Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why I no longer support the Pro Life movement...

Tomorrow, January 22, 2015 marks the 42nd anniversary of United States Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade. I was just a little over two years old when that decision came down so I am glad that I was born before this Herodian ruling came into being. After January 22, 1973 the lives of young children in the womb were very much in jeopardy.

For the past 42 years the Pro Life movement in America has championed the cause of the unborn. I was happy and proud to consider myself a part of that movement. I believed compromise and incremental approaches to winning at the Pro Life movement were the way to see ultimate victory in ending abortion in America.

That is, until I began to think through my position and seriously question the tactics of the Pro Life movement. You see, we have had 42 years of unfettered access to abortion on demand. 42 years of the Pro Life movement telling us that we have to be patient and take what we can when we can.

So, when we were able to see a partial-birth abortion ban passed in Congress in 2003 (only 30 years after abortion was made legal) this was hailed as a major victory for “the cause.” But I began to think about that. So, killing a child out of the womb is bad…but it isn’t as bad if it is still in the womb?

The Pro Life supporters would say, “Even if one life is saved, it is worth it.” That sounds so noble and altruistic. But the problem is how can we say ANY child should not be saved? I found myself beginning to reject the idea that incrementalism and compromise were the proper approach. Now that we’ve had 42 years of that approach and philosophy leading the charge, we can truly measure the results.

It has done nothing to stem the tide of the slaughter of innocents. It has merely equipped and empowered those who want abortion on demand to continue and it has gravely softened our position and resolve.

I now consider myself a supporter of the Personhood movement. What the Personhood movement is attempting to do is to frame the debate of life without compromising the life of any child. If a baby in the womb is indeed a person, then that person is afforded all the protection of the laws of our land.

Justice Potter Stewart
Justice Potter Stewart (one of the ruling Justices on Roe v Wade) said during arguments for Roe v Wade, “The basic constitutional question, initially is, whether or not the unborn fetus is a person, isn’t it? That’s critical to this case is it not?” He continued to say, “If it were established that an unborn fetus is a person within the protections of the 14th amendment, you would have almost an impossible case here, would you not?”

Since I have embraced the idea that an unborn child is indeed a person, what I have found is criticism and harsh treatment from the unlikeliest of sources…those in the Pro Life movement. Because they reject this uncompromising position, what usually results is ad hominem and invective being injected into any discussion on the topic.

I feel their arguments for compromise and incrementalism are no different than those who would argue against abstinence. The line of reasoning goes, “Teens are going to have sex anyway, so let’s make sure they are safe…and maybe we’ll cut down the numbers of teen pregnancies in the process.” But the fact is, abstinence, when practiced has been shown to be 100% effective in preventing pregnancy.

I can no longer stomach the incrementalist’s idea of compromising and saving “some” lives over others. For me, this is an all-out, no compromise issue. No child deserves death for any reason. And the moment we justify one child dying, we have lost a 42 year battle.

If you want to know more about Personhood in the state of Iowa, follow this LINK:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tough Questions

At our church’s most recent elders meeting we discussed vision and leadership. I had brought out some old material I had from a lecture from current President of Lincoln Christian University, Don Green. We had a brutally honest conversation about where we are as a church and where we need to be.
I believe those kinds of conversations are critical as you strive to honor God in your service to Him in a leadership position. According to a study a few years back 27% of Christian Churches/Churches of Christ are growing while 73% are either static or declining. Declining churches tend to be more maintenance-minded while growing churches tend to be more mission-minded.
So we examined whether or not we are more mission or maintenance-minded by discussing these questions. I would encourage you to do the same with your leadership team.
·       Is your church maintaining a tradition or fulfilling a mission?
·       Is it more inward-focused (serving ourselves) or outward-focused (serving others)?
·       Are its paradigms (ways of viewing and doing things) oriented to the past or to the future?
·       Is it more concerned with being efficient (doing things right) or being effective (doing the right things)?
·       Is it preoccupied with programs or people?
·       Is it a Sunday church or a seven-days-a-week church?
·       Is it more concerned with making decisions or making disciples?
·       Is it more committed to satisfying the saved or to seeking the lost?
·       Is it becoming older and smaller or younger and larger?
As we assessed our situation we realized that we currently lean a little heavier on the maintenance side than we do the mission side. So we began discussing how to correct that. What steps do we need to take?
Let me first say this, our leadership must have absolute, unwavering integrity. We must be aligned in what we are and what we believe and what we do. We need to clearly understand our mission as a church. Our purpose is not merely to meet on Sundays. It is much more serious than that. We are tasked by God Himself to proclaim His truth in and out of season and to help rescue sinners from perishing.
An old adage comes to mind when I consider this: Methods are many, principles are few. Methods always change but principles never do. Our message can never change but the way in which it is proclaimed can definitely have room for improvement. We want to reach young families with the Gospel. It is our heart and soul. Everything we do this new year will be directed toward meeting that end.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Meeting With Governor Jindahl

On Tuesday evening, January 6th I sat in a conference room with approximately 100 other faith leaders, mainly pastors, to listen to Governor Bobby Jindal speak. He came at the invitation of Brad Sherman, a pastor from Iowa City who coordinated this event with David Lane’s American Renewal Project. This was an invitation-only event and the press were definitely not on the invite list.

Governor Jindal shared about his upbringing and how he was led to faith in Christ through a friend that had given him a copy of the Bible. At first, the gift seemed odd to this young Hindu-raised man, but after the death of his grandfather, Jindal turned to that Bible in seeking out answers about what happens after we die.

The answers did not come quickly for Jindal. He started reading the Bible from Genesis and found many stories captivating and some of it difficult to understand. It wasn’t until he met a young woman he was interested in, that he started attending campus ministry meetings at LSU. That is where his faith in Christ and his understanding of God’s Word truly ignited.

Jindal shared that he believes that the greatest need in America currently is the need for spiritual revival. He is hosting an event called The Response on January 24, 2015 in Baton Rouge, LA. This event is a call to repentance, prayer and fasting. Governor Rick Perry of Texas did this same type of event in 2011.

David Lane, with the American Renewal Project, is hoping to replicate this prayer event in all of the key states in the political process. Governor Jindal quoted Winston Churchill when speaking about this event and said, “’You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they've exhausted every alternative,’ “That's where we are as a country," he continued, "We have tried everything and now it is time to turn back to God."

I found Governor Jindal to be a sincere breath of fresh air. With temps hitting negative zero outside, it truly warmed my heart to hear this Governor from Louisiana speaking about his relationship with Jesus Christ. He wasn’t pandering either.

I know this because I met him once before. Earlier in December I was part of a delegation that flew down to Baton Rouge to the Governor’s Mansion to meet and discuss the upcoming event The Response. Our goal was to also begin working to have the event in our home state of Iowa.

At this event, I heard Governor Jindal share his same story about coming to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. But what impressed me the most was not so much his story, but afterwards during a time of prayer. All the ministers gathered around him and prayed over him and for him. That was a powerful moment, honestly.

But then Governor Jindal prayed as well. His words were not the carefully scripted words of a political pundit. His words in his prayer were words that came from a long-standing intimacy with his Savior. Jindal doesn’t just say the right things in the right setting. He knows Jesus and it is obvious in his prayer language.

I don’t know what the future holds as all the candidates for 2016 begin to line up and whisper sweet nothings in our ears here in Iowa. But I do know that the Governor of Louisiana is a brother in Christ. He is a true Christian statesman.

There are others as well. And it may be a difficult task ahead for us. I think that Jindal and Huckabee and Cruz and Santorum are some of the strongest champions we have currently. It will be very interesting to see how it all unfolds. But to my brothers in ministry, I would challenge you to hold these candidates’ feet to the fire and vet them through and through. That is our responsibility as leaders in this state!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why I don't drink

With New Year’s Celebrations looming and alcohol consumption rising I thought I would share with you six reasons why I don’t drink alcohol.

We can all agree that the Bible speaks against getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18) but I believe abstaining from consuming alcohol is a matter of wisdom. Here are my six reasons:

1.      It doesn’t take much alcohol to become intoxicated.

For many people all it takes is a very small amount and they are intoxicated. That’s why trying to define what “getting drunk” really is can be very difficult. Just a small amount can dramatically impair physical and mental abilities of certain individuals. That can also be easily manipulated by how much/little an individual has had to eat. So I just don't drink.

2.      There are plenty of other choices.

Some justify drinking by saying, “Well Jesus and the disciples drank wine. And Jesus turned water into wine.” This view needs to consider that the choices for drink in the first century were very limited. Sometimes the choice was only between rancid water or wine. In our day there are numerous viable, less-dangerous choices at our discretion.

3.      Alcoholic beverages are not necessary for medicinal purposes anymore.

In the first century and earlier alcoholic beverages were used to help individuals for many ailments. But in our time there are many available medicines that can help with precision any ailment. So the idea that I must drink alcohol to help me medicinally is just not that strong of an argument.

4.      Alcoholic beverages are addictive.

Many studies have shown the addictive nature of alcoholic beverages. I know my own personal propensity toward addiction and I most certainly don't need to tempt this arena in my life.

5.      I don’t want to set a bad example.

What I choose to do in moderation my children or others might do in excess. Even though this is a danger with any behavior, given the destructive nature of alcohol consumption I choose to not partake.

6.      It hinders your witness.

As I already stated in setting a bad example, I must be cognizant of the witness I am portraying to others. In all honesty, if people in the community or the church that I served saw me and my wife sitting at a bar drinking, it would have a very bad effect on the lives of others.

Not drinking alcohol is a wise choice. I am not saying that one should never drink alcohol…but I am dictating why my wife and I choose not to drink. We do not want our mental faculties to be impaired at any level. We always want the freedom to make sober judgment.

As an anecdote, almost every horrible ministry situation I have been involved with where there were broken relationships or a fractured family…without exception, alcohol was involved in the process somewhere along the way.

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me"-but not everything is beneficial.” Can a Christian drink? Sure. Is it beneficial to do so? My conclusion is that it is not. Paul also tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Maybe this New Year ahead might be a great time for you to choose the wise path and to not drink alcohol anymore.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What's going on with our Bible Colleges?

I’m not a mega-church pastor. So take what I say with a grain of salt. I don’t speak to tens of thousands each weekend. I speak to a faithful flock of under 200. I have stood in the same pulpit for over 800 Sundays. In that time frame I have come to some conclusions that I know are echoed by some of my other colleagues in ministry as well. 

It seems that our Bible Colleges have lost touch with churches like mine. You see our basic problem is we are a church of under 200. That’s it in a nutshell. We don’t have much to offer apparently. 

We don’t have a phone book full of ministry options for people. We don’t have staff that equal the size of our church. We don’t have a worship band that cranks out CD’s that we sell in our in-house bookstore.

You see, we are who we are. And the dirty little secret is, we like it that way. But as far as our Bible Colleges go, it would seem, we are definitely the type of church to avoid. In fact, as horrible as this sounds, we have become very comfortable in our own skin. You see, we don’t want to be a church led by Rick Warren or Craig Groeschel. We just want to be who we are…warts and all.

Now every Bible College President would probably put his hand on my shoulder and let me know how off-base I am. He would assure me that my assessment is not an accurate reflection of what is happening in our colleges in relationship to the church. But I can’t shake what I am seeing and hearing.

It would seem that many of our colleges are more concerned with being in step with the progressive tendencies of our culture that they have little time to properly focus on the fact that the majority of our churches in America are just like mine…under 200 in attendance. It is almost as if you would think the message being received by students in our colleges these days is if a church is under 200 the only thing it is good for is to help you get to a bigger and better church.

Which is another issue I have noticed over the years, there is an entitlement mentality amongst our Bible College graduates that runs counter to the servant spirit required to do practical ministry. Many of the young people entering ministry are more focused on what the church can do for them than what they can do for the church.

There are so many young people graduating with a fractured focus of ministry (youth, small group coordinator, children’s, worship, etc…) that they have adopted a “that’s not my job” mentality and heart. Sometimes a clogged toilet just needs to be unclogged. It could care less about your degree focus.

I have a friend who served an area church in Iowa that decided for budgetary concerns and a growing need with their young families that their current youth minister would need to focus on children’s ministry as well as youth ministry. Which translated practically into him overseeing the Jr. Church program and making sure that children’s Sunday School classes were properly facilitated and had good curriculum. This young man quit his job in protest rather than help pick up slack in a needed area of ministry.

I have had similar experiences as well. We have had young men serve as youth minister with this very same “what’s in it for me?” mentality. And the church is no better off.

Increasingly this is the product that is being turned out of our Bible Colleges. I understand much of what I have said is anecdotal but my experience keeps being echoed in my ears from so many of my colleagues. There is a problem. And there is a disconnect in what is needed in our churches and what our Bible Colleges are producing in leadership for the church.

Many of our Bible College graduates do not ask of a church: Here are my gifts, can you use them? But they ask: Here are my needs, can you meet them?

As I said, I am not a mega-church pastor, so I certainly am not hip, but I have learned this in my time in ministry: If you’re too big to clean a toilet then you’re too little to do anything else.

Some of us need to repent of thinking too highly of ourselves. If you’re too big to do something small then you are too small to do something big. In fact, the smaller you are, the more room you leave for God. But I don’t know if that can be found in any of our Bible Colleges’ current text books.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It’s over…don’t try to contact me again…

I just can’t take it anymore. The way you tell me over and over the things I want to hear. You try to sweet talk me with all your talk about God and family…but I know the truth. You don’t care about God! You use Him! Just like you use me. You only seem to care about me when you’re interested in the one thing you always seem to be interested in. I am not something just to be lied to so you can get what you want out of me. I cannot take the abuse anymore. I have reached my breaking point. So I am letting you know once and for all that it’s over between me and you. I’m leaving you forever Republican Party! 

I can’t believe the freedom I feel in saying that, honestly! I have convinced myself for so long that you really do care about God and truth and life and marriage. But it was all a lie. You don’t care about any of that! We have had no significant change in things except you have aided in the death of more babies and now marriage is crumbling all across America. 

All the Republican Party has ever wanted from me is my vote. They want me to just shut up about God and life and marriage and just cast my vote for team “R” but I can’t do it anymore. In fact, the last time I voted for team “R” I felt like I needed to take a shower afterwards because I felt dirty for doing it. I just can’t do it anymore.

I am finally taking control. I am no longer listening to the lies. I am empowering myself to walk away from the Republican Party. I am only going to be concerned with doing what is right before God…and the only time I will ever vote for another Republican will be when that person can unequivocally prove that they are going to be a servant of the Most High first and a true statesmen second.

By the way, I tried. I tried for a long time to make things work. But your disdain for all that I care about made our relationship impossible to maintain. How can two people stay together who are headed in different directions? The Republican Party I first fell in love with used to care about all the things I continue to care about (life and marriage and religious liberty) but now all that the Republican Party cares about is making sure that they are not much different from the Democrat Party. And they have done a wonderful job at that!

Now it really is hard to tell the difference between a Republican and a Democrat anymore. Most of the “electable” Republicans love the murder of babies and destroying marriage as much as the most ardent Democrats.

You’ve been telling me for a long time now that I have to change if we want our relationship to progress. But I’ve told you for so long that these are things in me that will never change. You want an “open” relationship…where we are inviting anyone and everyone in. I don’t. I want your exclusive allegiance. I want to know that you care about the things that really matter.

But I don’t know who you are anymore. You have become everything that I hate. And I will not tolerate it anymore. So it is over. So go find someone else to climb into bed with Republican Party…it’s what you seem to be very good at these days. With your lack of standards you’ll find someone else, I’m sure.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fifteen Years...

In three weeks I will have been the minister of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ for fifteen years. That’s one and a half decades for those of us that went to public school. This very morning I went to the hospital early to pray with an older gentlemen that was one of the very first men in the church to “show me the ropes” after I arrived here.

For the first week I was here, he would come pick me up and drive me around so that I got familiar with the city. He went calling with me. He just made sure I felt comfortable in my new role as the preacher of the church.

I did. At least, I put on airs that I did. I was still young and dumb. I was arrogant and too proud to realize how risky some of the decisions I made were. I believe, overall, that I have had a successful ministry. If you are measuring success by the size of the church…to be honest, it hasn’t changed a ton.

Well, that’s not entirely true. The first Sunday I preached at The Fort there were 45 people in attendance. Since then we have grown. But we’re no mega-church. We are who we are. A small church with imperfect people and an even more imperfect preacher.

I do have some regrets, mind you. There have been times I have said things I wish I could have taken back. But like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube, once you say it, it is pretty hard to put it back where it came from. In anger I have intimidated people, I have pushed and manipulated for things that I wanted to happen at the church…sometimes at the expense of other’s feelings.

When I encountered relational struggles in my ministry, I was all-too-quick to point out their “issues” but very, very slow to see any of my own. At times, honestly, I really blew it. I genuinely wasn’t there when people needed me to be there.

There have been people that I just didn’t care for and I wouldn’t go see them. Not that I didn’t know I should…but I didn’t want to. So I didn’t. And I am no better for it.

There have been people that I liked too much, and I might have smothered them with my insatiable desire to have more and more affirmation that I am a good preacher.

There were times when, preparing for a sermon, I just got lazy and I copied someone’s idea or I just didn’t really put any effort into the preparation at all. And it showed.

But in spite of all of that…in spite of me…God has been good. He has helped people to move to places they did not know they could spiritually and I was allowed to be a small part of that process. He has brought people from darkness to light, from addiction to freedom, from desperation to hope…and I got to witness it up front and close.

Fifteen years is a long time. I am definitely not a perfect person…but by God’s grace He still chooses to use me. What a God!? Who could think that someone as messed up and imperfect like me could be used by God in such a way?!

I can’t promise I won’t blow it again. I can’t promise I won’t be a little person at times scheming to get my own prideful way. I can’t promise that every sermon is going to be something I put together with my whole heart. But I can promise that I will be available for whatever is next and however God chooses to use me.