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Category Archives: My Thoughts on My Sermons

Religion Stinks, volume 2

So I did a post a couple days ago called “Religion Stinks“.  The post was a little commentary + teaser for the sermon I recently did on Galatians 1, which I’ll often do following a sermon.  I was going to title my blog post “Let Jesus Tell You Who Jesus Is”, which was the title of my sermon, but at the last minute, I decided to change the title to “Religion Stinks” because I thought that title might make a non-Christian interested in reading something a pastor wrote, and since what I wrote was intended for people who are not Christians, I went with that title.

My main point from first blog post, as well as my 1/8/12 sermon: (quoting my blog post) My point is simple: People should not look to religious people/leaders for their example of Christianity, they should look to Jesus.

I get this from Galatians 1:11-12  I (Paul) want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying: do not follow a gospel/a “Jesus” that someone made up, follow the true Jesus, and I know who this true Jesus is because I met him in person!  He is telling us: Let Jesus be what defines Christianity to you, not any man (or group).  I see the opposite of this happening all the time, where people see big haired televangelists, or legalistic churches they grew up in, or another pastor or priest molesting children or having an affair, or they point to the Crusades and the Inquisitions “done in the name of Jesus” where tons of people were slaughtered, or whatever it may be, and they point the finger at Jesus and they say “You stink” (or some paraphrase of that).  Actual real people who are not Christians say these types of things to me very often, and it saddens me, and it’s what is happening in Galatians 1, and Jesus is awesome, and really isn’t responsible for the mess we have made “in his name”, yet he gets blamed for it by non-Christians, so I did a sermon on what’s in the Bible about this and I wrote a blog on it.

I also included a video of a guy doing spoken word poetry, talking about a similar subject.

Now the controversy begins.

What I’ve realized in reading several good-hearted rebuttals is that we are defining the word “religion” differently.  Please pause to understand me on this.

I am purposefully not using the standard definition of the word religion, and neither is the guy in the video.  What I’m surprised by is that even though this other definition is fairly well-explained in the video (and in my first blog), people are glossing over that explanation and are sticking with the standard definition of the word.  Here’s what I mean:

In the video, he says right up front that the definition of “religion” he is using is: “following some rules” and “self-righteousness”.  So for those of you that are upset by the video, I’d encourage you to re-watch it and whenever he says the word “religion”, swap it out for the phrase “following some rules” or the word “legalism”.  I assure you if you do this you’ll have a different take on the video.  I did something similar in my blog post, as I pointed out that the “type” (definition) of religion Jesus was so angry about is the hypocritical religion that is simply following a bunch of rules and being self-righteous about it (thinking that following these rules will earn God’s approval / salvation).

(side note: I don’t endorse/agree with every single thing in the entire video.  That’s not the point.  I don’t think you need to agree with every single point in a Christian book, video, sermon, etc. for it to have value / be helpful / challenge you / make you think / be celebrated at face value without having to bring up & dissect every point you disagree with)

What Christians need to understand is that when we use a word, like “religion”, we may have one definition in our heads, but non-Christians are using a very different definition of the same word.  The same thing happens with the word “Evangelical”.  I was talking to a man on an airplane once and he was against all Evangelicals because of something someone in the Republican party said about a political issue.  When he hears “Evangelical”, he doesn’t think of what most Christians think of or identity with, he thinks of a political view regarding an issue that had nothing to do with Evangelicalism. So I’m careful to label myself an Evangelical, because of the baggage of this word.  Am I Evangelical in the standard definition of the word?  Yes.  Would I use different words to describe this because the word “Evangelical” means something very different to non-Christians?  Yes.

We have to speak the language of our culture to reach our culture, otherwise we are wondering why Spanish speaking people aren’t receiving the message we are delivering in French.  I read parts of the Kevin DeYoung article that several people sent me, which was his critique of the spoken word poetry video.  Again, I think if Kevin subbed in the words “following some rules” or the word “legalism” for when the video said “religion”, he wouldn’t have had the issues with it that he wrote so extensively about.

I think we’d all admit that self-righteousness, legalism, and following empty rules is not the true Gospel of Jesus.  That it stinks.  Well, this is what non-Christians see when they think of religion, which is why I’m using this word in that context.  And so we’d point these people to the true Jesus, to grace, to the Jesus that Paul is writing so passionately about in Galatians.  A Jesus that is not a Jesus of following the religious rules (and you can’t argue against that… Jesus did not come to get us to merely follow a list of rules, that IS what he came to abolish, because that IS what the religious leaders where teaching and it IS what got so furious about, e.g. the Matthew 23 quotes from my previous post), but a Jesus who is all about the loving surrender of our heart to him, within a loving relationship made possible through his forgiveness.

On its own, all religion is a hollow shell of religious behavior.  You can be a religious Buddhist, a religious Hindu, a religious Muslim, a religious Jew, a religious Pharisee, a religious Catholic, a religious Protestant, and the list goes on.  Religion is an empty shell that can have any number of things poured inside of it, good or bad.  The problem is if Jesus’ transformational grace isn’t what’s inside of it, you are left with either empty rituals of going through the motions or a genuine passionate effort to try to appease God and/or earn God’s favor.  God rails on these very things in Isaiah 1:11-17, which if you paraphrase the Old Testament religious practices to modern day Church practices (e.g. Sunday services, meetings, preaching, singing, etc.), it’s pretty convicting/scary!

Is. 1:11      “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;      I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
Is. 1:12     When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Is. 1:13      Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.     New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Is. 1:14      Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.      They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
Is. 1:15   When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.     Your hands are full of blood;
Is. 1:16         wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!  Stop doing wrong,
Is. 1:17         learn to do right!     Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

Hopefully the point being made here is pretty simple: God doesn’t care about our religious practices if our hearts are far from him, he isn’t impressed.  Jon Foreman, from the band Switchfoot, has a song called “Instead of a Show” which in many ways paraphrases Isaiah 1:11-17, and similar passages, in an attempt to get us to stop and ask if we have our religious priorities in the right place, or if we are merely “doing religion”.  Isaiah 1 begs the question, what does God really care about? and the answer is pretty obvious that it is not religious rituals or “following some rules”:

Now is loving the poor, keeping a tight reign on your tongue, loving others, and daily living for Christ, also considered “religion”?  Yes of course, as James 1:26-27 clearly tell us: James 1:26   If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

But even in this passage itself, James is warning against hypocritical religion (what our culture simply calls “religion” now) and he is clearly pointing out that there is such a thing as bad religion.

In conclusion, I’m trying to show to Christians that the word “religion” has incredible baggage in our culture, that the Bible warns over and over against religious that is void of Jesus’ grace, and that sadly our culture has come to define religion as this very thing = legalistic, self-righteous, rule following.  While I suppose it’s ok to defend the original definition of religion, I’ve given up on that and simply stopped using the word to describe myself.  If someone says I am religious, rather than talk about the shell that is my “religious behaviors”, which is difficult for people to know the motivation behind, I’d much rather talk about the content of why I do anything and everything, and that is the resurrected Jesus Christ, who loves me, has forgiven me of my sins, and is the King of my life.  In whom I do nothing out of religious obligation but everything out of relational love and connection.  And to me, that is much more compelling.

Maybe I shouldn’t have used “Religion Stinks” as a blanket statement, but I did it to get people reading and to get people thinking.  And once you see the definition for religion that I’m using, I hope you’ll agree.

So, because I think it got lost a little bit last time, I’ll say it again:  People should not look to religious people/leaders for their example of Christianity, they should look to Jesus.

Christians, yes the Bible calls us (2 Cor. 5:20) Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us., and it says (Heb. 13:7)    Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. and Paul says (1Cor. 11:1)   Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  And (as I said in my sermon, which is attached to my previous post) we do need to abide by these commands and take them as a huge challenge to us, especially those of us in leadership, but we would be as wrong as can be if we think we are the 100% correct portrayal of Jesus, and if the world sees us they see they’ve seen a pure example of Jesus to base their entire faith off of.  While we should try to be the example of Christianity, I am not going to tell a non-Christian, “Look at my life and you’ll see exactly who Jesus is”, no I will open the Bible and show them the true Jesus in the Scriptures, as I know I will fail epically in being able to do this my the example of my life alone.  While it’s our goal to live Christ-like and hopefully we are someone people can follow after, we should all confess our sins and shortcomings and point people to the true Jesus, which is exactly what Paul does in Galatians 1:11-12 and 2:16.

So if you’ve ever wondered who Jesus really is, let Jesus tell you who Jesus is, it’s only fair.  Curious?  Read his biography, the book of John.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in My Thoughts on My Sermons

 

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Religion Stinks

I don’t know how many times I’ve had someone tell me they aren’t interested in Jesus because of how hypocritical they see the Church.  This comes in many forms:  televangelists, “Christian” politicians, the church they grew up in, the pastor they grew up with, their Christian parents, the Church throughout history, and the list goes on and on.

I enjoy telling people who are anti-religion that they have a lot in common with Jesus, especially those who also have a desire to care for the poor.  Just a few of the many fun words Jesus had for the religious people of his day:

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
        but their hearts are far from me.
 They worship me in vain;
        their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” -Matthew 15:7-9

And of course there are many more, Matthew 23 potentially taking the cake as Jesus rattles off these harpoons to the religious leaders, calling them “a son of hell (v.15)”, “blind guides (v.16)”, “blind fools (v.17)”, “blind men (19)”, saying that while they clean the outside of their cup, “inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence (v.25)”, calling them “whitewashed tombs (v.27)”, and then the big finish, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (v.33)”

My point is simple: People should not look to religious people/leaders for their example of Christianity, they should look to Jesus.

(A side note: I think a lot of people use this as an excuse to not have to deal with Jesus)

Let Jesus tell you who Jesus is.  It’s only fair.  Curious?  Read his biography, the book of John.

Religion stinks.  A relationship with Jesus doesn’t.

A cool spoken word poetry video that hits on this very topic:

I preached on this topic on Sunday 1/8 as we begin a sermon series in a Galatians, a book that deals with this very thing:

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in My Thoughts on My Sermons

 

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The Worst Part About Christmas

TV commercials are getting harder and harder to watch.

It used to be that there was an agreement between people who make commercials and those of us who watch them.  A fast food restaurant makes their burger look huge, perfect, and not ridiculously smushed in their TV commercial.  They do this by spray painting their tomato red, using plastic lettuce, shining up their meat with some sort of fancy spray, etc.  Kind of like food porn.  The agreement made is that we all understood that when we go into the restaurant that our burger will look nothing like that.  It will indeed be smushed, with the bun being bigger than the meat, grease everywhere, the cheese off-centered, and the tomato always always being a dull pink color.  No one sues for false-advertising; it’s just the way it is.  Commercials lie to us, and we are okay with it.

When it comes to fast food, which I very seldom eat, I can accept this.  You lie to me about the color of my tomato, and I can live with this.  But the commercial industry is ramping up the category of their lies to such levels this Christmas season that it is getting harder and harder for me to swallow.  In fact, even more than a Big Mac itself does, these commercials are making me want to puke.

Do you remember when Apple’s commercials were actually clever and funny?  You’d have Justin Long being the “Mac”, and John Hodgman the “PC” and Hodgman would have a silly video camera taped to his head, and Long would, in his sly way, make fun of Hodgman’s dorkiness, advertising how Mac’s are better because they have a camera already inside of them:

There’s a hidden message here, that is hidden within every commercial, and this one is that: Your life will be way better if you have a camera built in to your computer.  I don’t mind the hidden message because the exterior message is funny, creative, and entertaining.

And we all know that a camera inside your computer is great so you can do things like this:

And if that doesn’t make your life better, what does really?  I mean before I had the ability to take a photo like that, my life was brutally awful and depressing, but once I had the ability to take that photo, all of a sudden my soul’s deepest longings and dreams and desires and hopes and dreams were fulfilled all at once.  Mission accomplished.  Of course we know this isn’t true, right?  And the TV ad companies know it isn’t true either, right?  We all know that as soon as the wrapping is off and the new car scent is gone, that the little feeling of salvation that went along with our new product fades away as well.  So what is an ad company to do?  Like any other addictive drug, the stimulus must come on stronger and in more quantity for the high feeling to continue and for us to continue coming back again and again… which brings us to this year’s Christmas season TV commercials.

Apple seems to have given up on the clever and funny and hidden messages and has went for pure shock value, pretty much coming straight out and telling us that we are complete losers if we don’t purchase their product.  Folks, I want you to ask yourself a set of very serious questions:  Will your life be any better if you have a phone that talks back to you?  Will your feelings of emptiness lessen?  Will you feel peace and satisfaction?  Watch this commercial very closely and tell me, if you take away the happy whistles in the background, how this product helps me:

Everyone of those people looks like a big loser.  No offense if you own one of these of course.  But seriously, if you do, how do you talk into it and not feel stupid?  While convenience is typically the Holy Grail goddess of all marketing and “must have” gadgets, I wonder if this is even any more convenient?  Waiting for a tinny-voiced robot to tell me about my schedule, instead of clicking one button to look at it myself?  Maybe there is a package you can purchase where the happy background whistle music comes with it… that may finally be the best friend I’ve been looking for.

Commercials for gadgets like the talking iPhone are just the first salvo, and they are just the warm up really.  The worst commercials are from the competitors that are trying to show how their gadget is cooler than what just proposed to you as the coolest gadget ever.  Pretty tough sell, but companies like Samsung don’t mind trying:

What is hilarious to me about commercials like this one is that in their attempt to make fun of how other products portray themselves as our personal salvation must-have product, they put themselves in that same category, thus making fun of themselves!  “Products who think they are cool are so stupid.  Our product is the coolest ever!!!”

Acura does this too, except instead of mocking coolness, they mock the ridiculous amount of greed and overspending that Christmas marketing has come to typify.  “In a season of overindulging, oversave” Acura says… by buying a $40,000 car.  Yes, that is my idea of oversaving.  You nailed it.  To me oversaving is putting my garbage in my neighbors trash bin, not dropping $40K on a car.  Okay I stole that idea from my friend Tom, the cheapest man I know, but hilarious nonetheless.  Acura:  “You shouldn’t spend ridiculous amounts of money during Christmas!!  Spend a ridiculous amount of money on an Acura this Christmas!!”  (My car cost me $1100 5 1/2 years ago and I love it by the way…)  At least their commercials are funny, up until you realize how dumb they think we are.

What kills me about the gadget phenomena is that all these phones are doing is allowing us to play video games and watch TV & movies whenever and wherever we want; now there is an original idea: that video games, television, & movies will rescue you from the doldrums of life, someone should market that!  Since we all know how good it feels to veg out in front of a screen for 8 hours in a row…ah the gut-rotting, mind-numbing bliss…

As a final example, the summation of all that is nauseating about these commercials, I present you another iPhone commercial, this time brought to you by our friends at Sprint, and this one takes the cake.  Make sure you pay close attention to the boy at the end, and how his life has reached new heights by being able to play a video game on a 5″ screen anytime anywhere…the twinkle in his eye is nothing short of Heaven on Earth.  Can life get any better!?!? I submit that it cannot!

“Apps that can take you anywhere…” Like Heaven?  Like constant euphoria?  Like utopia?

“Apps that can do anything…” like make me not lonely, not depressed, at peace, joyful, satisfied?

“There’s no limit to what this amazing advice can do…” (see above + throw in an order of donut holes and cheese puffs that spit out from the usb port + makes the Eagles win the Super Bowl)

When I watch these commercials, I often wonder, “Does my fellow man see through these ridiculous lies as well?  Or are they simply gulping this stuff down?  Staring at the screen saying ‘I want I want I want!’…or even more distorted, ‘I need I need I need!’…”

I hope next time you watch TV you watch it with sobered eyes, realizing that these companies are literally trying to brainwash you so they can have your money.  I’m not saying it’s bad to buy things, obviously some purchases are necessary.  But we need to stop thinking that our purchases will be our personal saviors.  That if we buy the newest Apple product, our life will suddenly be filled with happy whistling all the day long because now we can text while watching Seinfield while talking on the phone, while we are dancing of course, with our white ear plugs flowing in the breeze.  And the worse part about it is they use Christmas as the justification to barrage us incessantly.

Some ideas of how to combat this consumer addiction this year:  For every gift you give a family member or friend, give a gift of equal value to the enslaved and oppressed, living in extreme poverty, realizing that in an age of the world wide web, we are now connected to every one of our brothers and sisters around the world, both rich and poor alike, free and enslaved.  Or give less purchased gifts and more homemade or relational gifts (back massage voucher anyone?), freeing up your $ for more valuable things…  Adopt a child through Compassion International giving an education and basic needs to impoverished children around the world, or take a stand with World Relief by donating to helping the most vulnerable people around the world lift themselves out of extreme poverty in sustainable dignified ways.  Or give a gift from their Catalog of Hope, where you can give things like a $6 volleyball to kids in Indonesia or a $60 goat to provide families in Haiti, Malawi or Zambia with income and daily milk for their children.  Or give to International Justice Mission, who specialized in freeing sex slaves from the sex-trafficking industry around the world.  Or find a local Angel Tree in your community and load up.  Sponsor sending a kid to camp who otherwise couldn’t afford it.  And with all of this, be content and grateful for what you have, and realize that human life is a more valuable commodity than a talking cell phone or a Tickle Me Elmo your kid doesn’t need.  It’s amazing what giving like this will do for your heart and your perspective on life.  It’s a power that Apple, Samsung, or Acura can only fantasize about having over you.  The “next big thing” that you need to buy is not a product to consume, it is being a part of something much bigger than yourself, it’s a lifestyle of using our power (money) to love the most vulnerable, rather than simply building bigger mansions and bigger barns to store all of our crap in.  Crap that will never deliver on its promises.

What this incredible “commercial” from Advent Conspiracy, which hits on everything I said in this blog, but in a better, catchier, more powerful way, with some pretty sobering statistics, as well as some good ideas on how to apply this:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/30556886″>%5BAC%5D Promo 2011</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/adventconspiracy”>Advent Conspiracy</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I also preached a sermon in early December entitled “Getting Unlost in Christmas” with this exact goal in mind:

Merry Christmas everyone, and try not to get lost.

 

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Marriage is Hard

Our culture loves to obsess over weddings, but is rampant with divorces.  I’m not writing this to judge those who have gone through a divorce, but it is an undeniable reality that the majority of marriages start out with the bang of an elaborate ceremony but end up sputtering out before the vows said they would.

Maybe it is because most of us believe marriage will be easy, especially with the person we have so many butterflies for.  What is unfortunate is that so many couples fake it when things get tough instead of talking to someone about it, seeking help, and investing in their relationship.  Doing enough to put up a good appearance in public, but intensely struggling in the day-in day-out of real life.  If you are struggling in your marriage, you are not alone.  Marriage is a foxhole for discipleship, an intense arena that shows all of the areas we need our hearts to grow closer to Christ’s in.

This past Sunday, I preached on divorce.  What follows is me teaching on what the Bible says about divorce for around 15 minutes, followed by Jen, my wife of 7 years, coming on stage and she and I discussing the difficulties and near-divorce that we worked through in our marriage:

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in My Thoughts on My Sermons

 

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The Elephant in the Church Room: Homosexuality

I preached on homosexuality and the Church yesterday.  This is a tough topic that is very polarizing.  I think my biggest problem with the Church’s traditional approach to it is that it has offered a 2 cent answer and has failed to comprehend that this is a million dollar question.  I think the reason we (heterosexual Christians) have done this is because homosexual attraction is not an issue we have to deal with personally so we make humongous assumptions about the people who do, assumptions we have no way of validating.  The root of this problem is that we don’t have any friends or even acquaintances who are gay or lesbian, so we really have no idea what they are going through.  And we won’t be able to have any friends who are gay or lesbian because we have created such a stigma around it that both sides are now feeding off of, only making matters worse.

What would help?

It would help if the Church would stop creating such a stigma around homosexuality.  The Bible calls homosexual acts a sin; that’s well and good and it’s okay for us to stand behind that, our entire faith is based on the Bible after all, but the Bible calls a bajillion others things sin as well, and I don’t see this type of stigma created around those things. And by stigma I mean: 1.) we (as well as many on in non-church culture as well do) make a mockery of homosexuality with gay impersonations, jokes, sarcasm, and calling one another homosexual slurs, either maliciously, or in fun.  We do not do this with any other issue that the Bible calls sin.  It would help if we stopped this because it is tragically destructive to those who do struggle with homosexual attraction.  Why would you ever want to confide in someone who is blatantly making fun of you and your deepest struggles?  Or even want to be around them?  2.) We say the Church is a place for sinners to come and find Jesus but if your sin and/or temptation is homosexuality, you are shown the door.  It would help if we didn’t expect people to be perfect before they are allowed to hear about Jesus.  It would help if we stopped acting like homosexual acts are a worse sin than all of the things we repeatedly struggle with and do on a regular basis.  I think one of the main reasons we treat homosexual acts like they are a worse sin than others is because since we don’t struggle with it, it makes us feel self-righteous and superior to those who do.  We’d never create this type of stigma about arrogance, greed, lust (see my blog post about my issues in this area), premarital sex, malice, or disobeying our parents, which are sins that Scripture condemns in the exact same context as homosexual acts.  The reason we wouldn’t create this type of stigma for these acts is because we’d be ostracizing ourselves and our close friends.  3.) It would help if we stopped teaching that homosexual attraction is a sin.  Show me in the Bible where it says that being tempted is the same as sinning?  Attraction and lust are two very different things.  I am a married man and I am often attracted to other women that I see.  This is not a sin.  All other women will not become ugly the moment I say “I do”.  But when I choose to lust over them, I have made the conscious choice to sin by acting on my temptation.  It would help if we stopped treating homosexual attraction as the same thing as homosexual acts.  It would help if we stopped making things up that aren’t in the Bible.  It would help if we stopped plucking verses out of the Bible and posterizing them, without any concern for the context of the rest of the Bible, let alone the context of the rest of the same sentence…what a concept!

It would help if as soon as I say “I think homosexual acts are a sin”, I am not called a bigot, homophobic, or hateful by those who disagree with me/the Bible.  It would help if those who disagree understand that I love all homosexuals in the same way I love all heterosexuals who are having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends out of wedlock, i.e. the same way I love everyone who disagrees with the Bible.  And to Christians who’d ask how I do this, it is a very simple answer: you just love them, it’s what we are commanded to do by Jesus.  And no, love is not synonymous with approving of that person’s behavior.  I find it odd that we’d have to agree on 100% of things in order to love someone, it would help if both sides of this issue understood that.  I can 100% love you but not 100% approve of everything you do, yes that is possible, in fact it’s how nearly all of our relationships already function.  It would help if those who disagree with me/the Bible understand that my church has a welcome mat on our front doors to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, or any sexual behavior outside of marriage for that matter.  It would help if church people didn’t assume that a church approves of homosexual acts just because they see gay or lesbian couples in attendance.  It would help if those who disagree with me/the Bible understood that a Bible church like mine is going to follow what the Bible says–that we call everyone to the journey of aligning their lives with God’s commands, because we have made Him the King of our lives and it’s our soul’s aim to walk the path of life He has set before us, not to earn his approval, but out of thanks, love, and worship to Him for all He has done for us, and out of faith and trust that God’s ways are better than ours, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  I’m not saying you have to agree with me on this, I’m just asking that you see ahead of time that this is our mission on all matters, whether it be sex, money, humility, conflict, forgiveness, you name it.  We (by “we”, I mean myself and those who say they believe in the Bible) can’t pick the parts we like and dismiss the parts we don’t, because then every Sunday morning is simply Noah’s opinion session, and nobody needs that.  If you have a beef with what the Bible says, I can thankfully say that is above my pay-grade and you can take that up with God, it’s His book.  There are things that I have a beef with, and I do take them up with Him, honestly expressing my frustration and confusion, but still submitting to Him in spite of some difficulties.

This is a difficult topic but instead of ignoring it or letting it fester, it would help if we put our weapons down and followed the path of Jesus, talking to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.  Loving her as a friend when everything in his culture told him not to, while at the same time gently showing her why she was so spiritually thirsty, and pointing her towards the answer to her thirst: a relationship with Jesus himself, which would bring her the wholeness each and every one of us is looking for.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in My Thoughts on My Sermons

 

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Talking About Sex and Pornography in Church

Why don’t churches talk about sex and pornography more?  Whether you’re married or single, in adolescence or adulthood, sex and what to do about it bombards your reality, yet the Church, which should be the place ushering us into the true reality of Jesus’ Kingdom, is often strangely silent on this topic (yet Jesus wasn’t…).  Are we afraid people will be offended?  Are we afraid to be vulnerable, admitting our own struggles?  Do we honestly think if we just don’t talk about it, it will simply go away?  Pretending it will go away does people such a destructive disservice because sexual temptation isn’t going away anytime soon, in fact it is only invading our culture faster and stronger as technology becomes more advanced and more a part of our daily lives.

Chew on these stats: (source)

  • In a 2007 study of students aged 13-14, 90% of males and 70% of females had accessed pornography at least once.
  • 87% of men and 31% of women reported using pornography.  (2008)
  • The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined.

So somebody is looking at it, I wonder the chances it is people in our churches?  But for whatever reason, we are afraid to talk about it.  Ironically, Jesus and the Bible were not.

I encourage you to check out the sermon I did this past Sunday on this topic.  The sermon hits on sex in general, not just pornography, and is applicable to all ages and genders.  Before posting the link, I also want to share with you some great resources to protect you and your family:

  • www.k9webprotection.com – a free web filter that you can customize, including blocking general categories and specific keywords.  Have someone else put in the password.  I have this on my computer and it is a lifesaver.
  • www.x3watch.comfree accountability software where people you choose will receive emails every two weeks listing questionable sites you visited
  • K9 Web Protection’s web filter app free for iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone
  • http://bloqer.com/ – Web filter for Android phones (not familiar with this one)
  • Great Selection of Hammers – purchase one to destroy your smart phone if you have one that you can’t find a good filter for
  • If you know of other resources, mobile device filters, etc. please post to fill us in.

My best recommendation is to do what I do and simply remove the data plan from your cell phone package.  It’s amazing that you can still function as a human being without having the web while you drive your car or purchase groceries!  And as a perk, you’ll be rich!  (or at least $10-$20 richer per month when you downscale your cell phone plan).  That’s a whole ‘nother blog post just remember you did survive without web on your phone at one point and if you can’t filter out the porn, getting rid of the web on your phone is definitely worth it.  Now, here’s the sermon (yes it’s longer than usual but we are talking about sex so your attention span will be able to handle it!)…

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in My Thoughts on My Sermons

 

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John 3:16 is Overrated

I had a great time at Crossroads’ Grand Opening Sunday this past Sunday.  I ran in Lansing’s half marathon (read my blog on it) prior to preaching, which made for quite an adventure (got to church with 8 minutes to spare before the service started!), but really the whole morning was an exciting rush.  We packed the house at Crossroads and had two people commit their lives to Christ (What does that even mean?… read on…)

In doing a Grand Opening and in doing a lot of promotion for it, it puts me in a unique situation as to deciding what to preach on.  I know there will be a lot of new people there, and many of these people will not have a relationship with Christ, so this opportunity is a great one.  This really got me thinking, “What is the Gospel?”  What is the Gospel really?  I grew up being taught that the Gospel is a prayer you pray to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, then essentially you receive a ticket to heaven (see picture at right…you can get your own card at getoutofhellfree.com ).  It was never said exactly this way, but this is what was implied and essentially it’s how I shared the Gospel with my non-Christian friends.  Time and time again, my friends would pray this prayer, but I would see zero fruit in their lives.  In fact, I’d ask them about it and they were confused as to what I was even talking about.  I began to wonder, “Why isn’t the Gospel working!?”… but as I read more of the Bible for myself, and in my adult life continued to share Jesus with those who don’t have a relationship with him, I realized that while John 3:16 is a great verse, it all by itself is not the Gospel.  In fact, there is a conversation Jesus has with his disciples in Luke 9:18-25 that discusses this very issue.  A very very rough paraphrase of it is this…

Jesus: Disciples, who do people say I am?

Disciples: They say you’re a prophet or a great teacher/spiritual person.

Jesus: What about you?  What do you believe?

Disciples: We believe John 3:16!

Jesus: Great, that’s key.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, it’s only the first step, you must not stop there… there’s so much more, let me explain…

And that is what my sermon from Sunday is on:

 
 

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