Some actions might seem small in one sense, but can have a huge impact on our lives. What we do and do not do chisels our hearts into a certain shape. Your soul never remains the same day to day. Your habits are shaping who you are becoming. Here are 10 behaviors that seem small but have made a murderous impact on my soul. Maybe they have done the same to you.
(1) Looking down on other people. Maybe they don’t dress or act like you. Maybe they drive a terrible car, wear pajamas in public or just act like a fool. Maybe all logic says that what they are doing is ridiculously ignorant. It doesn’t matter. When we look down on someone (or speak down about them) our souls are filled with pride and move further from the heart of Jesus.
(2) Taking a second look. It might seem like a harmless thing to see someone who you find physically attractive and take a second look, but it’s a dangerous thing. Sexual sin never remains stagnate. A second look leads to a third and fourth. You will always have to up the ante whether through pornography, affairs or some other illicit sexual behavior. Not to mention the fact that someone made in the image of God is being objectified. Paul tells us to “flee from sexual sin” and the second look is a great place to start.
(3) Walking by trash. Someone told me about a pastor who purposefully left trash around the campus when interviewing potential staff to see if they picked it up while touring the campus. If they didn’t pick up the trash then the interview was over. OK, so maybe trash isn’t the end all. But, the question is whether we are willing to do small acts of service. When we stop doing those things we lose our humility and servant heart. .
(4) Skimping on tips. Pinching pennies on a tip can hurt your soul. The debate whether to leave $1 more can rage in your mind. Meanwhile your heart can become more stingy and less generous. This, of course, isn’t just about tipping. It’s about generosity of all sorts. Acts of generosity teach us to love generously and frees us from the fear or greed that imprisons us and makes us miserly.
(5) Withholding expressions of love. Anytime that we can share love and resist it is more than a missed opportunity for the hearer to receive love. It is a missed opportunity for your heart to become more loving. We tend to think that love is a matter of feeling something and then expressing it. However, the practice of expressing love creates a greater capacity for love.
(6) Worshiping labels. Let’s be honest. We pay more for labels. We pay more because of the status that labels bring rather than the function the object brings. Now, I’m not rebuking buying quality things and often certain trendy labels are popular because they are high quality. Nothing wrong with that. Paying for cheap objects that will quickly deteriorate can be bad stewardship. With that said, when we get an emotional charge because of the status of a label, our hearts are that much more resistant to being humble and living low. Low is where you will find Jesus.
(7) Holding a grudge. This isn’t a small thing at all. Holding a grudge makes you more imprisoned by your emotions and in greater opposition to the gracious gospel of God.
(8) Ranting on social media. What’s the big deal? After all, we rant because it is just and because we are on the “right” side. The big deal is that ranting makes you a more bitter and angry person, it makes our world more full of hate, and frankly it makes you look bad. Research shows that we are not soda bottles who let off some steam and then are calmer. Angry outbursts lead to higher levels of anger. Furthermore, ranting is a direct violation of Matthew 18:15 and Ephesians 4:29.
(9) Applying the sermon to someone else. Elbows fly during sermons. I know because I’m a preacher. I have a birds-eye view. With each elbow jab someone is saying, “this is for you” and they are essentially saying “and not so much for me.” When we defer the Word, we no longer have ears to hear and hearts that are poised for transformation.
(10) Isolating from community. We all need time alone. But we all need community. People who are struggling with depression isolate themselves and their isolation further depresses them. I’ve seen minor shifts away from community be the first step toward spiritual disengagement and a shift of heart away from God.
What are your thoughts about this list? Does one particularly speak to you? Is there another small act that you would add to the list? I would love to hear from you.
It’s the bottom of the last inning of the game. Bases are loaded with one out. We are winning 6-5. My 9-year-old son is on the mound. If I had a pacemaker it would have needed new batteries after the game. I am praying, “Lord, let him come through so that he can go home feeling good about himself.” I pray with intensity. When is the last time I have prayed in worship or on behalf of the lost like this? It’s hard to say.
Maybe you have been in a similar situation as a little league parent. It’s not an easy thing to watch your child on the line and to deal with the residual stress. Unfortunately, the little league field is a place where the worst of adult behavior is seen – even by Christians. Furthermore, our world has made such an idol of sports that Christian parents are struggling with how to be involved with sports without it supplanting Jesus as the Lord of their life. So, here are a few suggestions to help Christian little league parents be…well…Christian.
(1) Don’t make your kid’s performance about your self-esteem. This is really difficult. So easily we feel that how are kids perform says something about what kind of parent we are. We get embarrassed and really angry when they fail. We swell with pride when they succeed. But this isn’t healthy. It’s called enmeshment. The reason parents overreact is because their self worth is at stake. Take a breath and remember. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. There’s this thing called humility which means that we don’t approach every situation in terms of how we are effected.
(2) Don’t let your passion about sports surpass your passion about Jesus. If your kid sees you yelling, pumping your first, clapping, and shouting out at the ball field and then stand like a statue during worship then your passion has revealed your priorities. Your heart is in sports but not connected to Jesus. I don’t think it’s wrong to be passionate about sports, as long as it isn’t sinful behaviors. But your passion must be greater for God who we are called to love with all out heart, mind, soul, and body. So sing…loud…pray with your heart, and let your affections for Jesus flow. Let your kids see that Christ is worthy of all our praise.
(3) Monitor your investments into sports versus your investments into your kids discipleship. How much time, money, conversation, and instruction do you give your kids about sports and how much into their relationship with Christ? Anything that receives more than Jesus is an idol. I don’t adhere to the idea that Christians must disconnect from the world to follow Jesus. That is called asceticism and it can be dangerous. We are meant to be in the world but not of the world. With that said, if our investments in sports out rank our spiritual investments then what message are we sending our kids. What good does it do to gain a championship but lose your own soul?
(4) See your little league as a mission field. You will come into contact with kids and family who need the love of Jesus. You aren’t there ultimately to win a game, you are there to take the gospel in word and deed to those who need Christ. You sit with people and get to know them week after week. What if those are divine appointments?
(5) Our kids need humility as much as self-esteem. Making our kids feel special has become our primary goal. Sports is one of the ways this happens when our kids thrive. We want them to be winners and to beat the competition. What we fail to realize is that winning can have its own spiritual trap, namely pride. Pride is the source of great destruction, personal blindness, and vulnerability to moral decay. Basically pride will chew you up, spit you out and make you a horrible person. If your kids are amazing athletes, their spiritual challenge is to guard their hearts from pride and to seek humility. Pride comes before the fall.
(6) Being right does not give you the right to act wrong. If you are right in the wrong way it is called sin. There’s a reason that many of the virtues and spiritual fruit the Bible lists have to do with how we treat people: patience, gentleness, sacrifice, etc. If you yell, threaten, and attack on the little league field you are sinning and are bringing shame to Christ. Period.
I struggle with many of these. My prayer is that we won’t be different people in church and on the field. Christ wants all of us everywhere we go. Don’t check your faith at the door…or the court…or the field.
“I’m sick of hypocrites at church” is a sentence I am sick of hearing. Has there ever been a more ridiculous excuse to disobey God in the history of the world? It’s a smokescreen that carries no weight and yet Christians often accept it as a valid reason to avoid church and, even worse, to not follow Jesus. Here are three thoughts that blow away the smoke from the “hypocrite”smokescreen:
(1) A Christian that sins is not a hypocrite. A lot of people have tattled to me about misconduct from church members over the years. They say, “You’ll never guess what I saw one of your members doing.” In reality, I could give them a list of sins that I was aware of that would blow their minds. I’m quite aware that sin is a battle in the lives of the people in our church. For goodness sakes, it’s a battle in my life. Christians are not people who never sin. They are people who have recognized their sinfulness to the degree that they are desperate to be rescued from it. That’s why we need forgiveness in the first place. Yes, we take sin seriously, but we also realize that we are a work in progress. There are groups of people at some churches who don’t struggle with sin anymore- these groups are called cemeteries.
(2) A hypocrite is a Christian who pretends that they don’t sin. Hypocrisy in church is an issue. It’s a big one. But the issue isn’t that we struggle with sin. The smokescreen has got it all wrong. The issue is that we don’t get honest about our struggles. We pretend that we don’t sin. It’s that we put on a good show and a good face. If you are breathing, you are dealing with a struggle. God isn’t asking for perfection, He already has that in Jesus. He is asking for honesty so that He can sanctify our lives.
(3) God won’t accept the hypocrisy of others as an legitimate excuse for your own disobedience. Can you imagine standing before God to explain to Him why you weren’t obedient to be in community with His people, love His word, worship His name, and do His mission? Can you imagine responding that the reason you were disobedient was because there were too many hypocrites in the church? Can you imagine God saying, “Well, then, I guess you’re off the hook for your rebellion and sin because of those hypocrites? Of course not. He will say, “It wasn’t their job to make you obedient, it was your job to obey.”
My favorite sitcoms of all time:
5. Tie: Everybody Loves Raymond and Fresh Prince of Bel Air
2. The Office
1. The Andy Griffith Show (black and white ones)
That’s right! The crew from Mayberry is at the top of my list. This show might be old, but it has been able to stand the test of time for one reason- It’s funny, really funny. It’s still the king of comedies in my book. Maybe I’m an old soul, but I don’t think this show has ever been topped.
Recently I have been watching Andy Griffith in order on Netflix. I’ve never done that before. I watch an episode every morning while I eat my breakfast. It starts my day off right. However, I have noticed some scandalous and quite disturbing trends on the show. Here they are.
(1) Disappearing women. Female characters, especially girlfriends of Barney and Andy, just vanish without any explanation. In season one, Barney is dating Hilda May and then an episode or two later he is dating Thelma Lou. Ellie the female druggist, and Andy’s love interest in season one (she also played on Father Knows Best), is gone without a trace as season two starts and we never hear what happened to her. Even worse, who is Opie’s mom and what happened to her? Apparently she is mentioned on an episode of The Danny Thomas Show that Andy appeared in. But I need more – I need closure. Did they move, die, or breakup with their male counterparts? Were they abducted by aliens?
(2) Multiple Personalities. Many of the actors on the show play multiple characters. Rafe Hollister is also rummage sale customer and Luke Rainier who operates an illegal still. Did they think we wouldn’t notice?
(3) Driver’s door on the squad car. Why does everyone who gets in a car parked at the curb in front of the sheriff’s office get in the car through the passengers side and scoot over instead of going through the drivers door?
(4) Bye bye Barney. I know many of you will agree with me that Barney’s departure with the arrival of color episodes was the end of an era. The show never recovered from it fully. It went from an outstanding show to a pretty good show. That’s why my favorite sitcom of all times is the black and white (first 5 seasons) episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.
I feel better now that I have that off my chest. Any other scandals stick out to you that I failed to mention? Maybe I missed something. I’d love to hear from you.
Pilate: Are you the King of the Jews?
Jesus: My kingdom is not of the this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.
Pilate: Are you a king then?
Jesus: You say rightly that I am a king.
The current political landscape makes for great TV. The debates. The media. The personalities. Sometimes it seems a lot like a reality show in which we all have to call in to decide who to “save” and who to “cut” from the show.
With good reason, a lot of people are scared. Clearly there are some frightening scenarios. Christians should be deeply involved and make our vote count. We should think culturally from a biblical perspective and vote for leaders who represent our values. We have a civic and spiritual duty to make a godly influence felt in this election.
With that said there is one outcome that is the most dangerous of them all. I fear this outcome more than any other. What is it?!?! The worst thing of that could happen is if the church forgets who we are and what we are destined for. So here are some reminders:
(1) We are members of the kingdom of God, not a voting constituency. When we are nothing more than a group of people with influential votes, the result is that we will be a demographic stat for the media and a group to cozy up to by the candidates instead of inheritors of the unstoppable reign of Jesus. The gospel is our greatest weapon, not our vote.
(2) Our hope is in King Jesus and His kingdom, not the kingdom of this world. Please don’t post a comment that says I am saying not to be politically involved. I’m not saying that at all. I think we must be involved. However, many Christians are placing their entire hope in the political process rather than the kingdom that is coming through Christ. The result is paralyzing fear. Jesus is supreme over every power and principality and His coming kingdom is our true citizenship and destiny.
(3) The hope of our country is the gospel of Christ declared through His church. While there are candidates that I think will lead in a better direction than others, I do not believe any candidate will transform our country to what it should be. That’s the church’s job. If the church forgets this and lacks a clear understanding of our mission, then that is the most devastating outcome that could occur.
(4) No leader can stop God from being glorified. The first 300 years of Christianity may be the greatest period of growth of the church in history and it all occurred under pagan emperors and anti-Christian governments. In fact, when wicked leaders oppose God they often unwittingly contribute to His cause (Acts 4:27-28). Is our goal safety and abundance or the spread of the kingdom of God?
(5) Participate in and influence the kingdom of this world, but live in the confidence of the kingdom of Christ. The joy and peace of every believer comes through certainty in the final reign of Jesus. Then we will ask “Why do the nations rage and plot in vain?” (Psalm 2:1; Acts 4:25). Believers are citizens of this kingdom before they are anything else. We live in our future hope right now. If the church loses this perspective then we simply cease to be the church and citizens of the coming kingdom. Nothing could be more devastating than that.
Vote and vote well. But as you do, don’t lose heart. Remember who you are and who you ultimately will be. That’s what Jesus did as He was questioned by Pilate. He lived for the kingdom that is not of this world. We should too!
It’s clear by now the strategy of Planned Parenthood concerning their response to public outrage, due to the videos of top level executives in flippant conversations about selling the tissue of aborted babies, is to attack the accuser rather than justify their position. It probably isn’t surprising that I oppose abortion considering I am an evangelical pastor. Let me assure you, it isn’t political or social affiliation that drives me. I couldn’t care less about being conservative. I care about being Christian. I recognize not everyone is a Christian; many will not agree with me because their worldview is different from mine.
I am writing this because I have yet to see a response from Planned Parenthood that even acknowledges what my (and many others) concern is about abortion. I really don’t think they care because it is clear that Planned Parenthood has no desire to listen to or address the concerns of those who are pro-life. They are doing damage control to galvanize those who are pro-choice. My assumption is that my concern doesn’t matter. I still want it to be clear what the true concern of my heart is so that those who disagree with me will not make a caricature out of my position. If you are going to disagree with me, at least show me the respect to disagree with my true position on the matter and not some straw man.
The issue is not:
- The issue isn’t video editing. It is true that video can be manipulated. However, I cannot think of one contextual factor that could ever make me at peace with the idea of “crushing” a fetus (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/21/planned-parenthood-abortion-fetus-parts-kirsten-powers/30426475/).
- The issue isn’t the value of medical research on human tissue. I have no problem with human tissue being used for medical advancement as long as the specimen came from someone who died rather than a voiceless child intentionally killed for this purpose.
- The issue isn’t political activism driven by an agenda. First of all, aren’t we all supposed to be active in the political arena, and don’t we all have an agenda? Rhetoric! Does Planned Parenthood not fit this description? Soiling the reputation of critics is a defense mechanism as old as the hills. Maybe some are obsessed with the political side of this, but for most pro-life people, this is about people not politics.
- The issue isn’t tone of voice. Planned Parenthood is outraged at the lack of compassion in the tone of voice of the recorded doctor. I didn’t like the tone, either. But that’s not the issue. If she has a compassionate tone it would not suffice because abortion is an act without compassion. Sweet words that mask brutal acts lack power.
The issue is:
- Women’s rights. My view of women’s rights includes the rights of females to be born and not be aborted. It includes the opportunity to live in a society that will protect that most basic right. Abortion takes this right away.
- The rights of children trump those of adults. When someone is considering an abortion the freedom and rights of two individuals are opposed to each other. The woman who is pregnant has all the power in the situation. Abortion chooses the rights of the adult over the rights of the voiceless child. The only way those who are pro-abortion can justify such a thing is by deciding the baby is not a person yet. The reason they must do this is because, in every other situation, we as a society deem the rights of voiceless and powerless children to trump those of adults.
- Functional organs that are saved and sold remind us that they come from functional humans. This is the heart of the matter, and it isn’t just conservative or pro-life folks who see this. The humanity of abortion’s victims is seen clearly by all. Ironically, Planned Parenthood has done more to humanize abortion through these videos than anyone else. They personalized the issue. They aren’t simply harvesting tissue, but livers, lungs, and hearts from actual people. The value of fetal tissue and organs reminds us all of the value of the child they came from.
I know how this works. If you are in favor of legalized and government-funded abortion then you hated this post and find it rubbish. If you oppose it, then you loved it. I don’t expect to change minds. However, I would like to help bring clarity to the debate – at least clarity concerning what the real issue is for those of us who oppose abortion.
On September 15, 1999 I waited up through the night to see if my best friend was still alive. Dax Hughes was my college roommate years before and at the time of the shooting both of us attended the same seminary. He was also college pastor at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas and was on campus that night when Larry Ashbrook opened fire in a crowded sanctuary at a See You At the Pole rally. I left phone message after message (this is before we had cell phones) for him in hopes that he, and his wife Christi were still alive and not injured. It was around 3:30 a.m. that I finally received a call from him and although my fears were briefly relieved, the carnage left by this event would rock a church and community. It would also mean that Dax would forever be linked to any other massive violent event, especially church shootings. Today, Dax and I serve as senior pastors together in the same church. When I saw the news of the Charleston shooting, I immediately went back to that fateful night.
I’m so disturbed by the Charleston shooting. As a pastor I can’t help but think about my own vulnerability. As a church goer I’m hit by the irony that the church is supposed to be a place where broken people can find love. Love certainly makes us vulnerable. As an American I fear the violence and hate all around us whether it is motivated by race, religion or some other source. As a Christian I seek to understand events like this from the perspective of my faith and the Scriptures that I have so diligently studied to shape me.
With that in mind, here are my initial thoughts that I pray are shaped by a truly Christian perspective.
(1) All people should grieve this event. Black, white, Christian or not – this is pure tragedy.
(2) I don’t blame anyone for thinking that race might have played a large role in this tragedy. No, not every act of hate or injustice is racially motivated. Hate is a human issue not just a race issue. Many acts of violence are against people of the same race. However, racial violence has been an epidemic since the world began. If you are a Christian and don’t take racism seriously then you haven’t read your Bible closely enough. It is a major biblical topic including the dominant question of the New Testament church (Acts 15, Galatians 2:11ff). This is the reason that part of the glory of Jesus will be gathering people together of every race, tribe, and language.
(3) Our culture struggles to believe in God but how can it deny the existence of sin? The culture’s view of humans rests on a philosophical assumption very different from the Christian one. The culture tends to believe that we are born neutral or good. When things like this shooting occur we want to find what went wrong in the shooter’s environment. From a Christian perspective, we will never deal with the root cause of hate, violence and injustice until we look within ourselves. Sin is breaking the world. It breaks individual hearts and communal harmony.
(4) Unfortunately, every public place must prioritize security, including churches. I’ve been told by many people, “we have a small church so we don’t need a security plan like large churches do.” This is just naive. Shooters rarely use any logic at all meaning every church must consider security a priority.
(5) If you are a white Christian then the victims of this shooting aren’t “their” people, but rather “your” people. I have more in common with a follower of Jesus whose skin is a different color than mine than I do with another white person who rejects Jesus. My primary identity is Christ not color (Gal. 3:28). My spiritual family includes all those who have also been adopted into God’s family by Jesus. These are the people with whom I will spend eternity.
(6) The gospel means that God is the greatest victim of violence and injustice in the history of the world. Instead of ending injustice, God entered into it through the cross. He didn’t end violence with force; but instead, He countered it with love. At the cross the only sinless one that has ever existed was violently executed. In doing so, He redeemed injustice and turned it into saving love. For me, there is no answer to injustice more beautiful and satisfying.