We can win the argument but lose the soul.

Such a simple truth that so many people fail to realize. Sometimes I feel like there are those who share the gospel just to try and win an argument. I realize I can find some rejoicing since the gospel is still being proclaimed as we find Paul mention in Scripture. However, for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ I want to give a plea and warning of wrongful motivations in sharing the gospel. We aren’t out to win the argument. Our hearts should be burdened to enlighten those who are currently in the hands of the enemy who can destroy both body and soul. A win an a argument for you does not mean a loss for the enemy.

It can be difficult. There are those who hunger to pick a fight with us. They will resort to the most crude fallacies and language to get us frustrated. Their logic will be abysmal in every front. Their temper will be on the brink of boiling for the entire conversation. They want to see us explode. They want to see us slip up. They want us to fail so they can ignore the conscience for a little longer. They want to be justified in their rejection of what we have to say. Sadly we are too often willing to indulge them.

I often hear the arguments from 99% of those with only a High school diploma say, “Do you really think you understand things better than those scientists who say evolution is true?” It would be painfully easy for me to point out the flaw. It would be so simple to destroy them with logic and point out just how little they grasp about what they are even defending, but where would it get me? A little boost in my pride? A little pop in my step?

I will gladly lay myself on the ground as a fool if it means sparking a thought in the mind of another. I’m not here to win a debate. I’m not here to prove to the fool how much of a fool he is. I’m here to tend to those in need and proclaim the gospel to all. If they choose not to listen then they can choose to do so. I will not let myself by the reason for them choosing to ignore the gospel though. I will not let pointless arguing make them forget about what it is I am trying to tell them in the first place.

On one of my travels by air I was delayed in Chicago. I sat down at a restaurant for some lunch when a gentleman came over and asked if he could sit at the table with me. It did not take too long until our conversation very naturally steered towards a spiritual direction. When the discussion went towards the direction of my belief the man wanted to argue. He wanted to point out how he felt I was wrong. He wanted to tell me how foolish it was that I believed the Bible could really be the word of God. I gave my reasons, and I could have spent an hour debating nuances to my faith, but I knew it would to get me anywhere. I had very little time with this man. I knew I wanted to at least get the main gospel points across. He left shortly after. I know he was offended by my speaking truth. I know he was offended by my responses to his questions. I still spoke the truth. I lost the argument. We both did, but I accomplished what God had called me to do.

If we are obedient to God we will lose according to the world’s standard on a pretty regular basis. I’m not saying we shouldn’t defend our faith. I’m not saying we shouldn’t answer questions others have about what we believe, but the moment you focus more on winning the argument in a gospel presentation than you do reaching out to the soul of the individual you have lost. We need to constantly bring it back to God and His authority. That is what Jesus did with the woman at the well. She wanted to argue nuance issues between their religions, but he kept bringing it back to the heart issue. He understood that she needed healing. Jesus grasped that everyone deep down inside understood that need even if they were unwilling to admit it.

We can argue until we are blue in the face, but a win in the argument does not mean we have been obedient to Christ. Any people have one an argument with an unbeliever without ever mentioned Sin, Jesus Christ, Salvation, and eternity. As we walk away from those conversations laughing at the foolishness of the unbeliever Satan walks with the loser laughing at the pride of the believer.

Thoughts over the war on Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s always exciting as we move closer to the time of Christmas and begin the anticipation of all that we celebrate. No doubt we will also run into a “war” we face every year around this time. It is the often portrayed “War on Christmas”. I have already seen headlines over events this week that suggest this war is continuing on in its apparently destructive pattern. For those who celebrate Christmas I wish to remind you of a few things before we shout out our war cries this time of year.

1. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. We shouldn’t expect everyone to do so either. Not everyone believes in God. Not everyone believes that Jesus was born of a Virgin Mary and died for our sins. Should this sadden us? Certainly. Should we mourn for those who go down a path that our faith says leads to destruction? Of course. Should we be angered at them? I would say no.

2. The stores aren’t all Christian either. Let us be realistic here. There are Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Christians, etc. who celebrate different Holidays while not celebrating others. Sometimes I think we need to remind ourselves how those with false information on Christianity can be truly offended by our beliefs. There are Jews who still believe Adolf Hitler was a Christian who believed he was performing genocide on the Jews by the direction of God. While this is obviously completely inaccurate that fear is there. We can either waste our time boycotting those stores who say happy Holidays to all their customers of multiple religions, or we could try and help erase this wrongful stigma of Christians.

3. Writing Xmas is not from Satan. It is not taking Christ out of Christmas. Are some people intending it that way? I suppose it is possible, but maybe it just pops out more for advertising reasons. Maybe it just saved money on print. Maybe it just stands out more. If we are going to get really technical then we just go all the way back and remember that X was the first letter in the Greek language that spelled out Christ. Constantine had a symbol referring to Christ by using “X” in it. This leads into another big point.

4. Christ cares more about where He is in your heart than he does about how much you worry about other people spelling Christmas the right way. Sometimes we get so focused on how the rest of the country is supposed to acknowledge Christmas that we fail to celebrate it properly ourselves. It’s become one big joke, and we have played a big role in it.

5. “They wouldn’t do this to other holidays” is a false argument. Walk into a store. Do they greet you with “happy Hanukkah”, or “Happy Kwanzaa”? No? Then they are simply singling out Christmas. It’s an old argument that should be put back up on the shelf. “Happy holidays” means they are doing the same thing to all holidays. Sometimes they can go overboard. Whenever someone tried to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree I simply respond, “That’s like calling a menorah a holiday candlestick”. It’s true that society can go overboard. However, that is all the more reason to make sure we do not go overboard ourselves.

6. The war over Christmas undermines the purpose of Christmas. We should be sharing this good news to the world rather than lashing out at the world in anger. We cannot demand the entire country to celebrate Christmas under the Christian religion. We cannot expect the secular stores to cater specifically to us while ignoring the other faiths. To put it simply, we cannot expect the unsaved to act saved. All we can do is share the good news about true peace on earth that extends beyond men. It is a peace between man and God himself.

The simple fact of all of this is that I don’t want to spend my Christmas celebration worrying about and enforcing how unbelievers celebrate this holiday. I want to focus on remembering what my God creator did by sending down his son to live as a man who felt pain, sadness, fatigue, hunger, temptation, and even death so that I could live. No amount of “happy holidays” “Xmas” or any other secularization is going to diminish how I celebrate Christmas in my heart.

Let’s celebrate! Our king and savior has arrived!

A Lesson from Two and a Half Men

Maybe you have heard of this whole chaos surrounding the Two and a Half Men show. Angus Jones expressed a change of heart a few days ago in a youtube video. He told people that they need to stop watching the show? Why this change in heart? He found God. He turned towards Jesus and found that the show he was on was garbage. He expressed this view publicly, and like wild fire it spread across the media.

As expected he faced some outlandish backlash form people. The popular statement was to call him a hypocrite. If he felt this way then why did he choose to be on the show? Why would he speak so poorly of the show that made him rich and famous? Now I think Angus has made some blunders in this whole thing, but this is not one of them. If anyone tells you he is a hypocrite for changing his mind then you need to call them out on it. We all change our mind on things. Angus was on a show form a young age, converted to Christianity, and discovered that this show does not agree with the life he is now choosing to live. This does not make Angus a hypocrite. It makes him bold.

However, He is still learning how to live this life, and I think there is a lesson we can learn from this. We need to be prepared to go all in. Since the backlash Angus has started to backpedal on the issue. He made a half apology to the crew of the show expressing his respect towards all of him, and that it was never his intention to offend. He also has said nothing about trying to break his contract with the show. He acknowledges the show is filth, but remains on it.

First things first. When we speak truth we can’t be surprised that we will offend people. When we speak out on something being wrong we need to realize that people will not like it. It may not be our intention to offend, but it is our intention to speak truth, and the truth is offensive. There is no getting around that. You will never see me apologize for telling the truth. I won’t do it. I will speak it with love and kindness to the best of my ability, but I will not apologize for it.

The other side to this is the need to be willing to be completely sold out to what you start. I’m not here to bash anyone for watching the show. I have never seen it myself, but Angus made it clear he thought the show goes against his conscience. Why would he not just quit the show then? It’s hard not to speculate. The first obvious guess would be that it is an issue of money. This leads to an interesting question for all of us. What keeps us from going all in for Christ?

What keeps you from being the follower you need to be? Is it fame? Is it fortune? Is it popularity? Is it entertainment? Is it pride? Is it an addiction? What keeps you from setting aside whatever issue remains to make yourself fully devoted to Christ?

Angus made a bold step in speaking out on something that was a big part of his life. His half-heartedness though hurt his cause. For the time being he will be declared a hypocrite for receiving money for continuing to do episodes for a show he believes goes against his faith. What in your life is making the people around you point at you saying, “hypocrite”? It’s a tough question to ask with an even tougher answer to swallow.

Letters to my son: Don’t be a cynic

Growing up in the church is hard. You see some pretty ugly things happen in it. Growing up in the church as a pastor’s kid is even worse. You get all kinds of expectations thrown on you. My parents never demanded perfection from me, but the stereotype of a pk did a fine job all on its own. It’s sad that this is what you have to look forward to. You will see ugliness in Christianity that others don’t often see. Before leaving home you will see all the reasons not to be a Christian. You will have better arguments against Christianity then even the most devout atheists.

You will fight the battle of a cynic. Growing up in the church runs the dangerous risk of being a cynic. I hate that is the case, but it unfortunately is so. You see the worst in Christians in the church. You will see men cheat each other out of money. You will see people overcome by greed. You will see people proclaim hatred on others in the name of Christ. You will see legalists that will turn your faith into rules to be obeyed rather than used to follow in honoring God. You will see people leave the faith. You will see devout become adulterers, thieves, murderers, gossipers, liars, and all other kinds of things.

This life will set you up to be a cynic. Anyone who stays in the church long enough will have an opportunity to turn into a cynic. You will learn people can be just as judgmental of someone with color of skin being an issue. You will learn that some will care more about the petty issues than they do about the gospel. I won’t lie to you or anyone else. If you grow up in the church then you are going to see reasons on why not to like the church.

How can Christians treat each other the way they do? How can the church be so ignorant to all that surrounds them? How can the church cause so much pain on others? The answer is simple, the things I have described to you are not the church. Not really anyway.

It’s true that you will see people amongst the church who are this way. Some are fakers. Some of them have lost track of the hope they once had in Christ. Some are misled. Some are simply so broken that they don’t know how to help their pain except for breaking others. Everyone in Christ’s church is broken.

We are the church of the former liars, cheaters, adulterers, drug addicts, porn addicts, gossipers, thieves, atheists, and all other kinds. We are messed up, but somehow goodness can still shine through in the midst of it all.

That is what I want you to focus on. People are going to sin. That is inevitable. The enemy wants you to focus on the flaws. It is why atheists resort to personal attacks and trying to lump on bad Christian together. They label as into hypocrites as a whole, but that is not the case. The church is also full of people who love and cherish life. It is full of people who come right besides those who are hurting and in need in order to help them. It is full of people who take their daily burdens to the cross every morning. It is full of hope and encouragement.

Don’t blame the church for the mistakes of those who are living in darkness. Don’t blame it on the fakers and the posers. Always remember that there have been times that we all have caused harm to someone else. Don’t give up on God and His church because of evil. That only gives evil exactly what it wants.

All evil can truly do is distract us for all that is good in this world, and in others. It does this because anything that is good is from God. Anything worth anything in this world is from God. The enemy does not want you to see that. It especially wants to keep you from seeing that in the church. Don’t let your faith be defined by me or anyone else. Mortal men are poor models to set up as a pillar of your faith. Be encouraged when God works through them, but always recognize that it is God at work, anything less is born out of giving into the enticement of temptation.

It’s odd that the greatest potential cynics are ones in the church. We see what is called to spread hope to this world stumble along the way. My challenge to any who struggle with this is to set aside the cynic, remember the good that God has done, and submit yourself to Him to do a little more good through His church. I can honestly say I’m not a cynic despite the ugly things I see. I have always been blessed to have an opportunity to see the good, and it is far better than any ugliness the enemy can present.

The lie of yolo

A few weeks ago a college professor wrote something on his facebook status that got my mind turning. His basic premise was that we have a new generation called that goes by the “yolo” motto. This is a dangerous philosophy to have and a deceptive lie that the enemy has had rooted as truth in countless individuals.

When I read his statement it really hit me about what had been bothering me about this motto all along. It’s the yolo motto “You only live once”. It has always rubbed me the wrong way, but I could never really figure out exactly what irked me. It was beyond the annoying repetitive nature of the phrase that I hear over and over again. There was something about the actual statement itself that bothered me. Reading Dr. Brown’s thoughts made me realize what was bothering me. It is one ginormous lie that has so many false assumptions, and leads down an inevitable path of emptiness.

Let’s start with the foundational lie to this phrase. If you believe what I believe then you can see the problem with it. You do not only live once, and I am not talking about reincarnation. There is an afterlife. It is very real. Depending on a choice you make in this world will dictate how that afterlife will be like for you. There are two destinations when you depart form this earth. That foundational lie is deceptive enough, but there is another layer to it that is what I believe has really gotten hold of people today.

People may look at this and wonder what is the harm with this philosophy of yolo? It instills a desire to take chances. It pushes us to be daring and to live life to the fullest. What could possibly be wrong with that? There is something very wrong with it. What kind of life to the fullest are you trying to live? Yolo inspires us to live life in the most pleasurable way possible. It pushes us to live all for self. It gives into the popular philosophy of being inward focused.

It’s a serious problem in our world today. It is the idea that we are to do whatever makes us happy in the moment. Whatever brings us pleasure and gratification is what we should strive for. Pleasure itself is not wrong. We all like some of the comforts of life. I enjoy good food, friendship, movies, music, etc. These are all things that bring me pleasure in life. However, the philosophy of whatever is pleasing does not automatically mean what is best.

Samson struggled with that mistake when he looked for a woman that was against God’s law for him to marry. He did not care though and told his parents to fetch her for him because “She is pleasing to my eyes.” Eve made this mistake to while she was in the garden. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes”. I bet she wished she did not live under the philosophy of yolo. She wished she did not act based of what she believed would give her pleasure in the moment.

Scripture is filled with individuals who took to the philosophy of living in the moment. They held onto the idea of seeking whatever pleases them at that point in life. Solomon married hundreds of women, David had sex with a married woman, Adam and Eve ate fruit they were told not to, and humanity as a whole at times lived under the idea of doing what was right and pleasing in their own eyes.

It’s time for us to live our lives with a Kingdom mindset. A kingdom mindset not only guides our actions to be pleasing and honoring to God, but it also pushes us to live our lives to advance God’s Kingdom for others. Out citizenship is in heaven. Shouldn’t we wish to see that citizenship increase. I am so thankful yolo is a lie. I am so grateful that this old, broken, painful life is not the only one I have. I plan on living this life now with that in mind.

Tips for Thanksgiving from a recovering pessimist

For a little while I considered not writing a note on Thanksgiving. After all, what would I have to say about the topic that is not constantly being repeated over and over again these days? I realized it would be even stranger and almost “attempted hipster” to ignore the topic all together. I am quite fond of the Holiday. It is a personal favorite when I block out Black Friday (Read Black month) from the thoughts about the festive day. It is a holiday that revolves around family, friends, and eating. Easily some of my favorite thing in this world even if every one of them can run the risk of over indulging.

This holiday can be difficult for a specific personality though. There are some where the spirit of Thanksgiving comes naturally. They struggle with picking just one thing to be thankful for when life is so full of blessings for them. There is another kind of person though. It is the pessimist. I feel for your kind. We are kindred spirits. I am a constant recovering pessimist. I understand the complications of being thankful when you naturally see the world in a bleaker view. Never fear! I have some tips for the recovering pessimist to remind himself on this wonderful holiday.

1. Stop waiting for the axe to fall. Too often we pessimists look at the blessings in our life, and simply see them as something to rejuvenate us as we prepare for the next big storm in life. Blessings are viewed as a precursor to a natural disaster. It’s pretty crummy. This view keeps us from enjoying what we have in the moment. Blessings are meant to be enjoyed. We should delight in what is good in our lives even if circumstances in the future could change those very same things we are grateful for. Be thankful for what we have today, and stop focusing on the “what ifs” about tomorrow.

2. Ignore the ever growing commercializing of the holiday. They hijacked Christmas with Santa. They pooped on Easter with a deranged identity crisis bunny. Valentines day was birthed for commercialism, and is now a mockery dressed up as a baby that seems strangely like an adult in a diaper with arrows that attempt to strike ravaging adolescents in desperate need of a significant other. They want to ensnare Thanksgiving too. It would be easy to look at those around us and see the sanity that is Thanksgiving. For some it is the dread of in-laws (I enjoy mine). For others it marks the true beginning to the Christmas rush. Thanksgiving has been morphed into a time of stress. My advice? Stick it to the man. Don’t indulge in the stress. No one can make you stress out about a Holiday. No one can demand you engage in the commercializing of it. You have a choice in how you want to appreciate this holiday. The rest of the world means squat over it.

3. Be thankful for the crummy stuff too. There are some things in our life that make no sense. We face tragedy and pain. There are few things that are inevitable in life. One of those is suffering. A pessimist will take this knowledge and mistake its context. He will say that we are made to suffer. A recovering pessimist like me will see the folly in that statement. Suffering is used for us to grow. I have suffered pain in my life, but I would not be the person I am without that pain. If I did not experience some of the pain I did then I would likely not be married to my wife. Pain is part of a journey. Even the blessings in that journey must thank the suffering faced in that journey as well. Without the suffering there would be none of the blessings.

4. Forgiveness leads to thankfulness. A pessimistic attitude is often rooted in a personal event where the individual was hurt. Maybe it is forma family member, a relationship, or even a random stranger. There are times where the world simply teaches us how cruel it can be. We grow spiteful and angry towards an individual or a group of individuals. If we let this linger it eventually spreads towards people in general. We need to let go of our hurt so healing can take place. After that the clouds will lift, and we will see everything that has been there the whole time to be thankful for. This leads into the next tip.

5. Do not put your faith in men. If we put out hope in the goodness of others then we will remain pessimistic. Thanksgiving will be a bleak affair. We will view the world as though even anything good from someone is out of selfish motivations. We will be incapable of trusting others if we rely on others to be good. We simply are not good. None of us are. We are rotten from sin. We are selfish creatures. Do not trust in men who are good, but rather trust the one who is the source of anything good from men. We may not be good, but we serve a God who is.

6. When all else fails be thankful for your salvation. This is the one piece thing that can never be stolen from you. It can never take a depressing turn. It can never lead to a broken heart. It is the relationship that is the ultimate fulfillment. It is the parent that can never make a mistake. It is the friend who will never hurt you. Take heart my pessimistic friends. I am a recovering pessimist. It all stems from this simple concept. A man with a soul chained to the devil and sin is incapable of joy and happiness. A man with a soul fully surrendered to God is incapable of losing hope and purpose. I’m always going to be a slave to a master. One sucks out all the joy, but the other gives me fulfillment.

That’s not just the pastor’s job

There are a lot of things we expect the pastor to do for us in Christianity. We use excuses like “I’m not gifted in this area. The pastor could simply do it much better.” Some of us simply believe if a pastor is being paid then he should be all the is required to devote time and energy into specific areas. While this list is not exhaustive, there are some key things I have seen growing up in the church that we mistake for being solely the pastors job.

1. It is the pastor’s job to evangelize.

Too many people assume the pastor is the one who is supposed to do the evangelizing in the community. The greatest extent we go to is inviting someone to church so that way the pastor can present the gospel to them. When Jesus gave the great commission he didn’t say, “Oh by the way, this is just for the pastors. Anyone else can just ignore this.” He did not say, “If you don’t feel gifted in sharing the gospel with others then don’t sweat it.” He did not say, “Just help someone out with money or a house project and invite them to church.” He told all of his followers to go and make disciples. Christians are in the discipleship business rather than just pastors.

2. It is the pastor’s job to teach me God’s Word.

You can’t expect an hour long sermon once a week to be enough to keep you going in understanding God’s Word. The amount of time you spend studying God’s Word on your own should dwarf the amount of time you hear a pastor preaching. I love to preach. I love teaching others about what I learn from God’s word, but anyone who uses that as a replacement for reading God’s word for themselves is being foolish. Our churches are to full of people who demand the church to be their sole resource in being fed spiritually. It is full of people who refuse to take ownership in their spiritual lives. This leads to an individual who is merely a hearer of the Word. A believer incapable of studying God’s Word on his own time can never hope to apply God’s word from the little time he spends listening to a sermon on it.

3. It is the pastor’s job to tell me how to live my life.

Pastors are not here to tell you how to make every decision in your life. If you are under a pastor who does do that then it would be my advice to run away as fast as you can and never look back. Pastors will help guide you and give you Biblical counsel in the midst of difficult decision, but we are not your decision maker. All we can do is point you to Scripture, and how it can apply to your situation. In the end you need to take responsibility for your decisions.

4. It is the pastor’s job to teach my family.

Parents need to take an active role in investing in the spiritual lives of their children. Expecting the pastor’s in your church to be all that is needed to speak some truth into their lives for a few hours in a week will lead to disaster. The leader of the home needs to take the responsibility of teaching God in their home. It goes beyond dragging the kids to church.

5. It is the pastor’s job to meet the needs of those in the congregation.

This simply is not feasible. A pastor should be aware of the needs in his church. He should be shepherding and caring for the congregation, but part of the beauty of church is when the believers gather together to meet needs for each other. If you see someone struggling in your church maybe you should be the one to move in to help them rather than pass it along to the pastor for him to figure it out.

Here is what it comes down to. The church is not meant to be a place where the majority is passive and some pastors take care of everything. Pastors guide the congregation on how to live a life full of fulfillment in Scripture. They teach the congregation how to care for one another as a family. They inspire them to spread the gospel everywhere they go. They lead with God’s expectation that others follow rather than watch. I don’t want a bunch of followers who simply watch me. I want followers who act. Which do you want to be?