Hot Topic

main-big_1464614712Well, global warming/climate change is plastered on the headlines again. Someone doesn’t like what someone else said about it. What’s new?

I’ve been hearing about this topic for nigh on thirty years now. First, it was the Greenhouse Effect. Then someone labeled it Global Warming. When the earth cooled a tad, the thing got a new moniker: Climate Change.

Now, that one, I can see. The climate does change a bit. I guess it covers the necessary bases to float whatever perspective you have on the issue. I don’t have to tell you, there’s little agreement between the opposing sides of this matter. One side calls the other “deniers” and says their refusal to believe the sky is falling should be criminalized. The other side called the others a bunch of hoax-ters spouting junk science and unnecessarily alarming the good people of planet earth. My observation is there is misinformation on both sides.

I’ve honestly never put any stock into the notion that climate changes are human-caused, nor that the changes are as significant and dooming as climate change disciples preach. On the other hand, I do believe we human types have a responsibility to demonstrate stewardship of the creation we inhabit. So, I’m fine with recycling and reusing stuff. I’m good with alternative energy sources within economic reason.

As far as all the doomsday stuff–ice caps melting, sea levels rising, and monster storms and unprecedented heat waves destroying the planet–I’m not buying it. Why not, you ask? Well, there’s this pesky promise in the Bible that I just can’t get out of my head. I know, you don’t view the Bible as a scientific source, or an authority on anything at all. But I do. And I’m writing this, so….

After God promised Noah that he would never again destroy the earth by flood, he added this rider to that promise: As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22). So, God, the Creator of all that exists, the one who alone has authority to judge or do anything he pleases, says the cycle of crop production, the temperatures, the seasons, and even the rotation of the planet on its axis, will go on as long as he chooses. Good enough for me.

Meanwhile, call me a denier, marginalize me with the other radical ignoramuses. I’ll just go on doing my part to take good care of this beautiful planet God has graced me to live on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Save Money on Massages

So, I’m hearing this story about my brother going into Brookstone to try out a massage chair. This particular store had four display models with varying features, from simple to exquisite. Upon arriving, to his dismay, he found all four chairs occupied by other curious shoppers. He proceeded to browse around the store, keeping one eye on the chairs, ready to pounce when the current occupant vacated one.

Shortly, it happened. He slid into the big futuristic device, adjusted himself, and pressed the start button. He readied himself for an invigorating and relaxing experience. 

The footpiece folded over covering and securing his feet. Other contraptions on the armrests wrapped over his arms. A brief sense of panic flashed as he remembered a scene from a horror pic when arms came out of a harmless looking wing back chair and grabbed the poor victim seated there. Then the torture began.

His feet were pulled back and forth as rolling pins induced suppressed cries of agony from pressing nerves in his lower back. His face contracted into twisted grimaces with each revolution. Grunts and whoops made other shoppers turn to see what was making those sounds. It was my brother. Customers who had been hovering nearby to hop into the next available massage chair began to quietly slip out of the store or move on to look at other cool things that would not send them to the chiropractor the next day.

He couldn’t press stop because his arms were bound. He had to endure the entire massage cycle. Once it was over, the chair released him. Groaning with eyes wide, he stumbled out of the device, more relieved than relaxed.

His experience got me to thinking, this is the perfect way to do a budget spa day. Get some friends and go down to the local Brookstone. Hop into the massage chair display models and get a deep tissue massage. Try each model to stretch out your spa experience. If you time it just right near the sales staff shift change, you can go another round in all the chairs without the salesperson coming over to bust you for loitering in the store. If you’re willing to just go for a partial massage, head over to Bed Bath & Beyond and try out their massage cushions. 

Posted in Humor, Life Observation, Curiosities, Stories | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Beneath Your Potential

A friend shared with me he thought I was not being used to my greatest potential. I am currently not in a senior pastor position or even a church staff position. That’s where circumstances have me, but it’s also my choice. Well-meaning cohorts who know my situation feel my gifts under-utilized, that I’m living beneath my potential. Others who don’t know my situation are probably saying things like, “What a shame. It seems he’s left the ministry.” Such a notion is probably sparked by my desire to earn a living from something other than vocational ministry. For some of them, not being paid by a church to exercise your gifts as a teacher/pastor, etc. is tantamount to “leaving the ministry.”

The truth is, I feel perfectly at peace with where God has me right now. I am fulfilled in using my gifts in other expressions of ministry. In some ways, I am more fulfilled and feel more freedom than I ever did as a staff member or senior pastor. The trap we fall into is thinking of ministry as a completely separate thing from a relationship with God. We see the relationship with God as “being saved.” It’s all about being forgiven and going to heaven and doing your religious duty while you’re here on earth. Ministry, though, is deliberate actions of preaching, teaching, leading, visiting, planning, meeting, caring, etc. The result is that church members view ministry primarily as something the leaders do, and the relationship with God is what the  regular Christians do–being a good person, going to church, then going to heaven when they die.

I believe  ministry and your relationship with God are one and the same. Your relationship with God should motivate you to live as Jesus did. And His life was one of pure ministry. The reality is that all those who sit back and say what a shame it is for someone to “leave the ministry” are probably not living up to their potential. They fail to see that all of life in Christ is ministry. It’s not tied up in the role that you play in a church, but in your relationship with the Savior. Ministry is simply an outward expression of your relationship with God. And it can be expressed as a hair stylist who shows interest in her clients, as a teacher who prays for his students, as a neighbor who builds relationships with other neighbors, as a volunteer in a community organization, or as a pastor of a local church.

If you are confident you are doing exactly what God wants you to do at the moment, don’t allow others’ evaluation of your use of your gifts to discourage or guilt you. Your potential is not defined by the expectations of others! It is defined by your trust in God’s leadership and obedience to His assignments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hate Crime?

Do certain crimes justify being labeled as “hate crimes?” The shooting of a seventeen year-old in Florida has set off a firestorm of emotions. Some are demanding the application of “hate crime” status for action of the shooter. For a crime to be prosecuted as a “hate crime,” there must be clear evidence that the crime was committed based on the sole motivation of hatred of the victim because of his/her religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. If found guilty of a “hate crime” the perpetrator could be punished to a greater degree than if the “hate crime” status did not apply to the situation. In other words, if the same exact crime were committed out of any other motivation, the perpetrator likely would not face as severe a penalty. The reasoning for “hate crime” application to any case seems flawed to me on several levels.

First, from a practical point of view, it seems to me that if justice is truly blind, then it cannot at the same time be discriminating. Justice by its very nature does not favor one person over another (although our justice system and society at times does). From a historical perspective, it flies in the face of the statement that we believe all men are created equal. That statement implies that all people are held to be equally valuable and deserve equal protection under the laws that govern our society. And then we have the biblical view of man. I refer to the words of Jesus where He stated, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,  and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry  with his brother  will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21, 22) At first glance it may look as though Jesus would endorse “hate crime” legislation, but look carefully at what Jesus is saying. Jesus equates the powerful emotion of hatred with murder.

Every murder or other crime against another person, no matter who they are, has hatred at its core. Hatred is not just a volatile intense disliking. It can range from active hostility to passive indifference. If you ignore a person in dire need, it can be an expression of hatred. In any case, hatred is a complete willful disregard for another human being. Plus, the Bible clearly states that God is no respecter of persons. That means that every person can experience God’s love–and His discipline–to the same degree.

To designate only select groups or classifications of people as qualifying for “hate crime” protection undermines the concept of equal protection. My argument is that if one person deserves that level of protection, then every person deserves it. Every human being–no matter the race, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious preference, music preference, or any other characteristic–is made in the image of God. The basic issue here is the sanctity of human life. Terrible crimes committed against any person deserve the proper penalty for those crimes. “Hate crime” status, as applied today, serves only to further divide people. Every crime is based on hate. In the end, I guess I do believe there are hate crimes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond the Fences

I drive by a daycare near our neighborhood, and occasionally it’s when the kids are out in the play area. It’s so funny to see these three and four-year old tykes running around in this relatively small, confined area. I noticed a number of them right up against the chain link fence with their tiny fingers curled around the webbing of the fence staring longingly at the world on the other side. You could just tell these were the ones itching to break into a run beyond that boundary. It’s like they were expressing some level of defiance by clinging to the fence and not engaging in the frolic on the playground equipment. If that fence was not there, you can bet these little guys would be scattering in all directions in a mad dash to explore their new freedom.

Fences are good things. They define our property lines, they keep our kids and pets safe, and they keep out the neighbor’s dog who insists on using your grass as his executive washroom. We put up fences to protect, to defend, and to preserve. We do the same thing in a figurative sense, too. We put up boundaries in our behavior, our relationships, our beliefs, and in many other areas. Many of those fences have been built by someone else, like our parents or other authorities, to define boundaries of acceptable behavior, etc. But sometimes you are the one who has installed the fences that you are now peering through to the other side. You have constructed your own limitations that now hold you in an imagined sense of security. But every once in awhile, you lean against that fence, curl your fingers around the webbing, and peer into the world beyond. You question what else is out there. You wonder if there is something greater and more. You imagine life beyond the fence.

The other side of the fence may be stepping out of your comfort zone to reach out to a people group different from you. It may be making a move to another job, another city, or even another country. It could represent a change in thinking, attitude, or worldview for you. Maybe it involves taking a risk, facing a new challenge, or just obeying God in faith. If this is what your fence represents, go through the gate. Step to the other side and experience the freedom that comes from getting out from behind the fence. Some fences are necessary, but some lose their significance over time. Don’t remain stuck behind fences of excuses, fear, or apathy while daydreaming about the world beyond.  Make a break for it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ministry Like Jesus

This year marks my “silver anniversary” in vocational ministry. Yikes! Twenty-five years have passed since I had my christening (or trial by fire) in preaching my first sermon and getting the official licensing certificate to adorn my wall. And to top it off, the Director of State Missions for our denomination happened to be visiting that Sunday! It all seems a world away in one sense, and yet only yesterday in another. As I reach this milestone I find myself reflecting on those years.

The place was Westview Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi. Patti and I were newlyweds and students in our junior year at the University of Mississippi. I was miserable trying to figure out what to do with my life while working on a business degree. I was considering dropping out a semester and just working till my head cleared when Patti said kind of off-handedly, “Do you think God is calling you to preach?” The idea wasn’t altogether insane to me, but I brushed it aside nonetheless. After another week of running into walls, I decided to broach the subject with our pastor, James Swindoll. I confided that I sensed God may be calling me into vocational ministry. He said simply, “I know.” My first thought after his response was, “Well, why didn’t you tell me?” This is the kind of thing that only God can tell you, and he knew that. He just waited for me to say I was hearing something from God. Once I realized God’s direction, everything that had been so chaotic about my purpose and future fell into place. I finished my degree and went right into seminary and began seeking opportunities to hone these newfound skills.

Since then nearly twenty of those years have been invested in some form of ministry staff position, with almost seventeen of them as a pastor. For the past three years, God has been reshaping my thinking regarding His call on my life. I now realize that call was so much broader than just a call to preach, or even a call to vocational ministry. The call actually came when Jesus said to me, “Follow me” at age seventeen. What I experienced twenty-five years ago in Oxford was God’s invitation to a specific expression of that original call. For those years I lived out that expression. Now I sense God is opening avenues for the call to be expressed in ways I’ve never considered before. And it is exciting! I now realize the call has always been to simply follow Jesus and minister like He did. And that can be done by pastoring, by serving as a student pastor, or a worship pastor, by working as a church planter, or by being a teacher, a plumber, a writer, and IT person, a coffee shop barista, or a myriad of other vocations! The thing I’ve learned after twenty-five years is that ministering like Jesus is not confined to any specific expression, like being a pastor or missionary. Ministering like Jesus happens through every conceivable expression!

My challenge to you is to comprehend that God has called you, too.  Church leaders and missionaries are not the only ones called to ministry.  How are you expressing Jesus’ call to “Follow Me?”  How are you doing ministry like Jesus today?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Believe it or Not, It’s Christmas

Atheists celebrating Christmas. Does anyone else find this the least bit contradictory on some level? I mean, if atheists really want to maintain consistency with what they say they believe (another oxymoron: the whole point of being an atheist is that you don’t believe), then it stands to reason they would not have anything to do with the one holiday that is centered around the birth of the Son of a God who doesn’t exist. They can secularize it all they want by substituting generic holiday greetings, calling it X-Mas or Winter Holiday, but they cannot escape the fact that this one holiday, probably more than any other on our calendar, is saturated with religious symbolism. Oh, I am quite familiar with the development of the secular aspects of Christmas, but none of them do anything to diminish the reason for Christmas.

And why do some atheists feel the need to attack Christians’ expressions of celebration during the Christmas season, specifically nativity scenes, with such gusto? Really, if God does not exist, what are they so upset about? Why would they fear a message they don’t believe is even true? For people who tout their devotion to the right of free speech, they sure seem just as devoted to prevent Christians from expressing theirs. Rather than berate believers for displaying their faith, why not offer to sit down together and discuss their point of view with civility, or at least just leave Christians alone to follow their misguided ways? If Christians wind up being wrong in the end, what difference does it make if they wanted a nativity scene on city property?

That brings up the “other hand.” On it, what if the atheists are wrong, and there was something to the Reason for the Season? What if there really is a God after all? All the atheists’ opposition, especially as vigorous as it has been over the years, makes me wonder: do they secretly suspect they may be wrong, and if they can win some victories in the court of public opinion it will make everything okay? I saw a post recently that fits well here: “If one does not believe, no explanation will do, but if one believes, no explanation is necessary.” Atheists celebrating Christmas. Why not? Jesus came for them, too. Merry Christmas!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment