Thursday, February 27, 2014

A tale of picture-taking in Arizona

"Hello Julie, what brings you into the shop today?"

"Morning, Lisa, I was wondering if you'd take pictures for Jenny's upcoming wedding."

"Isn't Jenny already married to Paul?" asked Lisa.

"Well, a few months ago we found out Jenny had left Paul for a man at work who was more caring and emotionally available. You know that Paul travels so much, and it's been really hard on Jenny. Paul's tried to be a good husband, but it just hasn't worked out, that's all. I think it will be best for them and the kids in the long run."

"Oh," responded Lisa, "I guess I'd want to sit down with Jenny and this new man to let them know my principles regarding wedding photography."

"Your principles? What are you saying?" Julie questioned.

"It's just that when a couple chooses to mistreat marriage according to my convictions, I want these customers to know where I stand."

Julie's face turned red and she almost shouted, "What do you mean, Lisa? You're not going to do this for me? We've been friends for years."

Lisa responded calmly, "We're definitely friends, and I've cared for Jenny for years. It's just that I don't want her to make a mistake like this and think I'm totally comfortable with it, that's all."

"A mistake? Seriously, Lisa, who are you to lecture my daughter?"

"Julie, I don't want to lecture Jenny. I just want her the opportunity to know where I stand and if she's still comfortable with my principles, I could still be a part of her day. I doubt she'll want me there though."

"So what kinds of principles are you talking about, then?" demanded Julie.

"Well, I guess I'd put it this way. I desire to use my photography to capture the most beautiful and amazing things in life. I believe a life-long marriage of fidelity between a man and a woman is one of the most beautiful and amazing things. If I believe something isn't beautiful or amazing, like a woman leaving her husband for a another man for poor reasons, I would hope the way I take pictures and depict them for others would reveal that this is not something amazing or beautiful."

"So you are saying you wouldn't do your best to make Jenny's day special?"

"No, I probably wouldn't in her mind, because according to my convictions this day looks to be sad, selfish, and inappropriate."

"Who are you to judge what's appropriate and not appropriate?"

"I'm just an artist trying to do my best to accurately reflect what I believe to be true. Every artist is subject to their principles. It's up to Jenny if she'd appreciate my involvement on her day."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to respond to a 'bad sermon'

Have you ever heard a bad sermon? I'm not talking about a sermon that was heretical. I'm talking about a sermon that didn't make sense, or seemed to ramble on, or didn't have any direct bearing to your life. Or maybe it's a sermon where the pastor said something that came across as offensive or inappropriate (and you're not sure if it was intentional or not).

5 Tips for Responding to a Bad Sermon

#1: Give them the benefit of the doubt. 1 Cor. 13 says love "hopes all things, believes all things." That is, assume they really did give their best effort and really did want to encourage, exhort, and challenge you that day. They didn't mean to hurt you or disappoint you. It's just that they are human and will not walk on water every Sunday.

#2: Don't share your opinion with others. If you didn't like the sermon, keep it to yourself. Even if someone asks, be careful not to speak negatively of a brother or sister in Christ. One negative word from you could start a fire of destruction in a hearer's life and even worse it could get back to the preacher and destroy their soul.

#3: Give them feedback. First, give yourself and the preacher 24-48 hours (certainly not that very Sunday morning). If you still think there are 2-3 things (and probably no more than 2-3) that need to be addressed, call them up. Try and offer a few words of encouragement on what they did well. And yet, don't be shy to help a growing preacher (and we're all growing whether we've been at it 5 years of 35 years) mature in their ability to use God's Word. (Just think how cool it was that Priscilla and Aquila offered feedback to the incomplete, but growing preacher named Apollos, see Acts 18.)

#4: Pray for the preacher. In former years when I wasn't the regular preaching pastor, I often sat in my seat as a critical observer. I always thought they could do better, and I sometimes wished I could be elsewhere...until I saw this as selfishness and sin. I confessed my sin (often), and committed (and recommitted) to pray for the preacher that they would feed me and the other sheep. When I prayed, two things happened. (1) Their preaching came with more power, and (2) I could grow in my proper place of submission.

#5: Believe in the power of the Gospel. We know from Romans 1:16 that the good news of Jesus Christ has the power to save. This message is potent. Its potency is not dependent on the eloquence of the preacher. Its potency is not subject to great application points. Pray for Gospel-preaching preachers not merely great preaching preachers. The power lies in the Gospel, not in the human instrument that conveys the message.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Yay! New Churches...what?

This scenario needs to die a slow death in American cities (in the same cities where churches close their doors too often because there has been no gospel-impact for decades):

New Church A moves into town.

Old Churches A-Z lose members to New Church A.

Old Churches A-Z question the integrity of New Church A. They won't partner with New Church A. They won't pray for New Church A.

New Church A grows, matures, and enters the ranks of Old Churches A-Z.

New Church B enters town and the cycle repeats itself.

All the while, God, as far I can tell, pours His blessing on the work of New Churches A-Z. Maybe it is God gifting the faith of New Churches to begin a new church. Maybe it is God stirring up and reviving the dry bones sitting in Old Churches A-Z. Maybe it's simply God testing His people on whether they will rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

We need church addition and multiplication in America...celebrate the arrival of any Gospel-preaching church. It's good for the city and the Kingdom.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Olympics and Patriotism

"Yo, Joe, did you see snowboarding last night?"

"Huh? Oh, you mean the Olympics, right?"

"Seriously, Joe, what kind of American are you?"

"You're losing me, Jerome. How does watching or not watching a 20 year old flying over a mogul bear any reflection on my American citizenship?"

"Come on man, this happens only once every four years. We gotta cheer for the red, white, and blue."

"Jerome, I have no problem cheering on American athletes, but I'm a bit flabbergasted that the 'best show' of American patriotism is millions of couch potatoes admiring random athletes they've never met."

"Joe, lay off man, we're just trying to support our county."

"That's great, Jerome. But when 83% of Americans say they are going to watch the Olympics and only 54% of registered voters voted for their sitting president, I have a tough time seeing patriotism. Heck, only 2/3 of Americans who can register to vote even have. We won't vote for those who have the power to change the course of history. But 'we're patriotic' because we sit on our couch and eat Doritos."

"Ok, Mr. America, what is real patriotism then?"

"It seems that patriotism is the kind of love for one's country and countrymen that results in personal sacrifice for the good of others. You say you're patriotic, but all you've sacrificed is a few hours of watching your favorite television shows. We haven't help our country one bit when we tune in to watch the Olympics. Maybe any and all true patriots should turn off their television and go sit in on a city council meeting, or volunteer to coach for their parks and rec, or simply bow before the God above and ask for His undeserved blessings. But, please have the moral decency not to question one's love for his or her country based on the amount of hours their rear was stuck to couch watching sports."