One Day Women Will All Become Monsters

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day. Teresa got a new job at Old Navy and her orientation was last night from 5-10 p.m. which kind of shot our plans. On top of that, she came down with a stomach virus and has been very sick since last night. We’d appreciate your prayers, hopefully it’s a 24 hour thing and she’ll be back on her feet in no time.

This week is the second installment of posts I’m making on issues that cause conflict within the Southern Baptist Convention and where I stand on the issue. This week’s topic is the role of women in ministry.

Women in Ministry

I spent the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006 working in inner-city Tulsa with a Methodist organization called Project Transformation. The goal of the organization is to move into dwindling or struggling churches within the inner city community and begin to restore a bond between the people of the community and the church through offering the children a summer program. A team of 5 or 6 college students is assigned to a church where they put together a daily program for children in 1st-6th grade that consists of math and computer skills, art, reading, songs, games, Bible study, and much more. Also, the children are provided breakfast and lunch along with a safe, positive, and loving environment, which is unusual for most of them.

Each of the three summers, I was assigned to a different Church in Tulsa. My final summer, I worked at Grace United Methodist Church on the west side of the city. The pastor there was a woman named Cindy Mayes. Cindy pastored this church along with another church in the area, which means she was doing the ministry of two people – an amazing feat. Cindy is one of the most loving and compassionate people I’ve ever met, I wouldn’t trade my time in ministry with her for anything. Seeing her passion for that community was astounding and truly inspiring for me, especially when I found myself wondering “what’s the use?” on certain days while she pushed on with a smile and a positive attitude.

I believe that God has given different roles to men and women. I believe that God created Adam as the head of Eve, and the Genesis account seems to make clear that Adam had responsiblity to lead his wife and was given responsibility for her mistake in the garden – it was his too. Contrary to what most say, I truly believe that our great struggle since the fall is to regain the roles that God made for man and woman and declared to be good. When God says to Eve in Genesis 3, “Your desire will be for your husband” he’s saying that she will desire his role, to have authority over him. This was not meant to be.

I wish there was a simple way to convey the roles of men and women without causing others to feel as if women are being given the short end of the stick. Just quote 1 Timothy 2:12, which says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent,” and immediately tempers will flare and ideas will be misunderstood. I believe that the role God has given to women is a beautiful and wonderful role to fulfill, but to explain this to those who do not hold this is extremely difficult. And maybe rightfully so.

I’ve always wondered how, for example, how the husband of a woman pastor could be expected to be the spiritual leader of his household. How does that work? But yet, I look at Cindy’s situation in Tulsa and see that she seems to be meeting the needs of her community. Should we penalize her with not “following God’s commands” when there are no men stepping up to do the job there? Would it be better for no one to be leading a church in that community? What about single woman missionaries, should they evangelize only to women? How do you do that in a culture where women aren’t even allowed to associate with others and everything must go through the husband? Should we just leave these places unreached until a willing man comes along to do the job?

I cannot convince myself that this is the case.

Which leaves me at a crossroads of sorts. I truly believe that the pastoral role is reserved for men and that men are to lead their households in loving them as Christ loved the church. At the same time, I stand and applaud Cindy Mayes for her commitment to serving the hurt, unloved, and struggling people of Tulsa. Cindy is an example of what the Christian life should look like in practice, and I can’t imagine having not worked with and learned from her. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Grace UMC without her, as she is now pastor of prayer and belonging at Asbury United Methodist Church on the east side of Tulsa.

This probably makes my stance as clear as mud, but I just can’t make it any clearer at this point in my life. Maybe one day I’ll understand completely the roles of men and women in God’s kingdom, but I believe that day will be when I stand before him. I can’t wait for that day to come.


My Mind Isn’t Quite Sure What it Has Bargained For

On the first Monday of this semester, I received an email at 5 p.m. informing me that one of my classes (a Tuesday/Thursday class) had been cancelled for the semester due to a lack of interest. The name of the class is Southern Baptist Heritage, and it’s a required class for my degree. After freaking out, I attempted to find another open class, but had difficulty since, well, school had started and classes were full or conflicted with my work schedule. Fortuantely, I was able to talk to the professor of the closed class and work out an independant study. There will be not class time or tests, just six books to read and a paper. This is good.

I began my reading (albeit begrudgingly, as I wasn’t too interested in Southern Baptist history) with a book called Baptist Battles. Some researchers from Emory University did a study on the Southern Baptist Convention – it’s history, the divisions among the members, what they believe, and how that has affected the course of the SBC. It’s been fascinating to learn about where the SBC came from and why certain divisions and disagreements exist. I’ve really enjoyed it.

The interesting part is finding out which category of Southern Baptists I fall into – because it seems that I’m a bit of a weirdo. I don’t seem to fall in line with any particular side. I’m definitely not fundamentalist, and I’m far from being completely liberal. Yet, I’m not completely in the middle, because some of my views are strikingly fundamentalist, while others are quite liberal, and still others fall somewhere in between. Therefore, I’m going to be taking some time over the next few weeks to discuss my stance on particular Baptist issues, possibly more for my own benefit than for yours, because . . . well, do you really care what I think? I didn’t think so.

The Inerrency of Scripture

I believe that the 66 books of the Bible that we have were written by men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Each of these men had motives what they were writing and undoubtedly had their own agenda. I have no problem with this, because I believe God used each of these men to get across what he wanted to. I take the Bible literally, although not completely. I mean, Jesus saying that He is the door does not that he really is a door. There are certainly stories, metaphors, poetry, and many other things that are to be taken in their context. This is why I believe it is important for Christians to learn these different writing styles and the context of each writer to better understand what the writer intended.

I do not believe that Scripture is to be read in a way that it means whatever someone wants it to. Certainly, the writers had a point when they wrote and weren’t just writing so that we could take whatever we wanted from it. No, all of Scripture has an exact meaning, and we should work dillegently to understand it.

All of this being said, I firmly believe that it is preposterous to claim to have the Bible compeltely understood. It would be absurd for us to treat others with different understandings of Scripture as idiots. I’ll give a few examples:

I believe in a literal six day creation. I feel that I can give a very good defense for it, but not a complete defense. Nor do I believe that one can be sufficiently made. I have good Christian friends who believe that the world was created over the course of several thousands/millions of years. They have no less of a defense than I do. Yet, to make such a claim about the world not being created in six days is enough to be labeled a liberal and a danger to the inerrency of Scripture.

I am a five point Calvinist. I don’t agree with everything about John Calvin, but I do hold to his five TULIP points. I have very good Christian friends who are Arminian and believe in human free will to an extent to which I cannot. I belive the Bible is clear on these issues, but yet I went years of my life believing the opposite. While I can give a defense of my beliefs in this area (and regularly do) I find it nearly impossible to “convert” someone to Calvinism based on any argument that I can give.

My point is, God is the one who makes the Scriptures clear to us, not ourselves. I believe that there is a right and a wrong to each issue, but for anyone to claim that their way is competely right and inerrent is just silly. Each of us is capable of error and misunderstanding. This is why I think kindly dissent and decent conversation is so important among Christians – especially Southern Baptists. Perhaps if we were more willing to listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ instead of attacking anyone who differs from us, we might become more open to understand God through his Word in a new and different way – after all, it is all about him right?

Is It Just Me or Do Politicians Have Teeth the Size of Piano Keys?

It’s been about 10 days since I posted a blog, so I guess it’s time for me to put up another one. I apologize if you’ve been checking back to see something new, I just haven’t had much to say. Part of this may be because of my laziness and complete lack of passion (to my disgrace) or maybe I just really feel the need to make sure what I write is worthwhile. I don’t know.

I do know that I finished up with my Emerging Church reading that I engaged in over the past two months. I may blog on that later and give my final synopsis. I will say, that if you’re like me and you avoided reading “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller because he’s so cool and trendy and all the hip college kids like him, put down your armor and read that book. It was amazing to me. It was so refreshing to hear words from an ordinary dude who cares about his faith but is honest enough to address his faults. It has easily become one of my favorite books.

So earlier, I was reading the Modesty Writers Guild which is a blog written by Stephen Christian, the lead singer for the band Anberlin. Not only is he an amazing singer, but he’s got some awesome things to say. Some of it may be a bit to liberal for some people, but if that’s you . . . get over it I guess. Okay, that was a bit rude, if you don’t want to read his blog, you don’t have to. But he’s got some great things to say and he’s taking a trip to Guatemala to address poverty there in June that I would love to be apart of if I get the opportunity.

In his latest blog, he discusses the war in Iraq. I know, I know, I’m tired of talking about it too. But he brings up some very balanced and fair points. After discussing the good things that have come from this war for the sake of the Iraqi people, he gives these statistics:

“i recently read an article on an education portal, which was explaining that we pay about $186,000 per minute (total of 443.7 billion). it is not the amount of zeros that make this frustrating its that they went on to say that with that amount of money we could put 21,510,598 (the amount of every high school student in the united states) students through a four year college education at a state school, add 7,689,734 million more teachers to our school system.”

I hope that blows you away. And like Stephen, I hope it makes you question whether that’s a bit too American focused to discuss in depth. Because obviously, if not for what’s already been accomplished in Iraq, the people there would not have recovered many of the freedoms that have been given back to them. I think the point is though, think about what we could be doing with our youth here in America to ensure a more educated and better world. Perhaps, as Stephen says, we could “raise up a generation who values the power of the pen over the sword.”

I’m not trying to push a pro or anti war agenda here, I’m just giving you some things to think about before you slap another “I hate Bush” or “I cry tears of blood for our troops because I support them so much” bumper sticker on the back of your vehicle instead of interacting with other people and displaying your opinions in a way that is at least a little respectful AND respectable.

Sorry that sentence was so long, but it’s been bottled up inside me for quite awhile now. If you have one of those bumper stickers on your car, I still love you. As for me, I’m out until next time.

Making a Mound Out of a "Mohl" Hill

This post has been removed. It has not been removed out of fear, by demand, or because I’ve changed my mind, but because I’ve decided that I want my blog to focus on other things . . . for now. This topic may come up later, but for now it must bid you adu.

The Top 10 Albums of 2007

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season so far. I know I have. Teresa and I are finishing our winter tour of Kansas and Oklahom and will soon be heading back to Louisville. Before we do, here’s my annual Top 10 Albums of the Year. Enjoy.

10. Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago – An almost complete departure from the pop punk genre, this strictly pop album is not as good as their previous Mmhmm, but it is a strong release from the band. Many of the songs are instantly catchy and Matty T’s lyrics are just as witty as ever, although some of the tongue in cheekiness found in their previous releases is now gone.

9. MxPx – Secret Weapon – This album came out in July, but I didn’t get it until Christmas, which leaves it a little low on my list, but barges its way into the top 10 anyway. I’m pretty sure these guys will never make a crappy album, they’re still going strong after over 15 years and this album is even better than their previous two efforts. Upbeat, fun, positive, and full of all the things you love about MxPx. Hats off to the kings of pop punk.

8. Chiodos – Bone Pallace Ballet – Chiodos definitely takes a step forward with this album. It’s much better produced than All’s Well That Ends Well and Craig Owens’ vocals are much more on point. However, you have to wonder how long a band like this can keep up steam in a genre on the decline, but as for now, Chiodos may be the emo/screamo/whatever the crap you want to call it top dog amongst the scenesters in 2007.

7. The Academy is – Santi – This may have been my most anticipated album of the year. Santi is far from over-produced and holds onto much of the rawness of a live performance. William Beckett is a fantastic frontman and his voice is just beautiful. Also, We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands may be the catchiest song of the year. They’re not as big as Fall Out Boy, Panic!, and now Paramore, but the guys of The Academy is push the boundaries of the indie rock scene and may blow up with their next album.

6. LA Symphony – Unleashed – This is a collection of new songs and songs that were lost and didn’t make the cut over the past seven years. It features former members Pigeon John, Btwice, and J-Beits, and as you can expect, is solid throughout. LA Symphony is indie hip hop at its best and features hysterical moments along with focused and emotional songs that keep you listening from start to finish.

5. Paramore – Riot! – This is easily my guilty pleasure of the year. Yes, they’re all high school age, but they’ve put together an extremely solid album. It’s full of pop appeal and apparently MTV loves it, which is very odd since MTV and I rarely agree on anything. Don’t let the first single Misery Business fool you, this album is much deeper than their first hit and is full of hidden gems. It’s one of the few albums that I can listen to this year from front to back without having to reach for the skip button.

4. Chasing Victory – Fiends – Sadly, this is the best and last album from Chasing Victory. The band took about 10 steps forward with this release and easily shredded the boundaries of screamo that coralled them in the past. Musically, this album is incredible and the lyrical content cuts me to the core (it’s a concept album based on many of the vices we have).

3. Anberlin – Cities – At first, this album was a bit of a letdown for me, but as the year rolled on it became one of my favorites. It’s a bit more mellow at times than their previous works, but that’s okay. It’s honest and transparent and Stephen Christian may be the coolest dude in music. They have gotten more mature, even better live, and are ready to break out with a new album on Universal in 2008.

2. 12 Stones – Anthem for the Underdog – Don’t ask me why I still like 12 Stones, I just can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because they make other alt rock bands look silly. Maybe it’s because they stay true to their path and make the music they love. Maybe it’s because Paul McCoy is an incredible vocalist and isn’t out to prove anything other than he loves rock n’ roll. Maybe it’s because time and time again this band’s songs affect me in a way no other band does. Maybe this is why I STILL (and always will) love 12 Stones.

1. The Almost – Southern Weather – Was there really any question? Aaron Gillespie is absolutely unbelievable. He recorded every sound on this album and made it near perfect. It’s nothing like Underoath, and actually, that’s a good thing. It’s a true expression of Gillespie’s passions and his desire to create unique music. This album was easily the soundtrack to my year and I can’t wait for what Aaron cooks up next.

In case you were wondering, there were some let downs this year. Several in fact. Here are my biggest musical let downs in 2007.

3. Thousand Foot Krutch – The Flame in All of Us – Trevor, I know you can do better.
2. Falling Up – Captiva – I guess this is what happens when you lose half of your band.
1. Emery – I’m Only a Man – Apparently so. But I’ve seen you men make MUCH better music than this.

Enjoy your final day of 2007 everyone!

My Stance on Rob Bell, the Emerging Church, and Off-Brand Soda

Okay, so I said that this post was going to happen last week, but it didn’t. Which is actually good, because I’ve done some more reading since then on various things and I hope that I have a better idea of what I want to say.

Keep in mind, my views almost always annoy someone somewhere, usually many someones. However, the blogs I’ve written so far have gotten surprisingly good feedback (although the ideas, when expressed verbally elsewhere have received quite a bit of venom. I guess that just means that people only reply to my blogs/notes if they like what I say and save the criticism for when they see me face to face.) I expect this blog to receive quite bit of jeering from both sides, which may be why I delayed it some, but I think I’m ready for it now.

For starters, if you’ve spent any amount of time talking theology with me, you’ve probably heard me state my views on Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and many other Emerging Church figures. I have been one of the more outspoken people I know against this movement, in particular, Rob Bell. Strikingly, I had not read any complete volume of any of these men, I’d read clips, reviews, opinions and seen a few Nooma videos. Because of this, I decided it would be of my best interest to spend my time off from school over the winter break to read as many books on or about the Emerging Church and their views as I possibly could. What I’ve discovered so far has been quite a surprise.

I started by reading “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, a book I’ve heard nothing but bad things about from people I really respect and hold to many of the theological views as I do. I read it in one day.

It’s the best book I’ve read this year.

Now, before you hit the reply button and praise me for coming to my senses, let me explain why. I do not think Rob Bell is the greatest theologian of our time, as a matter of fact, I learned nothing theologically from this book and would not advise anyone to look to Bell for growth in the area of Biblical doctrine. That being said, I felt that as far as Christianity in practice, the book was outstanding. Bell called out several areas of our “Christian culture” that are in desperate need of revision and/or overhaul. Many conservative, right wing, Christians would do good to listen to Bell’s call for activism in our communities, churches, and relationships.

I also completely agree with his view of how the right side builds a wall of doctrines (some essential, some non) that keep others out and make sure that the right ones are in. I would not have gone so far as to use the example of the Virgin Birth to make my point on this issue, but I see what he is trying to say, and I believe him to be mostly correct on the issue.

I also found in the book that he upholds substitutionary atonement, which was very important for me to read. I know that others in this movement don’t, or at best don’t talk about it, which I find extremely troubling since it so foundational to the Christian faith.

Did I agree with everything Bell said in “Velvet Elvis?” No, but the things I did agree with stirred my soul for days as I contemplated the ways that my Christian life fails to reflect the life that Christ has called us to live. I would not recommend this book to those who are very young in their faith, simply to avoid confusion on particular issues, but for those who are mature and have a good idea of where they stand theologically, I think the book could be a great help. I look forward to read Bell’s next book “Sex God” when it comes back to the library.

Now, I spent a day this week reading a book by Brian McLaren called “A Search for What is Real: Finding Faith.” I am sad to say that the book did nothing to change my view of McLaren. I think that, like Bell, McLaren has much to say to a culture that has become apathetic to loving the lost and reaching out to those in need. However, McLaren’s pluralism is just too much for me to swallow. It appears from what I’ve read that McLaren does believe that Christianity is the best way, but simply the best way of many other good ways such as Judaism, Islam, or whatever else.

So for what it’s worth, here’s my take on the Emerging Church:

I believe that they are right on when it comes to communicating with our culture and loving people where they are. They have a very good understanding of the social part of the Gospel and our obligation to help the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, and the despised. I commend them for their efforts to reach out and invite anyone and everyone into a loving relationship with God.

Unfortunately, this is where it ends. I believe in the inerrency of Scripture – that it is God’s Word, written through the hands of men inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it is completely perfect and it is exactly what God meant to say. It is complete truth to me, and I need not look beyond God’s Word for authority in my life. Because of this, I believe that there is not salvation apart from the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To abandon this or to downplay it would be a travesty. Because of this, I cannot affirm the complete mission of the Emerging Church.

On the flip side, I am becoming more disgusted with the right-wing, conservative church as each day goes by because of the unwillingness to love and accept those who do not agree with our complete wall of doctrine. I would be happy to partake of communion with someone who was not baptized in a Baptist church. I would also be happy to work alongside a brother or sister who has a private prayer language, who is not a Calvinist, who is a woman pastor. I refuse to limit my ministry to consist of only those who hold to each and every non-essential doctrine as I do.

Therefore, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. It appears that I lie in somewhat of a no-mans-land between the right and left, unable to choose an allegiance. Maybe this is where I’ll stay, or maybe others will join me in an effort put our differences aside and work together for the good of the Gospel. I’ll leave you with a quote from D.A. Carson in his book “Becoming Coversant with the Emerging Church.”

“No worldview, no epistemological system developed by us in this fallen world, is entirely good or entirely bad. God’s gracious “common grace” assures us that even systems that are deeply structurally flawed will preserve some insight in them somewhere; our sin ensures that even a system closely aligned with Scripture will be in some measure distorted. Thus thoughtful Christians should not identify themselves completely with either modernism or postmodernism, nor should they utterly damn either entity. “

Feel free to say whatever you want. Next time I think I’ll be writing about tolerance . . . dun dun dun. See ya then.

P.S. – Go have a Pibb Extra. It’ll kick your mouth in the butt.

Disaster Tourism

I officially turned in my last assignment of the semester yesterday, and I’m now completely done with school for over a month. As a result, I’ve got a double whammy for you this week! I can’t tell you how weird I feel for saying “whammy.” I promise, it won’t happen again.

This Friday marks the release of the film “The Golden Compass.” This movie has sparked an extreme amount of controversy due to its anti-Christian imagery and the fact that the author of the three book series, Philip Pullman, is a self-proclaimed athiest who has written the books to open people’s eyes to the evils of the Christian faith. I personally think Pullman is a bozo, and could care less if he decides to adapt his books to the big screen, but several Christian groups have already called for a boycott of the movie among Christians, lest we support an evil endeavor and become indoctrinated with its lies.

But this post isn’t about The Golden Compass.

In the late 90s, the Southern Baptist Convention began an 8-year boycott of Walt Disney Co. because of a so-called “gay agenda.” Apparently Disney offers health benefits to homosexual employees and particular days at their theme parks are directed towards the gay community. Why don’t we go ahead and boycott businesses that offer benefits to unmarried people living with their boyfriend or girlfriend? Or even a company that allows its employees to have a cigarette outside the building during their 15 minute break?

But this post isn’t about Disney.

Last month at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Arlington, TX, Messengers approved a bylaw change to replace the word “drunkenness” as it appears in several instances to “the use of alcohol as a beverage,” stipulating that such practice is unacceptable for employees and members elected to the executive board, committees and offices of the SBTC. Therefore, if you are an employee anywhere within the SBC in Texas, you now prohibited from partaking of any alcoholic beverage. I could go into a rant about the use of alcohol in the Bible and the fact that it’s not a sin to partake of an alcoholic beverage . . .

But this post isn’t about alcohol.

This post also isn’t about Harry Potter, public school, the environment, or any other topic we could name that may cause controversy among Christians over what’s right and wrong to be associated with. This post IS about the real issue:

We are not teaching our brothers and sisters the truth of what the Christian life looks like and are copping out by passing laws, rules, and boycotts to cover up for our failure to address what the Bible says we should be doing.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

What this means is, because Christ came to fulfill the law that we couldn’t keep, we are now free from condemnation and set free from the law that once kept us from being who God wanted us to be. Jesus came and took our place by keeping the law, dying, taking our sins to the grave, and rising again on the third day, leaving us guiltless and righteous before God! Does this mean that we’re free to sin? Of course not, but it means that we’re free to live a life of joy and happiness as we enjoy the things that God has given us and share with others what it really means to be a Christian.

And being a Christian doesn’t mean boycotting, shaking our fists, and adding laws that the Bible does not in order to make sure our Christian brothers and sisters don’t “screw up.”

The truth of the matter is, if we were teaching in our churches the truth of the Bible and helping our people understand what it means to be a Christian and how to live a life holy and pleasing to God, we wouldn’t need to be scared that our friends might be indoctrinated with false truths from “The Golden Compass.” We could actually smile and say “enjoy the movie!” Perhaps they might even be able to discuss it with their non-Christian friends after it’s over and tell them why the way of Christ is better.

What do I know, though?

Stay tuned, because later this week I hope to be writing a new post about Rob Bell. Have I gone to the dark side? Have I gone off the deep end? Have I become *gulp* a liberal? You’ll have to check back later this week. :o)

Acceptance is what holds us here, and you my dear are the one I fear tonight

I would like to take a moment to remember two men who have passed away in the past few days. First, this weekend Casey Calvert, guitarist and back-up vocalist for Hawthorne Heights, died in his sleep just days after the band began their Wintour. At this point, it is believed that he may have died of accute asthma. Casey was just 26 and leaves behind his wife.

Also, early this morning, Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins passed away at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Taylor was shot in the upper leg, severing his femoral artery, after an intruder broke into his home early yesterday morning. Taylor was a free saftey and was in his fourth year with the Redskins. Sean was 24 and leaves behind his daughter.

I’m not a Redskins fan, but I did follow Sean Taylor enough to know quite a bit about him. Casey Calvert was a member of one of my favorite bands, and I’m sad to see both of them pass away so young.

When things like this happen, we all hear stories of the great things that the deceased person has done and stories of the character of the person. These stories are rightfully told, and remembering a person through these great memories may, even for a moment, lessen the pain that we feel. Soon though, the grieving of family, friends, and onlookers is almost inevitably followed by questions. “Why did this have to happen, they were such a good person.” Or “why would God let this happen when there are so many awful people in this world that go on living?”

Being close to the music community that Casey was a part of, I’ve seen many of these questions and those like them during the past few days. Reading through all of them brings a couple of things to my attention:

1. I think people may have some sense in them of the sovereignty of God. Even those who don’t believe in God or have a vague understanding appear to have some sense during tragedy that God is the one in control and is the one making the decisions.

2. The “goodness” or strong character of an individual is not enough to ensure them long life and put them out of reach of the sovereign will of God. A truth such as this may not be timely when introduced to a family or loved ones of a recently passed individual, but it should be a sobering reminder to the rest of us who may not realize that we may fail to wake up tomorrow.

Deuteronomy 32:29 says:

“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”

I don’t believe that much commentary is needed for this one verse. It should be a call to believers and unbelievers alike that we are not entitled to our next breath. Considering our current sinful state, the fact that any of us is able to sit up in our chair and inhale a breath at this very moment as an immese act of sovereign grace from God. We are not deserving of tomorrow, and God would be completely just to take the life of each and every one of us.

So what about that family member who you’ve been waiting to share the Gospel with because of a fear of rejection? What about that desire for the mission field that you’ve put off because your career got in the way? What about that person who you have yet to forgive because the time isn’t right and you just can’t let that wound heal?

James has strong words for each and every one of us in the fourth chapter of his epistle:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

I hope that you take the time today to think about the things that you’ve been pushing aside until a more convenient time. Pray for me as well, as I am just as guilty about forgetting where my priorities lie and assuming that I am captain of my own destiny. I pray that it doesn’t take something horrible to remind me that I am not.

A final opinion is of less value than an appreciation of, and tolerance for obscurity

Southern Baptists irritate me.

So I guess I irritate myself.

With finals only a week away, I find my brain overloaded with knowledge and ideas that will soon spill out in a sloppy mess onto the white paper filled with questions that will lay upon my little lap desk. I can’t even explain how much I’ve learned this semester, it’s been incredible. I’ve been studying under some of the best evangelical teachers in the world and reading books by some of the most intelligent and Godly writers around. I’ve been stretched, pushed, and stressed at times, but all in all, I think it’s been worth it.

There’s just one problem. I have had absolutely no opportunity to put it into practice. Maybe opportunity isn’t the right word, because honestly, if I wanted to, I could walk out of this apartment right now and meet people on the street or in their homes and start building relationships. I think what’s really happening is one of two things:

1. I’m lazy.

2. I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that because I’m a seminary student, I need to focus my attention on my studies and stand around in the morning sipping on my coffee and participating in the hot theological debate of the day.

It’s probably both, but it’s really starting to tick me off. I met a guy recently who pastors a small church here in Louisville, he’s the interim pastor while they search for a full time guy. This church has been around for decades and the congregation consists of people in their 50s, 60s, and up. It’s dying, and the people have no desire to outreach to the community even though they’re only one mile from the University of Louisville. This guy tells me that there’s a 16 year old girl that’s been coming to church and has told him that she’s been cutting herself and struggling with depression. My first response was, “did you direct her to a leader in the church for counseling?”

His response – “the leaders in my church have told me that they don’t feel comfortable teaching, counseling, or dealing with problems that others in the church might have.”

My response – ” . . . “

Are you kidding me? How in the world is it that we end up with a bunch of churches with people sitting on their butts in the pews, claiming to be “leaders” who refuse to step up and help out those who are in need of it? Folks, this isn’t an isolated issue, churches all over the place are doing this same thing. But get this, the Church of Christ a couple of blocks down the road from this church is drawing 70 youth off the streets every Wednesday with a sign outside that says “no guns allowed.” I told this guy to send the girl down the street where it appears that people actually “care” about showing the love and compassion that Christ called us to exhibit.

What does all of this have to do with finals week, you ask? Well, if I’ve learned one thing about ministry this semester, it’s that standing around trying to “out-smart” the other guys during the day’s theological discussion IS NOT ministry. Helping the girl that comes in off the street and showing her the love that Christ showed me IS ministry. What in the world makes us think that we have the right to stand around filling ourselves with pride and puffing ourselves up when real people with real struggles are asking for someone, anyone, to reach out to them.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been doing this very thing all semester long and have seemingly fallen into the pit of theological nonsense that gets you nowhere if you’re not willing to put your faith into practice. I do not, and I repeat, DO NOT want to turn into the 60 year old “leader” in the church that’s too much of a coward to be the man that God has demanded that I be. Wow, you could be a Christian your whole life and be in church your whole life and REALLY waste your life.

Please God, give me the courage to be a real man and step outside of my comfort zone and start acting like a Christian. People are struggling, searching, and dying without anyone there to put their arm around them and tell them that you love them. Give me the grace to have mercy on all of your people and to be willing to step up when someone is in need and not let my pride convince me that I’ve got better things to do.

Better things to do . . . wow, someone I know named Kiel really needs to straighten out his priorities. By the grace of God alone, maybe he will.

Nickels is Money Too

I’ve always had a fondness for commercials. Especially funny ones. There’s nothing quite like being caught off guard by a humorous advertisement while you wait for your favorite show to reappear on the television screen. I could make a laundry list of some of my favorites, but that’s really not what this post is about. It is, however, about one commercial in particular that didn’t cause me to laugh, chuckle, smile, or even smirk. In fact, it made me quite upset.

I can’t recall the company (the first sign of a bad advertisement), but I remember the concept vividly. It involves a couple, presumably in their late 60s or early 70s, who have recently retired and are very happy with the company that has counseled them in their savings over the years. However, after all those hard years of working and putting money away for retirement, they are now faced with a dilemma – how are they going to spend all this money? I mean, no one ever told them what to do with it once it was time to spend it. How awful that must be!

The commercial goes on to explain how this financial company not only helps you save, but when it’s time, will help you spend. The ad ends by the husband deciding that they’re ready to “tackle the coral reef.” But wait, the wife wants a trip to Paris! Well, I guess Paris will come first and then it’s off to the reef. Aww, what a great story. A nice couple livin’ the American dream!

I would bet that most people watched that commercial, took slight note, and continued on with their lives as if nothing had happened. I mean, what’s the big deal right? We’re all supposed to be saving for the future, one of these days we’ll have wished we’d listened when our neighbors have two million in their retirement account and we’ve got a measly 500 thousand.

Listen closely . . .

If you claim to be a Christian and this is the life that you see yourself living or hope to have, you need to take a serious look at who you are and what you believe in. Let me toss a few numbers at you, just for the sake of casual information.

In 2005 alone, AIDS claimed an estimated 2.4–3.3 million lives, of which more than 570,000 were children.

It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day.

One third of deaths – some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day – are due to poverty-related causes. That’s 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.

Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.

800 million people go to bed hungry every day.

I’m fighting back tears as I write this and I think of the two dollar coffee I bought myself during my break in class this afternoon. Not to mention the 15 dollars I drop on a new CD every month or the 200 dollars I dropped on an mp3 player after I graduated college.

“Oh, but Kiel. That’s not our problem! There’s people that will step up and take care of this. And even if they don’t, it’s not our fault that we were born here in America and they were born there.”

As one woman I worked with last year put it, after telling me that her son was wanting to live in Africa and treat the sick after he received his degree in medicine – “I can’t believe he wants to waste his life like that.”

I wonder what Jesus has to say about this?

“And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.

Then he said, This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.

But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?

This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” – Luke 16-21

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” – Matthew 25:41-45

Shame on all of us for shrugging our shoulders to a culture that tells us to hoard money for ourselves and build bigger barns so that we will have ample goods for ourselves while millions die from a lack of food to eat and clean water to drink. If you are a Christian, take a VERY serious look at what you stand for and what you want to do with your life, because one day every one of us will be asked to give an account for what you did with what you were given.

God help us.

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