Monthly Archives: June 2012

the health care debacle: who is to blame?

I have a couple of friends that love our President and everything he does. He made their year with his influence over the Supreme Court and their decision to mandate a health insurance tax. However, most of my friends are quite upset with the decision.

For what it’s worth, I have a view I haven’t heard anyone else mention up to this point:

The Bible tells us that it is the responsibility of Christians and the Church to take care of the widow, the orphan, the needy and the poor (see references below). It appears that several years ago, we decided to abdicate that responsibility. So someone has to do it.  Enter – the government of the United States. Back as far as President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the government began handing our support to needy people. This practice has grown ever since.  The current health care reform emphasis is simply an extension of this.

So what would keep the church from being able to fulfill these responsibilities?

  • Most people are not a part of a local church, therefore we are not even in relationship with them.  This responsibility involves way more than just giving money.
  • Most people who do go to church do not give money to the church so there is nothing to share with the poor. We spend everything we get trying to keep the doors opened.
  • Most Christians simply won’t accept the responsibility. They are more concerned about democracy that they are about obedience to Scripture. So we hand the job over to the government. Yet many complain when it’s not done their way.

This essence of this problem is not political. It is spiritual. We won’t change it by voting. We will only change it by doing what God told us to do.

I think God had a better plan.

Proverbs 19:17 When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord–and he pays wonderful interest on your loan!

1 John 3:17 But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him–how can God’s love be within him?

Proverbs 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

James 1:27 The Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father’s point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord–not soiled and dirtied by his contacts with the world.

Psalms 82:4 Rescue the poor and helpless from the grasp of evil men.

1 Timothy 6:18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.

Luke 3:11 “If you have two coats,” he replied, “give one to the poor. If you have extra food, give it away to those who are hungry.”

2 Corinthians 9:9 It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”

Isaiah 58:7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don’t hide from relatives who need your help.

Isaiah 58:10 “Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.

Matthew 25: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”


busted by our complaints

You can tell a lot about person, based on their complaints.

“My husband makes me so mad.”

“I hate my job.”

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

Our complaints can reveal the victim in us. They can expose us as blamers. When I spend too much time grumbling about something, that something has control over me.

Let me encourage you today: rather than complaining, do something about it!

Think about your biggest issues. Is it possible that you can take action that will, in some way, improve the situation? Can you communicate better with your spouse? Can you try to improve the conditions at your job? Can you begin eating better and resting more and working out – to improve your health?

While I am not saying that we can fix all of our problems, I am saying that complaining about our problems is counterproductive. Let’s be proactive and positive. If I can harness the energy that it takes to complain and channel it toward solutions, things will surely improve. That problem won’t go away unless you do something about it.

You have complaints? Join the club! Now, let’s do something about it.


people are messy

Our Community Group discussed Proverbs 14 last week. One of the verses created quite a bit of conversation:

Proverbs 14:4 Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (NLT)

No, our group does not have a bovine fascination. This verse isn’t about oxen – it’s about relationships.

In essence, I think the verse is telling us that life is simpler if you don’t get too close to people. It’s quieter, cleaner and less complicated. Your “stable” will stay clean if you are the only one in it.

And that philosophy guides the lives of a lot of folks. Isolationists. Loners. Or maybe just “non-people people”.  For whatever reason: shyness, past hurts/disappointments, or insecurities, some people just prefer to be alone. And some of us think that relationships just aren’t worth all the hassle.

But here is what I think: We were not intended to live life alone. True, it is easier not to bother with people. You can do what you want when you want without the worry of what other people think or do. But we were put on this earth to do life with one another. We are better together than we are apart – even with all of the complications of relationships. Part of the development process is working through the challenges. There are things we learn only be growing through the frustrations of relationships. We must have this skill if we’re going to succeed in life. A mess can actually become a beautiful thing. And by the way, the “harvest” part of this verse describes our purpose. God has given us a job to do and it requires a team. If we intend to get anything done for God, it will involve and include other people. There is no way around that.

If you don’t have close friends and if you don’t like your family – life will be cleaner. But you won’t get anything done in life – especially in regard to relationships. Let’s stop looking for perfection in others. Let’s drop our expectations that life with other people will be easy. Of course there will be conflict. Other people will get on your nerves and let you down and make you mad. Welcome to the human race. But we have to keep running in the race.

If something is causing you to remain distant from the church, from friends, from your family – let’s ask God for healing. By the way, He probably won’t answer your prayer to change the other people around you – but He just may change you!

Let’s learn to deal with the dirty stable so we can produce a larger harvest.

Oxen really smell don’t they?


married, single, other?

We have gotten used to words being redefined. It happens all the time. “Sick” now means “really good”. “Wicked” now means … “really good”. Maybe eventually most words will evolve into meaning “really good”!

But today I’m thinking about the nuances of the language we use to identify our relationship status. Specifically, I am talking about the word “single”. “Single” used to mean unmarried. Now single means no boyfriend or girlfriend. This metamorphosis may seem slight and inconsequential. But I think not.

Along with a redefinition of the word comes a redefining of behaviors. Dating couples who no longer consider themselves single act, in most ways, as married couples. This is where the problem arises. I see kids changing their relationship status on facebook from “single” to “married”, and I get nervous. Obviously, they didn’t have a wedding but I see danger signs here. I also recently saw the old “it’s only a piece of paper” thing mentioned in regard to living together outside of marriage. Again, I get nervous.

Call it what you want, change the meaning of words if you like. There really are only two ways to identify yourself as it relates to marriage: single or married. If you did not have a legal wedding, you are single.

Oh, and the “it’s complicated” thing? I’m even more nervous!


don’t forget the most important stuff

A few weeks ago, we were headed to a conference for the purpose of giving exposure to our missions work. When we arrived at the airport, we realized we had left all of our presentation materials back at home. I had to go back home to get them, and I ended up flying standby. Otherwise, we would have been without the most important stuff – the very reason for our trip.
Warren Bennis, leadership guru says, “I’ve never seen anyone derailed from top leadership because of a lack of business literacy or conceptual skills: it’s always because of lapses of judgment and questions about character. Always.
It seems to me that there is a sufficient amount of emphasis on skills development and strategy engagement among leaders. Bennis is right – know-how is not the problem when someone fails.  The problem almost always is, leaders lose their bearings.  They have a moral lapse. They fail and fall.
I see four key reasons why leaders are prone to omit issues of character and integrity:
·      Forgetting what brought success. Honesty and integrity are not very glamorous foundations, but must be maintained in order to prevent moral failure.
·      Corruption from outside sources. Unscrupulous characters will be attracted to success. Know who they are and avoid them!
·      Arrogance of success. Pride is the greatest enemy of leaders. Stay humble; stay on track.
·      Too busy to pay attention to details. Never become so preoccupied with leading that you forget to focus on small, important, moment-by-moment decisions.
Leaders (and followers) don’t forget the most important thing – your character.

take care of your body

On Sunday, Rich Whitter delivered a great message at Cross Community about how God has decided to making his living place within us, how we are the temple of God. We were reminded that God no longer lives in houses made by human hands (Acts 7:48). He now lives in us. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. He told us that we are the temple of the Living God.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went to some meetings for pastors. We were visiting an unnamed city and state, but rest assured, the culture was a bit different that what we are currently accustomed to.  Our current location emphasizes, sometimes to a fault, physical appearance. I was taken aback by the number of overweight people present. I don’t mean to be cruel, but the average weight of the people in this group was well over average. Again, these were pastors and leaders. Without being too judgmental, I think this may reveal several problems. At least many people perceive this to be a problem. I don’t like it when people characterize Christ followers and especially pastors as lazy, fried chicken eaters. We may really be hindering our effectiveness in a world that is so health-conscious.

While some people have health issues that prevent them from losing weight, many people lack the discipline it takes to be healthy.

We are the temple of God, shouldn’t we take care of ourselves? We want to feel good and be strong and have good health because we are God’s house. We want to live long lives so we can accomplish more for God. Doesn’t it make sense that we should stay in some kind of reasonable physical shape? We can glorify God more through our bodies if they are healthy.

You only have one body – take care of it, because it belongs to God.


i go to church

I make a living in the church, actually through the church. Worship services usually happen in the church but they are only a part of what we do. I went to church before I was paid to go and should I lose my job in ministry, I would keep going to church.

I usually emphasize a missional expression of ministry, or carrying out in our culture what Christ tells us in the church. But today I want to discuss what I get out of worship services. In addition to the usual (worship, prayer, learning more about God, etc.), I find many personal benefits to regularly attending worship gatherings.  These things have nothing to do with my being a pastor. They have everything to do with me going to church services.

Here are some of the benefits I get out of church:

I encourage others at church. Many people don’t believe it, but their very appearance in a church service is an encouragement to other people. Obviously if you are not there, they will not get that encouragement. So I go.

I get to experience “the moment”. God’s Spirit works in unique ways while His people are gathered in a group. That moment cannot be recaptured or transferred. If I miss it, I just miss it. There is power in spontaneity. God might tell me to say something or do something for someone “right now”. If I’m not there, I will miss the spontaneous.

I get to use my gifts that are intended for worship gatherings. The Bible is clear that some of the talents given to people are given for the purpose of building up others while at worship. If I don’t go to church, I cannot use those gifts anywhere else.

I am made aware of the right-now needs of my church family. A simple look in the eye can inform you of someone who is hurting or frightened or angry. I can respond, on the spot, to that need. If I am not at church, I won’t even know of the need. So I go.

My fellow leaders speak into my life. Messages or sermons or teachings are the best counsel and advice that a pastor can offer. Watching on the Internet or on television or listening online is great, but it is not the same as in person. D. L. Moody (in the late 1800’s) said, “The difference between listening to a radio sermon and going to church…is almost like the difference between calling your girl on the phone and spending an evening with her.”

I am “in the know” with the immediate direction of our church. I don’t want to hear through the grapevine about something special that God is doing or a change that is taking place. I want to see and hear it first-hand.

I am able fulfill my responsibility as a member of my church. Among our responsibilities are: prayer for others when they need it, responding to crisis at the moment, providing support when it is needed, and participating in the forward movement of the church. If I am somewhere else, none of this can happen…until maybe later. Sometimes, later is too late.

These things cannot happen outside of the church, so I go. Often. I love going to church and my life would be incomplete without it. So I go. Whether or not I am a pastor, I go to church.

So before you decide to skip church, or before you allow something else to push your church service to the back burner, please know that your attendance and involvement is important.

Don’t miss something important. Go to church.

How about you? Why do you go or not go to church?