m.

 

Rekindle

Kidology: New Sermon Series Begins August 4

August 1, 2013

As far as the Bible is concerned, kids might be LITTLE but they make a BIG difference to our world.  Join us at HWC this Sunday morning @ 9:15 and 10:45 a.m. as we begin a journey with the goal of embodying the biblical mandate to express a fierce spirit of love for the sake of ALL children.  If you are a parent or grandparent, you will glean biblical wisdom that will lead you to invest well in your kids.  Moreover, all Christians will learn what the church  must be for our most vulnerable population and the tragic repercussions if we fail – not just for our families but for our world.

 

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Preachers/Speakers Guide to Vocal Health – Guest Blogger: Dr. Randy Resser, M.D.

May 29, 2013

A star athlete will go to great lengths to condition his body, before during and after a sporting event. Violinists will spend time polishing, tuning and protecting the instrument they play. Any professional knows that in order to perform their trade to the best of their abilities, they need to know how to care for the tools that they use in their profession.  It is no different for those chosen to preach God’s word.  Pastors need to be able to take care of their tool of their trade: their voice.

What does the voice box do?

The larynx, or “voice box,” is a complex combination of muscles, nerves, and tendons, housed in a “box” of cartilage that sits right at the separation of our esophagus (“swallowing pipe”) and trachea (“windpipe”.) It has two very important functions: protection and vocalization. The first function (and probably the most important), is to protect the trachea from food, dusts and fumes. When we swallow, the larynx has a series of valves that close off the trachea, and allow the food to slide into the esophagus. If we breathe in dusts or fumes, the sensitive lining of the larynx gets irritated and triggers a cough reflex so that the foreign particles can be expelled. This is why vocal cord problems can also be associated with swallowing problems and chronic coughing. The second function of the larynx is to provide a vibration or sound that the upper airway (tongue, mouth lips and sinuses) can shape into the sounds that we recognize as an individual voice.

How is the voice make a sound?

The way we make sounds and words is very similar to the way sound is made on a clarinet. The way a clarinet makes a sound by vibrating air across a reed is similar to the way a breath is passed over our vocal cords to make a sound. Just by themselves, the sounds of a clarinet reed or the vocal cords alone are very harsh and sound like the buzzing of an insect. In a clarinet, this sound is then shaped into pleasant notes by the keys and shaft of the instrument. Similarly, the vocal cord vibration is shaped by the tongue, mouth, nose and sinuses into the pleasant sounds of a voice. The vocal cords are composed of paired string- like tendons that run from the front of the voice box to the back. On the surface of this tendon is a very delicate lining called the mucosa. These two areas are separated by a jelly- like connective tissue that allows the mucosa to glide freely over the tendon. When air from the lungs passes over the vocal cord, the mucosa glides back and forth over the tendon, like waves on the ocean. This shapes the air passing through the separation of the two vocal cords and causes a vibration to be made.  The vocal cords are controlled by very specific muscles that allow the cord to move back and forth, tighten or loosen, and also lengthen or shorten the cord. When we want to generate a high note, the muscles elongate the vocal cord and make it very stiff, like the high strings of a guitar. This creates a very fast vibration that we hear as a high pitch. Conversely, when we need a low-pitched sound, the vocal cords loosen and shorten, like the low strings on a guitar. The vibration is then slower and makes a low pitch.

What causes problems with the voice?

Hoarseness is a generic term that describes a symptom of disturbed vocal cord function. When someone is talking with vocal cords that are not vibrating correctly, it is similar to a musician trying to play the clarinet with a broken reed. When hoarse, the voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained, or there may be changes in volume (loudness) or pitch (how high or low the voice is). Anything that disturbs the movement of the vocal cords or the “wave” of the lining of the mucosa can cause hoarseness. The causes can range from a generalized swelling of the vocal cords (like an infection -“acute laryngitis” or allergies) to a mass on the surface (as in polyps, nodules or cancer of the vocal cords).  Any irritation to the vocal cords can lead to swelling of the vocal cords and disturb voice production. These sources can include viral and bacterial infections, allergies, acid reflux and irritants like dusts and tobacco smoke. These also can lead to increased mucous production causing coughing and throat clearing that can further traumatize the vocal cords over time.  Overuse or straining of the voice can cause both short term and long term damages. Initially, overuse of the voice can cause swelling and inflammation just like an infection. With rest, this will usually resolve. However, over time, continued strain to the voice can lead to vocal cord nodules or polyps.  Nodules form from repeated trauma to the surface of the vocal cords that can lead to thickening of the lining similar to the formation of calluses on the palms of the hands. Polyps are discrete areas of swelling that occur on a single vocal cord as opposed to nodules that occur on both cords. These can develop spontaneously, after bleeding under the vocal lining, or after the formation of a cyst in the vocal cord. Occasionally these need to be surgically removed to improve the voice. Any prolonged or unexplained  hoarseness needs to be evaluated by a doctor especially in those who smoke. Vocal cord cancer, though rare, is very treatable in its early stages.

How can I take care of my voice?

  • If you smoke, quit. Smoke irritates the vocal cords and can eventually cause cancer
  • Avoid agents that dehydrate the body, such as alcohol and caffeine. Avoid secondhand smoke, pollens and dusts that might irritate the voice.
  • Drink plenty of water (at least 6-8 glasses a day). Staying well hydrated keeps the mucous produced on the vocal cords very thin and helps to lubricate the vocal cords. This is especially important right before singing or preaching.
  • Consider using a mucous thinner such as Mucinex, Robitussin or other forms of guaifenesin before you preach. (make sure you only use the plain form  and not the forms with decongestants or cough suppressants). These medications are over the counter and help to thin out secretions to lubricate the vocal cords.
  • Humidify your home.
  • Watch your diet–avoid spicy and fatty foods.
  • Avoid eating a big fatty meal right before laying down to sleep. This helps to reduce the chance of gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Try not to use your voice too long or too loudly.
  • Sing within your range
  • Try to avoid vigorous throat clearing and coughing.
  • Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse. This can lead to more damage, polyps and nodules.
  • If they are available, use a microphone and a PA system. Make sure that you have a “monitor” speaker set properly so that you can hear your own voice. This will help prevent you from having to raise the volume of your voice unnecessarily.
  • Rest your voice, especially after singing or preaching events. Let your voice recover to prevent adding to inflammation from previous voice usage. Even God rested on the seventh day!

When should I see the doctor?

One should seek an evaluation by a voice specialist (an Otolaryngologist,  i.e. Ears Nose and Throat Specialist) if one experiences:

  • hoarseness lasts longer than 2-3 weeks especially if you have a history of smoking
  • hoarseness that is associated with any of the following symptoms: pain not from a cold or flu, coughing up blood, excessive weight loss, difficulty swallowing, or a lump in the neck;
  • loss or severe change in the voice lasting longer than a few days.

J. Randall Resser, MD

Graduated University of Cincinnati College of Medicine 1994 residency in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Vanderbilt University 1994-2000 in private practice at Purchase ENT 2000- present

Why It Is Untrue that God Accepts Sinners

April 22, 2013

Salvation is not God’s acceptance of sinners.

Salvation is God’s loving and gracious provision of Jesus who makes sinners innocent and therefore acceptable.

We come to Jesus just as we are.  God loves us just as we are.  But, a transaction occurs.  Our sins are removed and placed upon Jesus.  We are made acceptable.  Our current Christian climate is in danger of losing the need for this transaction and just concluding that God accepts sinners without it.

I once heard a self-proclaimed atheist rail against Christianity as a divisive and judgmental ideology.  His words were scathing and hateful.  His alternative was universal acceptance for everyone.  I must admit, it sounded good to me.  No judgment.  No values.  I’m OK, and you’re OK.

However, there are problems with his take.  First, he broke his own rule.  He didn’t accept Christianity as valid.  If acceptance is universal it would have to be extended to Christianity.  Second, everyone has limits to what they will accept.  Would this man accept genocide,  molestation, slavery, and murder?  Justice eventually calls.  We might have different places where we draw the line, but everyone draws the line somewhere.

The greater problem is the influence this cultural ethic of acceptance has on the church.  I’m afraid for many, God’s grace is defined as acceptance.  This is unfortunate.  It has led to the idea that God accepts sinners.  This idea is not biblical, and it undermines the power of the Gospel and true salvation.  If God accepts sinners, then there is no need for salvation.  I understand those espousing universalism holding to this belief, but it has crept into the mindset of those who seek to live an expression of biblical Christianity.

Isn’t it harsh and unloving to say that God doesn’t accept sinners?  Not at all.  God loves sinners (Rom. 5:8) and has provided Jesus to make us righteous before His eyes (2 Cor. 5:21) so that we can be accepted by God.  If we believe that God accepts sinners, then we must conclude there is no reason for the cross, faith, atonement, and salvation.  We are then guilty of skipping a vital step that leads to an insipid form of faith.  God does not accept you as a sinner, BUT He makes you acceptable through Jesus!  He makes you righteous, clean, forgiven, redeemed, innocent, and whole so that you could be in a right and acceptable relationship with Him.  A price was paid for this accomplishment.

If we believe that God accepts sinners without first declaring them innocent through the accomplishments of the cross, then we essentially remove the need for Jesus.  Our Christianity will be Christ-less and will resemble more of the cultural ethos than Jesus.  Grace isn’t acceptance.  Grace is God’s love that gives us the gift of Jesus so that we can be acceptable.

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