From Starbuck’s Winter Cup design to the legalization of gay marriage, from the right to bear arms, to the issues surrounding refugees; our country has found itself in an unwinnable battle between Right Wing Christians who think the world around them should cater to their personal beliefs about morality and ethics because, “Thomas Jefferson, and Winston Churchill were reincarnated versions of Simon Peter and the Apostle Paul, and when they landed the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock, Ronald Reagan was there to greet them and help lay the foundation for the Christian States of America.” At the same time, their counterparts on the Left seem to only care about serving their Reptilian Overlords.
All joking aside, so many of the Christians who have taken to social media in order to bash the, “Downfall of our ‘Christian’ nation” seem to believe in an origin story of these United States that fails to include many of the un-christian elements of our history. They get their fingers rattling on their keyboard and fill the Internet with things like, “We better watch ourselves or God’s gonna get us like He did Sodom and Gomorrah.” But apparently these same people haven’t actually read that story, because it includes a level of rampant wickedness not yet available at your local CVS.
The fact of the matter is the Constitution of the United States does not include a declaration of state religion, forbidden religions, or even code of moral conduct. In fact, the document is oddly (for the time in which it was written) void of any reference to any distinct God. And even though the Declaration of Independence includes the idea of a Supreme Creator, and Inspirer of the document itself, the construction of government, law, and justice are particularly secular in their expression.
As a follower of Jesus, and a passionate American, I have struggled as of late about these issues. Among so many others, I have seen a distinct shift of the American Pop-Culture Machine away from any semblance of morality to a distinctly amoral description of the American Dream. Even though I recognize that the United States was not founded on a moral principle or standard of personal conduct, I do believe that every human is responsible for his/her own actions.
So, what is my response to the decline in American morality?
What is my role in the struggle between the Left and the Right?
How should my Christianity influence my Americanism?
I think the answer to all these questions can be found in a single statement, “The United States of America is NOT the Kingdom of God.”
The fact that so much of the world thinks the West is synonymous with Christian is simply not true. Maybe there was a time when the majority of voting Americans wanted it to be true, but it has never been true. If it was, we wouldn’t have been a country that struggled so hard to end slavery, or allow women to vote. If America was the Kingdom of God, we wouldn’t have had such an aversion to Civil Rights.
Qualities like racism, sexism, and the dehumanization of anyone who fails to agree with our opinion are not representative of the Kingdom of God.
The fact that the world looks at the U.S. as a “Christian” Nation is a direct reflection of something that we were all to willing to say with our mouths, but not something we were willing to reflect in our actions. Now, “Christianity” is perceived by much of the world as a religion of consumption, greed, blind nationalism, fear, hate, bickering, infighting, and a profound neglect of the weak and destitute. Sadly, the American church has not really done much about this perception. We have clothed ourselves in riches while the world went hungry.
And regardless of your personal belief about our origin story, you have to admit that the current state of our United States fails to live up to our founding documents. We are not what we should be. The American people are not who we should be. The American Church is not what it should be. And as a Citizen of the Kingdom of God, and an Ambassador to the United States on behalf of the God who died for the sins of His enemies, I have to believe that there is something I can do about it.
But I highly doubt that the answer is going to be found by waging war against Starbucks, or the LGBT community. I doubt the answer is eating more Chic-Fil-A or buying all my, “CHRISTMAS” decorations from Hobby Lobby (emphasis on Christianity is meant to be a jab at the rudeness of christians who fail to show compassion to others during the holidays). I don’t even think we’ll gain ground by calling Obama the antichrist, or anything else Fox News thinks to call him.
No, we will only see victory for our culture when we remember that, “Jesus didn’t die to make bad people good, He died to make dead people live!” (Pastor Matt Chandler, The Village Church, Texas)
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I cannot expect others to be like Jesus unless they have been reborn into the Kingdom of God; and even then, new believers must be discipled by mature followers of Christ before they will ever act like Him.
Nevertheless my Christianity does not make me an American.
Nor does my Americanism make me a Christian.
The two identities are distinctly separate. My expectations of my government are not the same as my expectations of my church. So when we think about the issues that are facing our culture, and society, we have to separate our American Dream from our Christian Conviction. Christ gave us an example of what it means to follow him by dying on the cross for his enemy (me), and Romans 13 speaks clearly about the responsibilities of a Government: to execute justice, and to protect the citizenry within its borders. The same passage also tells us to be subject to our own earthly authority. So when we discuss the specific issues finding their way into the headlines, it is incumbent upon each of us to reflect on the kind of decision that is being made.
Gay Marriage. Being that we live in a democratic republic and exercise rights to elect our representatives, we have a right to voice our opinion about the legality of any issues. However, being that Gay Marriage has been made legal nation wide, it is not an issue of opinion, but one of fact. We live in a society where Gay Marriage is legal, but how I respond to the situation should not be a reflection of my own moral opinion, but should be a reflection of the grace given to me by Christ Jesus. I don’t like that it is legal for homosexuals to get married, but I also don’t like that it is legal to get an abortion, or legal for teens to have sex with each other, or legal for fathers or mothers to just walk away from their children, or legal to have children with someone who is not your spouse, etc. But the fact of the matter is, the laws of the United States are not a reflection of my own belief system. They are a reflection of our society’s belief system. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean we’ve lost the battle. The battle simply shifts to one of personal love and genuine compassion for those who are lost. (Oh wait! That’s what it was supposed to be about the whole time.)
So when we reflect on the Romans 13 passage again, we have to recognize that it is the responsibility of every Christian working for our Government to uphold the law and to honor our earthly authority. And if you don’t believe me, just read the book of Daniel. I think the story of Daniel accurately displays how we are to honor our God by subjecting ourselves to our earthly authority.
Syrian Refugees. There may not be a more difficult issue facing the American People today. The idea that we might be a haven for the hurting is appealing to many Americans, whether Christian or not, but the idea of extending the same level of safety to our enemy is terrifying. But if we recognize the political issue as separate from our Christian response, we can find peace in our own heart about such a difficult decision.
The American Government will make a decision about the safety of our own people in relation to these Syrian refugees, and when that decision is made, our Christian response must be primed and ready. Our obligation at that point is to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit the imprisoned.
Second Amendment Rights. Honestly, I don’t even know why this is being discussed. It’s in the bill of rights. So…………
Legally there is a way to operate under our earthly authority. If you are doing this, I can’t really see how Christianity even gets mixed up in the whole thing. Unless it is to say that if you have a CHL and you happen to be in a liquor store when it’s being robbed, and you were to pull your weapon and kill someone, that might be morally reprehensible. But, being that it falls well within the laws of my own state, and that part of that legal obligation is to protect the innocent and defenseless, I can’t say that it is morally, ethically, legally, or spiritually bankrupt.
If you happen to live in a state that does not protect your right to own a firearm and use it in self-defense, then I think you should relocate. But Christianity doesn’t have much to do with it.
Starbuck’s Winter Cup. I was about to say something here, but then I remembered that I don’t know of a single Christian that gives two hoots (yes I was watching my language) about the design on the Starbucks cup. The only person I’ve even heard with an opinion about it is Josh Feuerstein who doesn’t act like Christ in ANY way whatsoever. And if I’m going to honor Christ with this post, I have to stop talking about Josh Feuerstein, or the flesh may overtake the spirit.
In the end, I have to believe that Christ is not interested in me being the most politically savvy individual in my church, nor is he interested in my being a chump who lets society roll over me, my family, or my local church. I think he called me to follow him in every way possible. I want to honor His name in my actions and with my words. I want to acknowledge sin, evil, and the darkness that continues to loom over my neighbor’s house, and respond with power, love and self-discipline, instead of fear.
But more than any of that I come away from every conversation about the “Downfall of Christian Society,” and remember that my loyalty ultimately belongs to a king who is returning some day to reclaim what has been broken by sin and death.
I remember that my God is enough…especially when I’m not.
My wife recently asked me why I thought depression was such a struggle within our society as well as with our churches.
It is true that rates of clinical depression have been on the rise in the recent past1, but why depression seems to be such an invasive problem has many people scratching their heads. Though I cannot say with any certainty what factors are leading many in our communities to clinically depressed states, I can say with great conviction that many remain under the weight of depression because they are unable, or unwilling to find help.
For anyone who has never dealt with depression, it is important that you not jump to any conclusions about the statements that follow. If you have not experienced the darkness of clinical depression, you cannot know the effort that it takes to get out of bed, much less locate and contact a person who can provide help. So please, read, learn and lace your responses to others with grace and compassion.
People who are depressed remain undiagnosed, discouraged, and unchanged for several reasons. Five such scenarios are listed below.
1. The depressed individual is unaware that he/she is depressed.
-Depression eliminates or diminishes a person’s drive for everything. They lose interest in people, places, and activities that used to encourage or excite them2. Their patterns of sleeping, eating, and thinking can change drastically, and at times, they simply fail to notice that there are changes taking place.
Many times, an individual simply excuses the altered motivations or behavior due to some real-world factor that has entered their life. “School started.” “It’s summer.” “I just started a new job.” “I’m bored with this job.” Any excuse is a good one when the symptoms of depression start. The real danger is in the attitude that a different thing or activity will “pull me out of my funk.” A philosophy of the “next new thing” will continue to compound the depression because nothing will ever satisfy so long as our dissatisfaction is within us.
2. The depressed individual is aware that he/she is depressed, but doesn’t know how to get help.
-Whether or not a person recognizes their depression is important, but if they are unaware of where or how to get help, their depression will only grow in intensity and despair due to the fact that they are now clinically depressed and feel hopeless in finding any solution to their issues. Hopelessness is a likely development, and what follows hopelessness is never healthy. If you are reading this and have nowhere to turn, please Click Here to find answers in your area.
3. The depressed individual is aware that he/she is depressed, and chooses to self medicate, rather than including someone else in their struggle.
-What does it mean to self-medicate? Any process or substance that diverts attention from the depressed individual for momentary sedation of depressed symptoms. These attempts to overcome depression often lead to greater degrees of depression because they compound the original symptoms with shame, deceit, and physical or emotional wounds that lead to increased levels of isolation from friends and family. Prolonged engagement with such activities and substances, while experiencing depression, often lead to obsession and addiction.
Examples include, but are not limited to: Drug use, alcohol abuse, cutting, pornography, sex, criminal activity, gang association, sadism, masochism, exhibitionism, violence toward others, violence toward animals, suicidal ideations, and attempts at suicide.
My experience with depression has most often led me down this kind of path. Drug use, alcohol abuse, and violence were tendencies that came quite naturally for me before I began to seek a more professional kind of help for my depression.
4. The depressed individual is aware of their depression, knows of an avenue to get help, but chooses against getting help because:
(a) he/she does not want help.
The darkness associated with depression is difficult to explain, but when I have counseled some people whose drug use forced them into the care of a professional, many times the excuse they gave for not getting help early on in their depression was that they felt unworthy of any kind of help. Some expressed a longing to reach out, but assumed that they somehow deserved the torture that they were experiencing.
(b) he/she is too embarrassed to admit there is a problem.
Sometimes a persons own pride plays a pivotal role in their failing to get help. The individual feels like they should be able to just “snap out of it” or simply “power through” their problems. But depression is not something you can simply power through.
At other times, the individual is more embarrassed by the things that have come with their depression. When I have experienced this in counseling, it is often after a period of self-medication has occurred. The embarrassment is primarily associated with their drug use, their self-mutilation, or some other process. Nothing seems to bring about more shame than addiction to pornography. It is truly amazing how degrading pornography is, and the level of shame associated with it is astounding. Whatever the manifestation, embarrassment is a consistent deterrent in people finding help.
I have to admit that there is a level of embarrassment in writing this blog. What if somebody reads it? Then they’ll know…
5. The depressed individual is aware of their depression, asks for help, but is rejected by the person they have asked.
-Parents and spouses are the usual culprit in this scenario. For some reason, parents and spouses tend to take it personally when they find out that their child/spouse is suffering from depression. Sometimes its because they are embarrassed by the situation and don’t want people to know that their family isn’t perfect (even though it isn’t). At times they believe that to acknowledge that their spouse/child is depressed is to acknowledge that they are not being a good enough parent or spouse. Either way, they stifle the advances of the affected family member, thwarting their attempt to get help.
Open dialogue is an extremely helpful tool when trying to help people you love!
More often than not, families fail to talk about depression and other mental health issues until a tragedy strikes close to home. Then, they hurry through some oversimplified set of mental health checkpoints they found in a random Google search. Few families take the time to care for the mental and emotional wellbeing of their loved ones.
I beg you to take the time!
Take whatever time you need to be an advocate for those around you. You may have to ask several times before someone who is struggling with depression admits they have a problem. Also, you may have to wade through a great deal of anger, resentment, and regret before you can get to the root of the problem. But keep going!
If you notice signs that someone is suffering with depression like altered sleeping or eating habits, development of a substance or process addiction, or even subtle attempts to isolate instead of being a part of a group, please encourage them to talk to someone they trust.
If you find yourself in a friendship or family where depression is likely, don’t try to fix it on your own. Get some help!
I have struggled with varying degrees of depression for many years. I have recognized that my struggle with depression isn’t over. Sometimes it went unnoticed by others, but more often than not, people could tell that I was struggling. If someone comes to you and shares concern for your mental or emotional wellbeing, please acknowledge them in their gesture of love. Even if their advance is a bumbling, stumbling mess, recognize that it is made in love!
Don’t try to fight on your own. Include someone in your struggle.
How to help a grieving friend.
I saw a question posted on Facebook yesterday morning that asked this question, “What is the #1 problem facing teens today, and how do we fix it?”
This is a great question and it will have many different answers depending on the problems facing the teens in the area in which you live, but it deserves a great deal of conversation. I answered the question in the following way, and am interested in what you guys have to say about it. Feel free to comment here or in my inbox if you prefer to converse that way.
I believe the #1 problem facing youth today is the hollow claims that many parents have made as to the value of their child. Over the past 20+ years, society (in at least one demographic) has begun to tell children that they are the most valuable pieces of existence. They have been told that they are more valuable than their parents, more valuable than their peers, and more valuable as an individual than society as a whole. This may have it’s roots in Psychological Determinism as parents have attempted to, “Make em be doctors and lawyers and such….” but what finally occurred is far more detrimental. We have taught our children that they are gods. They have no equal on earth, and every want they might have should be met regardless of the cost.
The stark reality hits when society fails to maintain this deification once a child reaches their late teens or early twenties. As evidenced by short tenures at school, jobs, and even first marriages, a failure by teachers, professors, co-workers, bosses, and spouses to maintain the undue worship that had been experienced during childhood and adolescence is often too much to endure. Passively aggressive boys and girls in their early twenties are forced to wander through life unable to find direction.
What can be done?
We can stop lying to children about being the center of the universe. We can stop telling children that they failed a class because the teacher is mean. We can stop giving children everything they want, just because they want it. We can stop holding their hand every time they face some adversity.
We can start demanding that children be responsible for their own actions. If you make a grade in a class, it’s because you earned it. If you make money and can spend it on things you want, it’s because that’s how the world works. We can start displaying our own failures for students. We can be honest about how life will actually be. We can be open to being asked real questions and giving real answers.
Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, King Saul wanted to be prophet priest and king, Alexander the Great wanted the whole world to bow to him, and John D Rockefeller died wanting “one more dollar.” We have merely gathered these sins together and fed them to our children one spoon-full at a time.
Amidst the recent scene of individuals who have taken a stand on one side of the gay marriage stance or another, several prominent people have been seen an enormous degree of criticism for their stances. Additionally, others have called for the boycott of companies represented by leaders who have taken what seem to be antigay stances. Brendan Eich of Mozilla, and Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A are two of the more prominent individuals who have taken public stands against gay marriage, and their respective companies have been neglected or championed for these decisions. Many in the media have made this a religious issue, and hoards of people have expressed their opinion on either side. Christians have posted their opinions for and against these individuals and issues.
But as a Christian, what should be my response to this?
Does my eating a chicken sandwich from one restaurant or another, or even using a specific web browser over another, necessarily correlate to my stance on gay marriage? Should it?
I am reminded of a passage in Galatians 2 that I think speaks to this.
11 But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
If we as believers are to engage a world for the sake of Jesus Christ, and run with His gospel as our mission, shouldn’t we share Jesus’ message, rather than the message of men who would have us pursue a religion rather than Jesus?
For those in this Galatians passage, new believers were being asked to follow the old Jewish Law in addition to accepting Jesus as their savior. But how can Jesus be our savior, if we are still trying to save ourselves with religion?
As far as I can remember, Jesus never commanded an individual to modify his/her behavior until after they expressed a desire to follow Him. The follower of Jesus should be as inviting to all people as Jesus was. Regardless of education, color, race, sexual orientation, and previous religious background, Christianity should display Jesus as he is, not how we would like to make him. Conviction, and life change are the work of the regenerated heart, not the disciplined convert.
While preparing music for a Valentine’s banquet this weekend, I came across a song that I like that poses an interesting statement. Within the text of this song, the author makes the assertion that, “All you need is love.” But for so many, relationships after relationships have failed them, and the thought of Love having some kind of saving power is simply observed. For others, the Valentine holiday will not change the fact that in the next few days, weeks, or months, they will file for divorce, because this, like many other relationships they have started, was missing something critical for it’s survival.
So for some, the idea of Love provokes anger, resentment, and depression.
So, we must ask the question, what is the most valuable element in a successful relationship? I continue to think, in spite of the recent wave of divorce in the U.S. among individuals under the age of 25, that Love is the single element that can keep a marriage together.
You might be asking, “But what do I do when the love fades?”
Start loving again!
According to 1 Corinthians 13, the definition of love differs from that of our common vernacular. In fact, love is not defined as an emotion at all, but more of a state of being, in which, we act on behalf of the person(s) we love in a covenantal way. That is a long way to say that, Love is not an Emotion, it’s an action.
-Does Not Keep Record of Wrongs
-Does Not Rejoice When Others are Wronged
-Rejoices in Truth
-Bears All Things
-Believes All Things
-Hopes All Things
-Endures All Things
-Love Never Ends (Nor does it fade)
And lest we forget, these kinds of actions are covenantal, not contractual. I don’t tell my wife, “I’ll be all these things so long as you are these things to me.” No, I say, “I will go to my grave trying to live these things for you, and only you!”
So, Yea, I think the thing that has been missing from many relationships is Love. Not infatuation, but real love. Nobody ever wrote the song, “All You Need is Infatuation!” If you look at this list of attributes, and notice that one is missing from your life, start living it.
The other day, I was feeding my son his 6am bottle and the thought struck me that parents do a great deal for children that the child is completely unaware of. In fact, children often overlook parents who are doing their job well, because their needs are met. Nevertheless, through the course of life, most sons will, at one point in time or another, begin to diverge from the rule and authority of their parents. More often than not, at one point or another, most sons will even openly reject the authority and wisdom of their parents in an effort to gain a level of autonomy.
*Where this kind of even is regrettable, the process of a child gaining independence from his/her parents is a positive life event. In fact, as a parent, one of my top priorities is to teach my son to not need me.
Having realized this, I was at first grieved at the though of having discipline issues with my son later in life, as well as, having him say hurtful things to me in his effort to find himself independent of me (again this part is not necessary, but if my kid is anything like me, we’re in for some long nights). But my grief was immediately overcome by thoughts of joy in the realization that this is exactly the process many believers take with their heavenly father.
If you were anything like me, you were taught to love the Lord from an early age, and that you could trust the Lord in any and all circumstances of life. Along with that, you were encouraged to follow the standards that were set before you by the scriptures, and taught that the church is the best possible place for you to express your love for the Lord, and spread your spiritual wings.
However if you are anything like, me, you will may also take pride in yourself, and rebel against what you know to be true. In fact, there may even be moments where you reject the church, the standards of your faith, and scream bitterly at your God because of how you perceive that He has wronged you.
In moments like these, It is important to note, that Christ does not love us less.
I have become more and more aware of this fact ever since my son was born. I have had to change the most serious of diapers (any diaper you have ever changed pales in comparisons to these), and I have had to rock a crying baby for hours upon hours while his stomach would rumble and groan. All the while, I never lost love for him.
Even when he becomes more mobile, and begins to grab everything in sight to put in his mouth, I will not love him less. Or when he begins to tell Krystle and me, “NO,” I will not love him less. And even when he steals my car and drives he and his fiends around town for less than 5 minutes only to be caught by his mother the instant he pulls back up to the house…I will not love him less.
Not even when he sits in my home and refuses to speak to me, will I love him less.
My love for Rutledge is not contingent on his willingness to follow my direction, nor is my God’s love for me contingent on the things I do.
He will never stop loving me, and I will never stop loving my son…I can make that statement, because He has shown me that it is possible.
Tonight I will be teaching about the destructive power of sin in the live of every person, both those who have been saved by grace and those who are yet without the salvation that is provided by the Son Jesus Christ. I have been teaching the past 6 months or so about Love, and the way we share love with the lost by sharing the saving power of Jesus Christ, but to this point, I have not felt led to teach about what sin can do in the life of a person. Tonight, I have been given the freedom by the Holy Spirit to teach about what sin can do to corrupt the life of the believer, and what sin has already done in the life of those who do not yet believe. It is critical that the students here (and everywhere for that matter) begin to realize what sin has done, and will continue to do in their lives until it is plucked, cut off, or carved out of their lives.
Sin is the thing that makes our foundation unsure, it makes our pillars falter, and our roof leak. If we are going to build a house upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, it must be founded on his Holiness, and preserved by our devotion to the righteousness that he demands of his followers. If we hope to weather the storms of this life, then the pillars of our faith must be the Profits and Apostles who beacon us to return to service to the Father.
Pray for us as we attempt to engage the idea of sin, grace, mercy, love, and the consequence of our actions. Pray that we are led by the Holy Spirit, and that our lives are changed by our confession of sin.
*References that will be playing a role in tonight message are (Romans 6, and 1 Timothy 1:12-20)
While I was feeding my son this morning, I had to heat a little more formula (because he’s a growing boy…wonder where he gets that). In the mean time, my son started to suck on his hand. When the formula was ready, I had a hard time getting him to move his hand and start on the bottle. I was a little frustrated because I couldn’t understand why he would trade something that wouldn’t satisfy his hunger for something that would. Both were available, he only had to let go of what he had, for what was infinitely better. I know it sounds like a cheesy transition, but I was struck by the spiritual application of the same process. I wonder how many times I’ve held on to something that would never satisfy, when the Lord had something satisfying waiting on me.
It seems simple, even a little too simple, but I think it is the very thing that I have missed on so many occasions. I’m not sure even how to correct this, other than to simply be more attentive to the voice of God, and walk more closely with him, so that I don’t miss one of these blessings again.
At times, I’ve viewed the will of God as “icing on the cake,” rather than the air I need to survive. I need to be more desperate for the Lord’s provision, and I need to stop trying to satisfy my own hunger…
I pray that the Lord will open your eyes to the ways He has provided for you.
Media being what it is today, it would be easy to miss this. I’m glad that I was directed to this video by a good friend. I pray that you are excited and inspired by it, and that you are able to see that the precepts of Checklist Jesus are not centered around me, but instead, are fundamental to our faith.