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Category Archives: Culture

Gettysburg Extended

Twelve score years ago our Founding Fathers sought to establish a more perfect union, a union where all are equal. Seven score and thirteen years ago President Lincoln declared that union was still flawed and work was left to be done. Two score and thirteen years past Dr. King painted a poignant picture of a beautifully diverse future where all are equal. A short eight years ago then candidate Obama powerfully admonished us to again take up the cause of ending and fighting against racism and to no longer ignore its ills and poison. Today I am declaring to you the work is not yet completed. If it is a mountain we are crossing then we are still within spitting distance of the base instead of being able to even glimpse the summit on the far horizon. All men and women, regardless of race, gender or any other status or creed, are endowed with inalienable rights, of which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately we find ourselves today standing on a precipice upon whence we can view just how tragically these rights are deprived of for many citizens in our country.

I pen these words from a state where this is overtly true. The statistics of those imprisoned in my state are especially evidentiary of this fact. Oklahoma is 70% white but the penal system here is only 49% white. Hispanics make up only 9% of the state populace, but 15% of the prison population. African Americans account for a mere 7% of my state but they fill 26% of the prisons. This is found similarly across the nation. How can a people be free when they are grossly disproportionately imprisoned? I would say to you they cannot! We must reach high to our better angels to find a better way. For we cannot truly be free until all in our land are equally free.

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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Culture

 

Red Cups, Chicken Sandwiches, & What Really Matters

Recently there has been some craziness going on in the Christian subculture. I know this might be hard for you to believe, but believe me the Christian bubble has entered into a whole new realm of kookiness. This year’s design of the red cups at Starbucks created this cray cray melee. If you are not familiar with the red cups at Starbucks they are a season thing that appear each year when they bring back the Christmas time seasonal beverages. To Starbucks addicts and lovers (which I am one) they are as anticipated as the much craved Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I don’t know if the red cup has its own Twitter and Instagram accounts, but it should. Anyways the cups this year are just red. They do not have any designs or words or anything other than the color red. Apparently this should be an affront to my Christian faith. Some dude was so offended he made an angry Facebook video saying Starbucks hates Jesus. I warned you the kookiness has gone bat crap cray cray this year.

Some people more eloquent and better positioned than I to take on the task of demolishing this line of thinking have already done so. I am not going to attempt to restate what they have already said. I will simply say Starbucks is a corporation and not a person. Corporations do not go to heaven or hell. People go to heaven or hell. With this premise being established here is what I do want to attempt to say on this matter. I want to use the rest of this space to point out how Christians should love going to both Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. We should feel comfortable spending money at both places because we love Jesus and we love people.

Until several months ago I had spent the last three and half years on the management/leadership team of a Chick-fil-A, the home of the greatest chicken nuggets, the inventor of the chicken sandwich, and the maker of waffle fries, sweet tea and fresh squeezed lemonade. Oh and Chick-fil-A is the Christian fast food mega star. Here is the thing about Chick-fil-A though: it is a business. Now the leadership of the company, they are Christians. They seek to bring God glory in all they do. However at the local level many of those owner/operators have one thing on their minds and that is making money. They will sell a #1 large sized with a Dr. Pepper to a heterosexual, open carrying, flag waving, Christian, tea party republican just as easily as they will sell a #5 8 count grilled with cole slaw and a medium unsweet tea to a transgender socialist atheist, or a cobb salad and a water to a radical suicide bomber. Just make sure and remember to hold the bacon on that salad for the radical terrorist. Some owners are very generous and giving and want to bless those around them and some just want more money in their own accounts. That is ok, they are business owners making a living.

Here is the other thing about Chick-fil-A. You may go there because you love Jesus and Tim Hawkins and Duck Dynasty but chances are the person serving you doesn’t. Chick-fil-A hires people. Not all of them are believers in Christ. Not all of them are republicans. Not all of them are heterosexual. That shouldn’t change your opinion of Chick-fil-A though. You should still go there. You should still support them. Why? Because people need Jesus!

The thing is, this should be our same attitude when it comes to Starbucks. I love coffee. I know there is better coffee at other places, but I love Starbucks because it is convenient and consistent. And well I am addicted to Pumpkin Spice Lattes. There was a Starbucks across the parking lot from my Chick-fil-A. I went there a lot. The workers all knew me by name, and I knew them by name. They ate a lot of Chick-fil-A too. Some of the workers there loved Jesus and some didn’t. They are people. Just like the people working at Chick-fil-A. Now the Chick-fil-A workers have less tattoos and piercings and facial hair (I have not shaved since leaving Chick-fil-A and it feels so good!), but they are all people. They are people that need Grace. They are people that need Jesus.

During my three and half years slinging chicken I was privileged to get to know some of my employees and co-workers well. I was able to pray with my boss as his wife went through a terminal illness. I got to celebrate engagements and graduations with some employees. I got to pray with some of the people there as they faced tough times in life. I also got to pray with some customers as they faced things in life and to celebrate with them as well. I also was able to get to do the same with some employees from Starbucks. I got to know them and got to model Jesus to them. If I avoided the place where they worked because of something as silly and arbitrary as a cup I would not have been able to build a relationship with those people. Now God might have sent someone else to fill that gap and to minister to those people, but I would have missed out on that.

So instead of getting mad over really silly things we need to have a heart that loves people and seeks to get to know them because they need Jesus too!

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Culture, Current Events

 

Burger King, John Piper, & Worldview

I honestly thought about titling this post “Goodbye John Piper” but wisdom and an already nervous state about the reaction as to what I am about to write convinced me otherwise. You see through the rest of the post I am going to be calling out and correcting someone that has influenced and impacted my theology and preaching more than just about anyone. I also highly suspect he will continue to positively influence and impact my life and ministry after this. However a recent tweet by John Piper showed just how badly we as Christians don’t get it at times.

The tweet in question simply said “Goodbye Burger King” and included a link to an article about a new Whopper burger and its wrapping. The tweet echoed a similar tweet from Dr. Piper that almost crashed the internet, at least for evangelicals. The tweet “Farewell Rob Bell” was posted in late February 2011 and caused a firestorm in blogs, sermons, books, articles, interviews and others that centered on a response or reaction to Bell’s book Love Wins. I weighed in on that issue on this blog and in sermons at the time. It was a big deal. Bell was attempting to rewrite the history of Christian thought and theology and challenging the very nature of what we believe about God and eternity. But is the issue with Burger King as serious.

Well what is the issue? Burger King is releasing the Proud Whopper which will feature rainbow colored packaging and promote the LGBT agenda. I am not sure this is a good business move by the fast food chain, however I live in the Bible Belt South and this move will play worse here than in other parts of the country. Whether you should eat that particular burger or any food from the chain is between you, God, how you read 1 Corinthians, and your cardiologist. My issue and where I think Piper misses it is in response to the tagline that the Burger chain is attaching to this promotion. That tag line is “we are all the same inside”. Their focus is that no matter the wrapper, their whopper is the same inside, and then the associated extrapolating of that thought onto humans.   You know what, they are right! We are all the same inside. We are all totally depraved humans in desperate need of God to save us. I think this is where we should focus our efforts in response to this news. Instead of weeping or calling for boycotts or doing any of the other silly things we do as Christians, how about we respond with love, tell them they are right in what they are saying, and then tell them how they are right about it.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Culture, Current Events, Theology

 

Moral Managers Or Moral Monsters

I am hesitant to write this post.  I fear it could damage me and my level of influence.  However I fear not doing something I sense I am called to even more.  So I have to write this.  I will try to be as soft as possible and pull punches where I can yet I feel many things here must be said and inserted into a current national cultural conversation.

From the start of Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the federal government over some provisions in the health care bill or Obamacare if you will, I have had quite a few uneasy feelings and a sense that something is not just right.  In the past few days I have seen an onslaught of tweets, status updates, and blog posts concerning the Hobby Lobby issue.  This social media barrage coupled with the regular news coverage of the story has escalated those uneasy feelings.  Those uneasy feelings as unpacked and explored have revealed three areas where I have concerns with what has been said and argued.

The initial area of concern is that of the Green family’s general attitude about the whole thing.  Every time I have read about their desire to willingly subject themselves to the over $1.3 million daily fine I have been stunned by their level of defiance.  A Shakespearean phrase rolls through mind every time I read about or think about this.  “Me thinks ‘they” doth protest too much.”  As believers we are to obey the civil governments set before us.  Paul writes to the believers in Rome who were under a government far more hostile to Christianity than our own:

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for 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. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.  Romans 13:1-7

Again I want to point out that this was written to those living under a government that openly sought to eradicate Christianity.  They saw the followers of Christ as enemies to the good of the state and wanted them gone.  Now there are those who make their money yelling at cameras on certain right leaning TV stations and into microphones filling conservative radio air waves that would try to convince you that our government is even worse.  I am going to leave the absurdity of those claims alone and assume that you can decipher that for yourself.  We are explicitly called to follow our government as we follow God.

Now I know the natural response and push back to the preceding paragraph is what about civil disobedience?  That is a valid claim.  There are instances in the Bible where people openly defy the government as they follow God.  Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego, John & Peter are just a few examples of this.  The concept though is never explicitly laid out as a direct command in scripture; rather we are given the principles of it in these and other examples.  What constitutes a valid case for civil disobedience?  An instance where we are told to do something that would directly lead to us not following God in that instance.  The Green’s claim that is what Hobby Lobby is being asked to do.  They say that providing health insurance that covers all classes of birth control violates their conscience as followers of God.

I want to strongly push back at this point.  But before I do I want to unequivocally state that I am anti-abortion.  As I write this I am sitting on the couch with my almost 4 week old daughter in my lap.  Babies are such a precious gift and the thought of killing one while in the womb is a horrific thought.  However I do not think that providing the type of insurance that is in question should violate the moral conscience of the Green’s.  Here is why.  They are a for-profit business.  What ultimately drives their decisions is their bottom line.  (If this were not the case they wouldn’t carry so many crack pot end times and prosperity gospel books in the Mardel division of the company, they carry them because they sell and make them money.)   This leads to a culture where decisions are based fiscally and not always by faith.  This is why they have truck drivers working on Sunday and a non-air conditioned warehouse that routinely exceeds 125 degrees or more during the work day in the summers.  This also means they hire the best person for the job, not the best Christian for each job.  There are potentially scores of non-Christians currently employed in the Green family line of businesses: Hobby Lobby, Mardel, & Hemispheres.  It is safe to say that many of these employees are also women and that many do not share the same convictions that the Green’s or you or I do when it comes to abortion.  Now here is the ultimate question to decide whether or not the Green’s are facing a valid case for civil disobedience.  Is it their place to make the moral decision for each and every one of their employees?  If they followed the law and allowed for the type of insurance coverage called for by Obamacare to be in place would they be forcing their female employees to take abortifacient contraceptives?  No they would not be.  That decision would still be left to each individual employed by Hobby Lobby.  Who has the right to make that decision, the individual or their company owners?  As you consider that question I want to illustrate my answer in two ways.  I have two children, an 18 month old son and a newborn daughter.  Right now I have covers on all of our exposed outlets and we are in the process of putting locks on our cabinets.  We do this to protect them at this stage of their lives.  As they get older we will remove the outlet covers and the cabinets will no longer have the child locks on them.  We will teach them and expect them to make good and right decisions.  God did a similar thing in the Garden of Eden.  He put the tree of life there and told Adam & Eve not to eat of it.  Have you ever wondered why He put it there in the first place?  Why not just remove the temptation?  I won’t go into a full-blown extended theological treatise here (my daughter will be hungry shortly), however I will simply say that without the ability to choose wrong, we would be following God robotically and not out of love and true commitment.  So is it the Green’s place to make moral decisions for unbelievers?  I would say no.  Rather as business owners their duty is to provide a safe and friendly work environment that allows their employees to be productive yet also be strongly connected to their families while providing a fair and sufficient salary.

The final and sometimes loudest objection is that the government is infringing on the rights of the Green family to practice their religious beliefs.  Is the government coming to the Green family and saying they can no longer attend their church, or even that they themselves have to be a family that routinely gets abortions?  No, that would be absurd and would be a direct full-on assault of their right to practice religion.  Nonetheless, is instituting laws and mandates for their businesses to follow an attack on their religious freedom?  I think there are several ways to look at this question.  The first revolves around the question of whether or not a for-profit business is afforded the same level of religious liberty as an individual or religious institution.  I would say no.  This is the first line of the government’s attack of the lawsuit and one with which I personally agree.  Hobby Lobby and the other Green family businesses are for-profit companies.  They are established to make money.  Fiduciary concerns drive their business decisions.  If this were not the case their products would be free or close to it, or they would give away 100% of their profits to various charitable causes (I know, I know, the Green’s give away a lot, but not 100% of their company’s profits).  I would say as long as they are a fiscally led company (as are all businesses) they are a secular business and not privy to the rights of religious freedom that we as individuals are.

I think there is a deeper way to look at this question of whether or not their religious liberty is being attacked though.  It revolves around the concern of who holds and guarantee’s our religious freedom?  Are we free to worship and follow God because of the United States Constitution or because of the Cross?  I would argue it is always the latter.  It is the truth of the Gospel that has set us free and nothing can ever trump that.  No law or decree of man can ever jeopardize or infringe upon the freedom we have in the Gospel.  When we look to anything other than Christ to protect our freedom’s in Him we are looking at the wrong place.

I know many people disagree with the things I have said here and that is ok.  I hope I have caused you to think deeper and to look at this issue from a much broader and a much deeper level.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Culture, Current Events, Life

 

Gospel In The Manger

We have come to the final installment in this series on the Gospel and life, and this eighth post is focused on what the manger has to do with the Gospel.  Today, all across this world, we are celebrating Christmas.  We are celebrating Christ coming to earth.  This is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise God made to Adam & Eve in Genesis.  It is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises God made to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and all of the prophets.  The manger matters because it led to Christ coming and living and dying and resurrecting for us.

Easter is my favorite holiday.  I believe nothing surpasses celebrating the resurrection of Christ.  I have long thought about the relationship between Easter and Christmas.  Could Easter have happened if Christmas never did?  I believe yes, God could have sent Christ as an adult man.  He could have done it differently, but He didn’t.  He sent Christ as a baby to be born and to be born in a manger and we should celebrate that greatly!  Now would Christmas matter much if Easter never happened?  I say no, not really.  But Easter did happen and so we can joyfully celebrate Christmas.

I encourage you to do just that today.  Celebrate.  Rejoice.  Enjoy.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in Culture, Gospel, Life

 

Gospel & Present Receiving

Number seven in the Gospel series is here today and it is a mirror of last weeks’ posts in a sense.  This week we are looking at how the Gospel impacts us as we receive presents.  A few months ago my wife and I were out shopping with her mom when my mother-in-law said something that floored me.  She said she had no clue what to buy Monte (her other daughter’s husband) for Christmas but that I was easy to buy for.  I laughed because I have not really ever heard that before.  She went on to say that it was because I always give people lists of the things I would like.  I admit it, I do do that.  I normally put things I would never buy myself or something that I will greatly use like a new commentary or something.  The past few years I have been so blessed and have been given so much at Christmas or my birthday.  I have never felt that I had to receive everything on the list and many times something I get that I had never asked for or considered winds up being one of the most meaningful or used presents, like a Starbucks gift card, or a wooden pen.  In all of it one of the things I have learned better over the past decade and a half since graduating high school is how to receive gifts humbly and with gratitude.  You see as believers we have all been given the greatest gift ever, one we never will deserve.  Because of that we can enjoy life and enjoy both giving and receiving gifts.  Please keep this in mind as you celebrate this month.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Culture, Gospel, Life

 

The Collective Unconscious, Maslow’s Hierarchy, & Jesus

A post from several years ago about sharing the love of Christ.

16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:16-17

I am not sure why, but as I read these two verses I cannot get the sound of Michael Tait singing “we all wanna be loved” out of my head, which is how the D.C. Talk song entitled Wanna Be Loved starts. So I decided to read the lyrics and listen to the song. Here is how the first verse ends and the chorus goes:

People livin’ in their separate worlds,

But one thing that we’ve got in common is.

We all wanna be loved,

We all want just a little respect,

We all wanna be loved,

Tell me what’s wrong with that.

It is true. Most humans desire to be loved and accepted. It is a component of what Carl Jung termed our collective unconscious. It is part of the shared stuff that makes up each of us on the unconscious level. Abraham Maslow included love as one of the needs we all innately have, and in doing so deemed it as necessary for us to reach our full potential. In fact a large majority of philosophers, psychologist, sociologist and others have noted that love is something we all crave.

Jesus knew this. I think this is why He gives the command He does in verse 17. He knows we all need love to maintain a productive and growing life. He is inviting us to share in His mission to spread His love. Think about this for a minute. Jesus is inviting you! He is inviting me! He is inviting your neighbor, your coworker, your third cousin’s aunt twice removed! He is inviting each and every one of us to be a part of God’s plan. Just 12 chapters earlier in this book, the Apostle John penned the most famous verse of all the Bible. John 3:16. This verse screams of God’s love. Here Jesus is, mere days before He goes to the cross, telling the disciples to love each other. He is asking them to join this effort to meet this basic need we all have. He is not asking just them though. He is also extending the invitation to us.

More than likely you will encounter someone today that is hurting. It could be the person in the cubicle at the end of the row, the girl taking your order at Starbucks, or the person next to you on the plane. Perhaps you are that barista at Starbucks and you notice a regular customer with a tear in their eye. I commend you to reach out to that person. Say a kind word. Offer a hug. Give them the love of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Bible, Culture, Life