Jesus Says, “No, America, You Won’t Be Great Again.”

For what it’s worth, I’m not now nor have I ever been anti-American (as even close friends have been accused of behaving). I LOVE my country and and very glad that I live here, serve here (though my opinions do not reflect the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any government agency), and raise my family here. For all our faults (and we can point to quite a few), there are places in the world that are FAR worse off. So I’m not here to bash America. I’m here to talk about Christians who have jumped on the “Make America Great Again” bandwagon.

You see, the expression implies that America WAS great but somehow lost its greatness. It now needs to regain what we once had. So I want to know what it is we’ve lost and what we need to get back. My friend Harry said it very well when he responded:

I believe the more specific definition is “great for who(m)”? In a land of such diversity greatness is defined by any individual group to suit their own needs and desires. It’s a dandy catchphrase but is it also a balance scale. Does “greatness” for some come at a sacrifice to others?

I think that’s a big part of the problem. Going back to greatness for one group doesn’t look so hot for another group. It’s a matter of perspective, depending on which side of history you fall. But my BIGGEST problem comes from Christians who eagerly (sometimes humble-732566_1920overwhelmingly so) desire to be part of the “Make America Great Again” movement. I expect such behavior from non-Christians. But Christians are supposed to approach issues like this from a different perspective. Jesus addressed greatness several times.

He said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

and:

And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35)

I’m not talking about pursuing excellence. If we follow the Apostle’s advice and do everything we do as doing it unto God, we’re going to pursue excellence. But the idea of greatness runs contrary to the idea of humility. Greatness is a comparative quality – it’s being set apart from the norm or average. It’s saying, “I’m more special than ________.”

GreatI fail to grasp how a commitment to Jesus, one who epitomized service to others, allows us a Christians to say, “We desire to be better than everyone else!”

I recognize that it’s impossible to lump everyone who says, “Make America Great Again” into a single group. But my observation is that the slogan, and many who promote it, embrace an “us vs. them” mentality that is at odds with the Gospel of Jesus.

Real humility doesn’t say, “I desire to be great!” Real humility says, “What can I do for you?”

So be patriotic. Pursue excellence in all you do. There’s nothing wrong with that! But be humble. Embrace serving others. Reject the pursuit of greatness as a goal. Let greatness be the result of a life of serving others and seeking to build others up. Remember Jesus’s words I mentioned earlier:

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”

Inappropriate Parents & Kids

1297856847128_ORIGINALThis last week Victoria Beckham posted a picture on Instagram of her kissing her 5 year old daughter on the lips.

And the digital world EXPLODED.

Many criticized her and called her ugly names. Many defended her, posting picture of them kissing their own kids. C’mon, people, is this really what it’s come to? Do we have nothing better to do than debate the parenting style of people we don’t know and will never meet?

Sigh – it seems that distance criticism is what we do best. So let’s talk about the actual issue here – appropriate vs. inappropriate affection between parent and child.

Our society is quickly taking up a position that all sexuality is okay as long as no one is hurt. Not just okay – but encouraged. Media floods our brains with images of same-sex couples kissing at pride events. Celebrities bounce from partner to partner and nobody bats an eye (plus it gives Taylor Swift more song writing material). And I think this oversexualization of society is the root of the problem. We’ve come to the point where many cannot see a kiss between a parent and child without reading sexual content into it. It’s not the parents who disturb me – it’s the people who read into the behavior who disturb me.

Much of what we consider to be appropriate physical behavior is culturally conditioned. Citizens in some countries greet each other with kisses on the cheek. It’s not romantic. In some cultures you sill see two men, best friends, walking down the street holding hands. It’s not romantic – it’s a sign of solidarity and friendship.

How far can a parent go to show affection and love to his/her child? I’m willing to look foolish for the sake of my kids. It reminds me of the story Jesus tells in Luke 15 we sometimes call “The Prodigal Son.” The basic premise is that the young son bails on his family, takes part of the family fortune, and blows it all in a way that would bring shame and dishonor upon his family. So he decides to go home and ask his father for a position as a servant, since he doesn’t deserve to be part of the family any more (but he still needs a job, you know?!) Jesus picks up the story and says:

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

The father saw his son from a long way off and ran to him. In the Ancient Near East, men didn’t wear blue jeans. They had tunics. Running would have meant pulling up his tunic. It would have meant exposing part of his legs to the public so that he could run freely. But getting to his son was more important than what society thought. So he hitches up his tunic and runs to his son. He hugs his son. He kisses his son.

Jesus is trying to teach us something about how God, our heavenly Father, cares about us. There’s also something to be learned about a love so fierce that we’re willing to demonstrate it in front of the whole world. It also says something to our kids when we’re willing to show the affection we feel.

So last night as I was putting my kids to bed I kissed each one of them – my daughters and my son – on the lips. I told them I loved them. Then I said good night.

And I’ll probably do it again tonight, too.

image001
My and my baby girl 🙂

Taylor Swift: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!

I love pop culture.

Let me rephrase that – I love the products that pop culture creates. I love movies, music, literature, art…you get the idea.

girl-15754_1920I don’t like the personal drama that comes with pop culture icons. Like the “feud” between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Or Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

I don’t follow it.So I really don’t care much about Taylor Swift’s downfall or the end of her career. In fact, I knew nothing about it until a friend sent me an article and suggested a “Christ in Culture” response.

So here’s the rundown: Taylor Swift and her ex-boyfriend are fighting (in the public square). And people watching are jumping in the same way that middle school kids see two kids brawling and begin chanting, “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”

No, Taylor Swift’s career isn’t really over. This is merely a blip on the radar for these pop stars. Like I said, their personal lives aren’t something I actively follow. But I believe that all of culture can be used as a springboard, places where we can use culture to dive into faith-based conversations. And I believe this story is no different.

As Christians we are called to be people of reconciliation. The Apostle Paul specifically says that we have a “ministry of reconciliation.” Part of who we are and what we do as Christians is to bring the world to Jesus. But I believe we’re also called to be people who seek reconciliation among all of humanity. This is why Jesus gives us steps in Matthew 18 on how to handle conflict when a friend sins against you. The ultimate goal is not payback. The ultimate goal is reconciliation.

But we don’t like to live that way. Reconciliation doesn’t allow for drama. In fact – reconciliation puts an end to drama. What would happen to all of the “reality” television shows if people practiced reconciliation? The industry would shrivel up. Reality tv THRIVES on drama and the complete lack of reconciliation.

dentist-428645_1920One of my favorite words is schadenfreude. It’s a word that describes our pleasure at the misfortune of someone else. One of my favorite movie characters is Steve Martin’s dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors.”He thrilled every time someone experienced pain and suffering. He became a dentist because he derived so much pleasure out of other people’s pain.

While the character is an over-exaggeration, it’s a completely human and natural response to take pleasure in seeing the misfortune of someone we don’t like.

Except it’s not Christian.

We’re called to be better than that. In fact, Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (12:15)

As people of reconciliation, as people who embody the character of Christ, we ought not to rejoice when others go through tough times. Even if we dislike them, the suffering of others should never be something we REJOICE in.

Like I said, I don’t care about the personal drama between pop stars. But I do care about how we as Christians respond to the suffering of those around us – even celebrities we don’t like very much.
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What do you think? Have you experienced schadenfreude?

The American Sin of Nationalism

usa-1439915_1920One of my theological pet peeves is when people misuse the Bible in order to support their own over other groups. One glaring example is Jeremiah 29:11, which reads:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

Or there’s 2 Chronicles 7:14, which states:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

These passages are HIGHLY misused because, even though they were written to and intended for ancient Israel, Americans take them and proclaim them as promises for America. The thought is that America is the new land of promise and God’s instrument in this world.

But it’s complete rubbish.

From a theological standpoint, America is no better than any other country in the world. We are not special. We are not unique. There is certainly no American exceptionalism.

Theologically speaking, of course.

Yet Americans, especially American Christians, CONTINUE to cling to national pride as though being an American meant divine favor. While this may not be true of everyone, all of the “Christians” I know who proudly claim to be nationalists are ALSO racist. They won’t say that. They say “pro-white” as though there is a difference. But being pro-white means you’re anti-anything else. And, quite simply, this nationalistic view is completely contrary to the nature and character of God.

God is the God of ALL nations. God is the God of ALL people groups. This is a lesson that we see in one of my favorite Bible stories – the story of Naaman.

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.

Naaman is filled with nationalistic pride. When the prophet tells Naaman to wash in an Israeli river, his immediate response is to question why the rivers in him homeland aren’t better. We see a lot of this attitude in Christians today.

Our way is better. Our way is the good way. God favors our way.

Rubbish. The story of Naaman shows us that God is the God of all. God even cares about this non-Israelite enough to heal him. After  Naaman’s servants talk some sense into him, Naaman does as the prophet instructs and is healed! And he realizes that there is only one true God.

earth-11593_1920Naaman almost missed the biggest blessing in his life because his arrogance and nationalistic pride prevented him from hearing God.

In today’s Western culture, we need to be sure that our nationalistic pride and arrogance has not made us deaf to hear the voice of the Lord. It’s not us vs. them. Our country is not a theologically superior country. God doesn’t love one nation more than any other.

I’m fond of quoting Galatians 3:28 ~

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The human distinctions that separate us are just that – human. There is nothing of God in them. So drop the nationalism and the arrogance. Drop the racism and the sexism. Through our faith we are united. We are one.

We are God’s.

Forget Forgiveness – I Want Rapists to Suffer

courtroom-898931_1280I needed a couple days to cool off before I wrote on this topic. By now, everyone in America has heard of Brock Turner, the man who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman last year. While the prosecution asked for a 6 year sentence, the judge thought that a long prison term would have “a severe impact” on the criminal and gave a sentence of 6 months, of which there is a possibility he may only serve 3.

When I heard that I nearly lost my mind.

3 months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman. What has this world come to? There are no words that can express the depth of loathing I have for the man who assaulted the woman and the judge who is refusing to bring justice against the vile perpetrator.

But Chris, what about Jesus’s words about forgiveness? Wouldn’t Jesus want us to forgive and move on?

NO!

The context of Jesus’s words is not even remotely close to dealing with one person raping another. Jesus said,

“Even if your brother wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks for forgiveness, forgive him.” (Luke 17:4)

Jesus wasn’t being literal. He wasn’t advocating a 7-time forgiveness, but it you get to number 8 you’re free to withhold forgiveness. Jesus was trying to teach people about a character issue – are we willing to be people of forgiveness when people who wrong us repent and seek forgiveness. Jesus wasn’t talking about legal justice.

And Brock Turner has never repented or asked for forgiveness. He’s given excuses – he had too much to drink. There is no ownership or responsibility. There is no repentance.  All we need here is justice. And the Bible is not short on discussing justice.

  • To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.(Proverbs 21:3)
  • When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15)
  • He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.(Isaiah 1:17)
  • For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)

That’s just a few. We ought to be pursuing justice against evil people who wreak havoc on the lives of the innocent. This man Turner should not be allowed to escape justice for ANY reason. I tend to hold more to the thinking of the Psalmist who, when contemplating Israel’s enemies, blesses those who dash the heads of the enemy’s babies against the rocks.

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,

blessed shall he be who repays you

with what you have done to us!

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones

and dashes them against the rock!
(Psalm 137:7-9)

So I confess openly that I wrestle with developing a heart of forgiveness and seeing this evil man suffer. I know that, as a society, we must do better to protect people from assault and to pursue REAL justice against the evil people who perpetrate it on others.
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What do you think? How do you feel about forgiveness vs. justice? Just keep your comments polite towards each other, even in disagreement.

Theology Gone Ape

gorilla-752875_1920I know everyone has heard the recent story about the child falling into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. After the authorities arrived, the gorilla was shoot shot in order to rescue the child.

Of course there was an instant fight between those who supported killing the gorilla and those who would have preferred another method of getting the young boy out. “Gorilla experts” took to the airwaves to defend each position. I’m not sure how Christians ended up getting involved in the animal welfare aspects of the case, but it was hard to be on social media and not see Christian people debating the ethics of killing the gorilla.

While we ought to strive to be good caretakers of God’s creation (yes, that includes animals) it’s important that good theology lead the discussion. Quite simply, humanity occupies a special place in the world. No animal life compares to human life. From the beginning of world, we have been set apart.

Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”

So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and the birds and all the animals.” (Genesis 2)

Indeed, it is only humanity that received the breath of God, that Spirit within us that makes us distinct from even our closest animal relatives. When it comes evaluating the worth of a life of a human over an animal, there really should be no place for debate. The human life is superior to the animal life.

No, this doesn’t give us room to be cruel to animals. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that saving a human life is more important than saving an animal life. Of course another option that had been able to spare gorilla and child would have been great, but I have no qualms about and feel theologically justified in putting down an animal so that we might save human life.

And for those of you who saw fit to criticize the parents for “letting” their child climb into the gorilla enclosure, I leave you with this that I saw on my buddy Aaron’s Facebook page:

13335805_10209360800755441_6738522170452202099_n

How about you? Do you think they should have put the gorilla down or do you favor an alternative method for rescuing the boy?

Hey, Moon Jesus, Come Back Soon…

We listen to a lot of Christian music when we’re driving. Yesterday a great one for belting came on the radio: Even So Come.

All of creation, all of the earth
Make straight a highway, a path for the Lord
Jesus is coming soon

Call back the sinner, wake up the saint
Let every nation shout of Your fame
Jesus is coming soon

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing, “Even so come, Lord Jesus, come.”

The 4 year old piped up in the seat behind me, “Did they say, ‘even so come Lord Jesus?'” The conversation then went like this:

Yes, baby girl, they did.

What do they mean “come Lord Jesus?”

God tells us in the Bible that Jesus is going to come back for everyone who believe in him.

(9 year old in the far back of the van): I BELIEVE IN HIM!

(6 year old in the middle): I BELIEVE!

(back to 4 year old): Daddy, is Jesus in the moon?

At this point I’m going to take a break to say that I have NO idea where this question came from. We try to keep the kids away from the weirder heresies and cults… 😉

No, Baby, He’s not in the moon.

No, where is he for REAL?

From there we entered into a brief conversation on the omnipresence of God (funny enough, we had just turned off Obi Wan Kenobi teaching Luke Skywalker all about the Force) and the return of Christ – well, as much as we could on a 4 year old level.

The point of telling this story is not to talk about the imminent return of Christ or about the attributes of God. I really wanted to share this story to highlight the fact that those of us who believe ought to be taking advantage of such opportunities to talk with our kids about God.

Of course, I hear people argue that Christians merely brainwash and indoctrinate our kids into faith when we ought to be letting them figure out their own way.

Hogwash.

We are all conditioned by our worldview. Some of us hold to a Christian worldview. Others, not so much.  Just a few moments ago I saw a friend post this:

Mike Dunger

And it’s true! The point is that we ALL approach life with a worldview, and we pass that worldview down to others. If we’re not passing our Christian worldview down to our kids, the outside world will pass down something else.

Think about faith this way. If I believe something to be true, I would actually be harming people by not telling them what I believed to be true. Is God real? Did Christ die a propitiatory death for humanity? Will we all stand before God again one day?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Why would I withhold that from my kids? Don’t let opportunities slip by. I’m not saying you need to force it. Don’t bash people over the head with your Bible shoutin’, “YOU NEED JESUS!” But as the opportunities arise, make the most of them. Let your friends and family know the truth you know. Not everyone will accept it, but if you REALLY believe it, why WOULDN’T you share it?

Unless you don’t REALLY believe…

Holding On To Politics But Letting Go of God

presidential-election-1336480_1280Let’s be honest – it’s easy for Americans to get caught up in the political furor of the presidential race. I don’t know the exact number but I think I remember hearing somewhere that more Americans than ever are turning out for primaries and rallies. People are HEAVILY invested in this race. And this is true on both sides of the aisle.

But Christians are too invested.

Yes, I said it. Christians care SO much about this presidential election that they are letting go of God. Of course they don’t admit it.

Heck, they don’t even recognize it.

They will claim that they believe the way they do BECAUSE of their faith. Funny enough, people on all sides of any issue make the exact same claim. But I don’t think that faith is driving the Christian fervor. Not really. It’s not about spirituality. It’s not about the Gospel. It’s about a superficial cultural religion – not real Christianity. Look at the words of the Apostle Paul:

bible-1031288_1920If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17)

Let’s break it down:

  • Our priority is to FORCE God’s kingdom onto the nation. Where we are instructed to set our minds above, we choose to set our minds to November and re-creating a theocracy (which we never were, by the way – this was never God’s nation, and we were never God’s people “called by His name).
  • We revel in those things we are told to put away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Our candidates intentionally stir up these passions to rally us to their cause. This is not the Christian way. It’s political, sure, but not Christian.
  • Rather than seeing the unity of humanity in Christ, we highlight the differences between us. Now more than ever we hear language of separation – language that creates an “us Vs. them” mentality. This is not right.
  • We refuse to put on the attributes to which we are called: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness.

If these are the things that Christians are supposed to focus on, to cut out of our lives, and to put into our lives, why are we completely ignoring God’s word?

My guess? It’s because we’re not really Christian. We’re social Christians. We believe in a God-like being who kind of cosmically started things, but we’re not ACTUAL Christians where we’d allow God to tell us that our behavior is atrocious and that it’s time to change.

This is not me advocating for not voting. As citizens we have a responsibility to vote. Even the Apostle Paul knew how to use his Roman citizenship to accomplish his purposes. But Paul’s focus was not on being Roman. His focus was Jesus.

We’ve lost our focus on Jesus. We’re social Christians but not actual Christians. When God wants to change us we say, “Forget that!” We’d rather change the world around us. It’s time to walk away from setting our sights (and our hopes) on the government.

It’s time to refocus on Jesus.

Dear, @PiersMorgan, It’s Okay to Have an Opinion

piers-morgan-So I saw that Piers Morgan is causing quite a stir. He wrote an article criticizing Beyoncé’s outspoken activism on racial issues – a move that is relatively recent in her career. Morgan writes:

Beyoncé then was unrecognisable from the militant activist we see now. Then, she was at pains to be seen as an entertainer and musician and not as a black woman who sings. Now, it seems to be the complete opposite.

The new Beyoncé wants to be seen as a black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second. I still think she’s a wonderful singer and performer, and some of the music on Lemonade is fantastic.

But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé. The less inflammatory, agitating one. The one who didn’t use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse. The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily. The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same

Morgan’s criticism has drawn heavy fire from Beyoncé supporters. Her fans have taken to social media to blast Morgan. I’ve read Facebook comments like:

“You are a middle aged, British white man, you have no idea, i repeat, NO. IDEA. What it is like to be a Black Woman….”

Or,

If I ever hear a White Man speak on the struggle of the Black Woman again, the only sympathy he will get is from the devil himself!

Even Esquire jumped in the fray with:

Piers Morgan’s take on Beyoncé’s ‪#‎Lemonade‬ might just be the dumbest.

Sometimes I feel as though the world has lost its ever-lovin’ mind. Not that Piers Morgan ever reads my articles, but I felt the need to be like every other blogger in the world and give my two-cents on the issue (even though you haven’t asked me).

To those blasting Mr. Morgan – ease up, dudes! Everyone is entitled to an opinion, especially when it comes to arts and entertainment. Morgan was not criticizing #BlackLivesMatter. He was not denigrating those who advocate for social justice. He wasn’t making any politically charged comments about racism. He was talking about entertainment, which is a HIGHLY subjective thing.

For example, I saw a friend of mine post a comment on Facebook about her favorite Marilyn Manson song. How anyone can listen to that is beyond me – I find it to be rubbish. But there are many people (my wife included) who laugh at me and mock me when I break into song EVERY time I hear Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

Bon JoviSeriously, how can you NOT go into instant karaoke mode when classic Bon Jovi comes on the radio?!? But I digress.

The Bon Jovi part is actually a segue into my next point – sometimes it is difficult for fans to get behind an artist’s evolution. As Bon Jovi left that awesome 80’s hair-band style and moved into a mainstream pop-rock, a lot of us were disappointed. I’ll always be a fan, but it’s just not the same as it was. Or look at the evolution of U2. As artists, they have done things to evolve and stretch. It hasn’t always worked (1997’s Pop, anyone?). Some U2 albums I absolutely loathe.

But all art is subjective, and those of us who consume it are allowed to have our own tastes and preferences. If Mr. Morgan prefers Beyoncé the way she was, that’s his prerogative. Scale back the hatred. He still admits she’s terrific – he merely prefers her before she involved into the heavy activism. It’s not racism nor is it white privilege to say, “I just liked listening to her music – I don’t want to be preached at.”

Now to those who prefer Beyoncé as she was and don’t like new activist-Beyoncé, you need to understand that artists DO evolve. We all do. No matter who we are today, we will be different people in 5 years. Our likes and dislikes can shift (although I will NEVER like peas). Our passions can shift. It is not so unreasonable to see that Beyoncé has a (relatively) newfound passion for social and racial activism.

The Bible has some incredible examples of people evolving – of genuine character development. God does incredible things with us, taking us from who we were and creating something new. Look at Moses, a murderer with a speech impediment who was on the lam from Egyptian authorities. God helped him evolve and sent Moses BACK to Egypt. I’m pretty sure Pharaoh wasn’t thrilled with Moses’ evolution.

Or how about Peter and John? They evolved from simple fishermen – uneducated and common men – into passionate preachers of the Gospel of Jesus. It astonished the religious leaders, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t thrilled with Peter and John’s evolution.

There are many biblical examples of this kind of phenomenon. And thank God, because it means we don’t have to be stuck in our same ruts year after year. God can do something new with us. God IS doing something new with us.

Just understand that other people might not like or accept your evolution. And that’s okay.
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Sound off! What do you think? What musician/band do you love that you have seen evolve? Did you like the evolution or hate it?

Dear Facebook, Your Theology Sucks

There I was at league bowling night when a Service Member approached me and flat out share-if-you-love-godasked, “Hey Chaps, what do you think of those ‘Share if you love Jesus’ memes on Facebook?”

I understand that I say things that offend people. I’ve been called heretical and even blasphemer. But I never TRY to offend people, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t blast this guy with my “truth.”

I said, “Staff Sergeant, I don’t think it’s right or ethical to try to force people’s behavior through manipulation and guilt, and those types of memes do just that.”

His response? “Oh, okay, so I don’t have to feel bad for not feeling bad about not sharing.”

Me: “Staff Sergeant, I NEVER share any of them.”

And he walked away laughing.

It’s an excellent question he asked because those memes are EVERYWHERE! I’m not even sure what motivates people to make them up. Who thinks it’s a good idea to make people feel bad for not sharing a ridiculous picture? In the end it’s not really about spirituality but about social media presence and influence.

Who can get the most shares? Who can get the most likes?

It’s public spirituality which smacks of insincerity and legalism. Rather, Jesus calls us to a life of private spirituality. That isn’t to put down corporate worship (worshiping as a church). Our group gatherings are an important part of our own spiritual growth. Instead, Jesus has in mind the spirituality we do in public as a show. For example, Jesus says:

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-4)

And Jesus continues:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)

Do you get the feeling that Jesus would see these memes and gag?

Don’t be spiritually manipulated by these flim-flam social media Christians. If you love Jesus, follow him and live by his commands. Please do NOT share any ridiculous memes.

A like does NOT equal one prayer.
A share does NOT equal 10 prayers.

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