Muffled Ministers and their Mute Mates

For the last couple weeks I’ve been dealing with upper respiratory issues and sinus issues that have led to throat issues and coughing issues.  I’ve got issues.

These issues have made me keenly aware of the fact that I rely heavily on my voice for what I do.  It seems an understatement that the voice is essential for a preacher, but I take my voice for granted so much of the time.  Until you lose a gift like that, you don’t realize how much you talk, sing, preach, yell, whisper, etc.

It has been truly difficult to perform my duties as ministers while talking has been difficult. I have had to cancel plans to lead worship at an event.  I figured they didn’t want to be led in a chorus of “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog”, since all I could do was croak. I preached a wedding though it was painful and my voice squeaked from time to time.  I have had to preach and teach while drinking copious amounts of water just to get through.

What if I couldn’t talk? Would it make a difference?

Jeremiah said this concerning himself:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.

I am fairly certain that people would begin to notice if I could no longer speak.  Me, the outspoken social butterfly, mute? I think I, too, would explode if I were not able to proclaim the messages God gives me to proclaim or sing praises to the One who inhabits our praise.  I would be a pitiable person indeed if I weren’t able to share the goodness of salvation through Jesus with others.

Yet there are many who have a voice yet use it for everything except bringing life to others.  We use our voices to root for our favorite teams and chastise the opposition.  We debate politics. We curse the weatherman.  We chat about so many things that don’t matter.  We tear others down through ridicule and gossip and slander.

When people wonder why evangelism is dying, we only need to point to our lips, and by them to our hearts.

Jesus said this:

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

and

 “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”

How do you use your voice?  Are you proclaiming the gospel? That job isn’t just for preachers.  Are you building people up or tearing them down?

Your voice is an expression of what you value. Your voice is a gift given to bring life and tel others about your Father in Heaven.  Jesus used his voice to bring life and tell of his Father.  Be like him.


Just for Men…ok, Women too


For nearly two thousand years, the church has struggled with the hierarchy of leadership. Bishops, priests, deacons, elders, pastors, preachers, cardinals (birds?), etc. We have worship leaders and prayer leaders and ministry leaders and youth leaders. Now there are arguments as to whether women can be leaders in these and other roles. I think we argue about  leadership roles because we have forgotten what true leadership looks like. 

Husbands, you are the head of your household, physically and spiritually. The scriptures say so. So you get to have your way, right? 

If your marriage is struggling, may I suggest it is because you have held a more worldly view of your headship in the home than a biblical view. 

The world says the head is in charge. That’s where the brains are. That’s where the mouthpiece is, and the rest of the body sustains the head. In families, men act like kings and unintentionally trample those they claim to love by their exercise of authority. 

Jesus is the head of the church. How does he lead? He sacrificed himself and daily intercedes for us.  

When you read of a husband’s leadership in Ephesians 5, you read terms like these:

  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
  • Gave himself up for her
  • Sanctify her
  • Love her as your own body
  • Nourish and cherish her
  • Love her

Where’s the authoritarian attitude in this passage? It is non-existent. A godly husband is a voluntary servant for his family – loving them by sacrificing himself for them daily. 

Does this look like your experience as husband? What woman wouldn’t want a husband like this? 

In the church we encourage the men to take leadership roles, but those don’t look much different. A leader is a servant. He is not someone who is exercising his authority to get his way. He is sacrificing time and effort and even finances for the good of the church, the bride of Christ. 

Oh, and he’s not doing it for the praise of others. If that were the case, he would receive no reward from the Father. 

If the church functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be so many arguments about who can do what. We wouldn’t consider someone of higher prestige because of their particular title. We would encourage all to serve and be grateful for their service. 

If husbands functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be divorce. If you were serving, cherishing, loving, praying for, and nourishing your wife, she would be with you forever. If wives functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be so much resentment against husbands. 

Face it. No one deserves to be served by you. No one deserves your love and gifts of time and effort. But you don’t deserve that from Christ either, and he gladly, willingly, gave everything for you. So do likewise. 

“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” -Jesus (John 13:12-15)

Lead by serving like Jesus, and watch the people around you blossom. 


Alternative Facts


We are coming to the end of an era in our generations called the “postmodern age”. This is a cultural response to the modern era which sought to solve the world’s problems through science and reasoning. During the modern era, great advancements were made in technology and medicine that will forever change the world, but the postmoderns saw that the philosophy of the physical sciences could not entirely solve problems like war, poverty, and even interpersonal relationships.

So the mindset shifted in a bit of a reaction to the ideals of the modern era to what we now call the postmodern era. In this reaction, truth became questionable and relative. No longer were there any absolutes. Now, all truth is relative and dependent on each individual’s perspective which is shaped by their cultural influences.

Does this frustrate you? To an extent it should.

Because of the shift of postmodern thinking we now have phrases like the one commonly being used by new sources all over: alternative facts.

Instead of calling something a half-truth or a whole lie, because of political correctness we now refer to misleading someone by using only the convenient facts as using “alternative facts”. Your truth is valid, and so is mine, and don’t you dare judge my truth with yours.

This is maddening in the political realm. It is exhausting in the spectrum of news sources available today. It is exactly what we teach our children not to do.

Maybe you were taught as I was: a half-truth is a whole lie.

Contrary to current thinking, there is truth that is not relative. Jesus is truth. The gospel is truth.  The consequences of sin is truth. The love of God is truth.

Even in society there still exists truth that is not relative. One needs merely to look for it.

In order to find truth in any circumstance, you must consider all sides of a situation – you must consider the context.

What we don’t want to admit is that the church has been functioning with partial truths for nearly the entirety of its existence. Even the concept of denominationalism is founded on the idea that you can read the bible through one lense and me another, and we can come to differing conclusions on the same topic.   When I focus on one set of scriptures concerning a topic, and you focus on another set concerning the same topic, we may disagree.

Our goal, then, as followers of Jesus, should not be to read the bible with a preconceived lense, rather we should read the entirety of scripture in context in order to derive our conclusions from the text instead of inserting them into it. When we insert our ideas and refuse to look at passages that don’t jive with our desired conclusion, we invite division and discord into the church.

I pray that the church doesn’t imitate our current culture in claiming “alternative facts”. I pray we are humble enough to accept correction where we have been ignorant. I pray that the church can lead the way in standing for truth as it is written in the Word of God. I pray that our desire for contextual understanding brings grace and unity rather an excuse to further divide.

What’s the upcoming generation going to be called? I don’t know – maybe the post-postmodern era. In any case, I pray it is a returning to truth that is NOT relative while maintaining spiritual fervor.


Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 


Who’s Your Daddy?

Several years ago I was introduced to a book that would shape the way I think about grace and love and God. It is one of the top four books I’ve ever read, and ever so often I revisit the book to find encouragement. This March, a movie will be released that is based on this book, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. 
What’s the book?  The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. 

Even though this is one of my favorite books, it is causing quite a stir in the Christian community especially because of how he book portrays God.  This book, when you first meet God, portrays him as an overweight black woman named, Papa. 

How does that affect you? 

So much of our culture emphasizes the masculine. We talk about God as Father and King and rightly so. We refer to God as “him” as the bible does. But could God portray himself as a woman?

In order for us to fully understand the concept of God, we must remember that God created man and woman. There is no way on earth a man could comprehend a woman enough to create one. They’re just too enigmatic to us guys. The Creator, by necessity of the concept, must transcend the limitations of his creation. God is not a man, nor is he limited to our concepts of manhood.

God is not physical at all. The scripture says that God is Spirit (John 4:24). In the Hebrew, the word for spirit is “Ruah”, a feminine word. In fact, in this book/movie, the Holy Spirit will show itself as a woman. 

In order for women to be made “in the image of God”, they must display the attributes of God. The things that you think of as feminine personality characteristics are throughout scripture as characteristics of God – not merely manly characteristics. Characteristics like love, nurture, and compassion are traditionally associated with women in our earthly culture. 

So, I don’t have a problem with this book allowing God to portray himself as a woman if the situation calls for that manifestation (spoiler: later in the story, he switches back to the elderly father-look).

What’s the point? God, Jehovah, is God because he is grander than our ability to comprehend. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). His foolishness (if that even makes sense) is wiser than man’s greatest wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25). He existed before there were the constraints of our universe, including time. He is an other-dimensional being that we cannot fully comprehend. If we could, he would cease to be God. 

Every time humans try to put limits on God – put Him in a box – He breaks the box. There are no limits to His grace and love, though many have tried to say there is. He doesn’t sleep or get tired (that gives different perspective on the need for the seventh day – rest – in Genesis 2). He is the God of the universe, above the universe, who holds the whole world in His hands. 

That’s my Heavenly Father. That’s my Papa. And just like a kid comparing his dad to others’, I can’t accept any lesser God to take his place. 

So, who’s your daddy? The limitless God, or some idol concocted by tradition. Mine is Jehovah. 


Where is Hope

Where is hope if I do not believe in God? 

What good is it to live this life with all its hurts and struggles and frustrations if there is nothing beyond? People may remember me, but how long? Does that really even matter?

I’m not getting out of here alive, and neither are you. 

If there is nothing beyond this physical realm, then I should simply do whatever makes me feel good at the time that I may enjoy at least moments of happiness before I perish. 

If there is no hope, then there is no true reason to behave according to anyone’s preset standards. Morality is lost if this is all there is, for no one will remember me anyway, and there are no lasting consequences for my behavior beyond this short span we call life. 

Where there is no hope, there is no peace, and fear reigns. 

Where is hope if I believe in God?

To believe in God is to believe in someone and something grander than this physical world. If I believe in God then there are promises from that God which bring hope in this life and the life to come. 

To believe in God is to believe in the afterlife – heaven – an eternity of rest and joy in the presence of the Creator. It is to believe that this measly life is only a trifle compared to the glory that awaits us. 

This gives us hope in every circumstance. If life is crumbling all around and storms rage inside us there is hope because of the temporary nature of these experiences. If loved ones who know Jesus are near death there is hope that more grandeur awaits them. If I near death, my hope can provide peace instead of fear. 

This hope isn’t just for heaven. This hope is in the best of others around us. It is in the workings of God in this life. It is in the idea that I can be better tomorrow than I was yesterday. 

If there is hope, then there is a standard by which we live to achieve that hope. There is a moral code introduced by the One who Created us and gives us hope. 

When I have hope, I find that I want to do what the standard requires because the outcome of my hope is everlasting rather than temporary. 

Without God there is no hope. Hope comes through relationship with the Creator. 

Where is hope? Do you have it?


O Christmas Tree

What is the origin of the Christmas tree? 

No one is quite sure when the evergreen tree became associated with Christmas. 

Many believe that for thousands of years the evergreen tree was seen as a symbol of eternal life since it was the only tree that kept its hue throughout the winter. In the Middle Ages there arose a tale that when Christ was born in the middle of winter (not likely), all the trees throughout the forest shook off the snow. During this time as well, the Christmas holiday was celebrated along with the feast of Adam and Eve. During this celebration, evergreen trees would be trimmed with fresh fruit representing the garden of Eden. 

By the 1500s, the areas now known as Germany and the Netherlands and a few other places began to celebrate Christmas with these trees as symbols of life. Churches would have an evergreen inside them with pyramids of candles next to them to present each family in the church. Eventually the candles migrated to the tree itself beginning the tradition of lighting the tree. 

The placing of presents under the trees came later as the tree became a central symbol of the Christmas season. One tradition early in the gift exchange tradition was that of wrapping the gift several times. Each time the gift was wrapped, a person’s name was placed on the wrapping. The gift was given to the outermost named person who unwrapped the outer layer and then handed it to the next name. No one would know exactly who the gift belonged to until the last layer. 

To me, Christmas trees represent so many wonderful things about Jesus. 

I see the evergreen tree itself as a symbol of life eternal and a precursor to the tree upon which Christ hung. I see the lights that twinkle as the light of Jesus shining in all of his followers. Each Christian is a light in the kingdom of eternal life. They also symbolize those who have gone before us much like Hebrews 12:1-2. 

The decorations on the tree are a celebration of the goodness of God. We don’t have one of those designer trees in our house. Our tree is filled with ornaments that represent different times in our lives. We have ornaments from when we were children and when our children were born. We have ornaments from each of the places we’ve lived. We have ornaments representing the things we love to do and those things that define us.  Every ornament is a celebration of God’s guidance and provision in our lives. 

The star on top reminds us to seek Jesus the way the wise men did when they followed the star. 

The first ornament that goes on our tree is a single square nail. This nail resents the savior whose birth we celebrate, but who would later give his life as a ransom for all people.  This nail reminds us that the gospel, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is the greatest gift God has given His creation. 

The Christmas tree is just a symbol used to be a reminder. It is not the center of the Christmas story. It is not the meaning of Christmas. However, it can remind us of what Christmas is all about and how gracious our God has been to come to this planet and be born, humbly, as a baby in a manger. 

I pray that each of you has a Merry Christmas this year, and that you remember and celebrate Christ every day of the rest of your life. 


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