Everyone Needs to Calm Down (Especially Evangelical Christians)


I can’t remember a time when evangelical Christians were so uptight (many, not all) about the political landscape, unless it was back in the 60’s when they wanted to impeach Earl Warren (yes, I’m old enough to remember it – and they were uptight).

You would think that God had just stepped off of His throne and Hillary was taking over the universe. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God is still in control.

We like to say that He’s in control but the evangelical blogs, the Facebook posts, the Twitter feeds, the emails and the scare tactics seem to indicate otherwise.

The way that many evangelical are acting you would think that if Clinton wins this election, the world as we know it will come to an end. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t but I’m sure of this – God will still be in control on November 9th and every day after that.

I’m not making light of the importance of this election. It may well signal a sea-change in our nation. And, yes I believe evangelical Christians should exercise their freedom to vote for the candidate that they believe can best lead our nation.

But where’s our faith? Is it in the political process? Or in our ability to elect the “right” candidate? Or is it in God, who by the way is still in control.

The writer of Hebrews didn’t tell us to keep our eyes on the Republican Party; or on Donald Trump; or on passing the right laws or policies. He told us to keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). There’s a reason for that. God is still in control.

Hey, we believe that God will bring about His will no matter who’s in the White House. We believe that He will bring about His will no matter who sits on the Supreme Court.

And isn’t that what we ultimately want – God’s will?

I’m not ignoring our responsibility to get involved in the political process. I’m just questioning the panic (even hysteria) that is the result of an unbalanced view of the sovereignty of God. When we say that God is in control we are confessing that He is sovereign over all things, including the election of our president.

So here’s my suggestion: Everyone just needs to calm down. Stop with the scare tactics. Stop telling people who God wants to be president. Stop pontificating on the end of civilization if your candidate isn’t elected.

Go ahead and try to persuade people to vote for your candidate; vote your conscience. But get a grip on reality! God is still in control.

That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:6).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter


The debate between those who say Black Lives Matter and those who respond All Lives Matter has moved in a direction that should make every Christian feel not only uncomfortable but frankly ashamed.

I cannot tell you how many of my white Christian Brothers and Sisters have posted things on various social media sites that are less than charitable in this issue. It grieves me and I believe it grieves the heart of God.

Before I say more, let me add this disclaimer: I am white. To be more specific I am a white pastor who has pastored an interracial church. I have many friends both white and black that I would stand up for and defend. Yes, I understand the white culture. No, I don’t totally understand the black culture. No one who is not black can.

Now with some reservations I want to go where angels fear to tread. I’ll probably get shot by both sides.

I think that both sides in this rancorous debate need to agree on several basic issues:

1. Innocent black men and boys have been killed by police officers. No one can deny it. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t raise their hands or obey an order (they should have). They were innocent and did not deserve to die.

2. We need to support our police. They are there to keep us safe and not all of them are bad. In fact most of them are good and a few are bad, as in every profession or group of people.

3. Some police are racists. Again, not the majority, but some.

4. You can’t cry racism when it’s a black officer who shot a black man. That’s just not racism.

5. Everyone needs to respond to the police in the proper way, even when they think that they are in the right and the police are wrong. This may not solve all of the problems but it will help in many situations.

6. There are racists white people and there are racists black people (and every other color). And some of them are Christians.

7. It’s not right to take sides, scream, protest, or burn and loot things until you have all of the facts. That takes time. (No I’m not suggesting that burning and looting is ever right, although our forefathers at the Boston Tea Party may take issue with me).

8. It’s not right to condemn those who take sides, scream, protest, (I draw the line at burning and looting) until you know all of the facts. That takes time.

I’m sure that there are other things that could be said but this is enough.

First let me talk to our black Christian Brothers and Sisters.

The first thing I want to say, and please hear me, is I love you. Please do not doubt my sincerity or my love. I am not trying to be an apologist for the whites.

I’m attempting to be an apologist for Jesus.

When you say Black Lives Matter, what most white people hear is, “Black lives matter more than white lives.” “Black people deserve special privileges.” “Black people don’t have to follow the law like white people.”

I’m sure that is not what you mean, but that is what we hear. Sadly.

You have to admit that the Black Lives Matter movement started out rather violently and without clear directions. White people look at them as thugs and looters. It’s going to be difficult to change perceptions. It’s important that you try.

It’s important because white people have some justification for their views. Black crime; violent inner-city neighborhoods; black men who father babies but don’t stick around to raise babies, to name a few.

I know that you can point to a history of slavery, generations of oppression, lack of job opportunities and, yes, racism. All of these are true but they should not define who you are.

Many races have come to America and faced these or similar obstacles and made a better life for themselves. Not even all black people have been held captive by their history or circumstances.

I want to affirm, and I believe it’s the right thing to do: Black Lives Matter.

Now let me talk to our white Christian Brothers and Sisters.

Again I want to say, I love you. Please do not feel that I am condemning you. I am not trying to be an apologist for blacks.

Remember it’s about Jesus.

When you say All Lives Matter, I think what most black people hear is “Black people don’t matter.” “You don’t value our lives the way you value white lives.” “We are expendable.” At the very least they hear “You are trying to dilute our message.”

It’s true that All Lives Matter, especially to God who is not limited by color, race or nationality (Galatians 3:28). But when you say it you are missing a huge point.

The slogan Black Lives Matter is a way to draw attention to one critical issue that most black people feel passionately about; the death of young black men. Some of them died innocently. Some were shot justifiably, but many, and this issue goes back many generations, were not.

We single out issues all of the time in our society and draw specific attention to them by wearing a certain color ribbon, sponsoring a golf tournament, or running a race. That is what the black community is trying to do.

That does not demean any other issue. It simply draws attention to one issue.

So here are my suggestions for how we should act as Christians facing this issue.

1) Let’s stop imitating the world and throwing our slogans in each other’s faces. Let’s try to understand the other side. It’s important, and I cannot emphasis this enough, that we as Christians act like Christians.

2) Let’s begin talking. I know that the black community has all but given up on dialog – they’ve been trying it for too many years. But the alternative has not worked.

3) Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt (1 Corinthians 13:7, love believes all things good about the other person).

4) Let’s begin loving each other, not when the other side does the “right” thing, but even if they don’t.

Yes, it is true that All Lives Matter. It is also true that Black Lives Matter.

Let the bullets fly (at me).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Sometimes Forgiveness is Hard


This morning, as I enjoyed my cup of coffee on the deck, I read an article about the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky issue. The title was Penn State Doesn’t Get to Decide JoePa’s Legacy: I Know. It was written by 52 year old columnist Mike Wise. Mike is not only a writer; he’s also a survivor of child abuse who has decided to no longer be silent. You can read his entire article here. It’s powerful.

For most of us from PA, Penn State football is big. Even if you’re not a football fan in PA you know the name Joe Paterno. And now we all know the infamous name Jerry Sandusky.

Jerry Sandusky got what he deserved – 30-60 years in prison. He will die there. But what about JoePa? What does (did – he died in 2012) he deserve? We’re still struggling to determine exactly what Joe Paterno’s legacy should look like. This month during a game against Temple Penn State honored him on the 50th anniversary of his first game as head coach at Penn State. It only served to further divide the community.

And we’re growing weary. We’ve lived with the scandal for too long. We’re tired of hearing about it. We want to move on. But it’s still there staring us in the face. And we know that the victims will never be able to move on from it.

It was obvious to me as I read the article that Mike has struggled – and is still struggling to move on from something that happened 40 years ago. My heart goes out to him. But I can’t walk in his shoes or understand his pain – thank God I’ve never been there.

And that brings me to forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness is hard.

Forgiving is one of the most difficult things that Christians have been asked to do. Especially when someone has hurt you as deeply as Jerry Sandusky hurt his victims – as deeply as Mike Wise was hurt.

But not forgiving can never be an option.

Choosing not to forgive will destroy the fabric of your soul. It will eat at your heart as surely as cancer eats at your body.

When it comes to forgiveness, God asks us to walk the difficult road. He asks us to do what goes against every inclination and desire of our being. He asks us to do what is often humanly impossible; to do what is possible only by the grace of God. Forgive the Offender.

The Bible is clear that there are consequences for not forgiving.

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to exclude yourself from God’s forgiveness (Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:25 – this has nothing to do with salvation but everything to do with cleansing, fellowship and growing in Christ).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to bring contamination into your own soul (Hebrews 12:15).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to defile those you love the most (Hebrews 12:15).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to reject the example of Christ (Luke 23:34).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to place yourself under the judgment of God (Matthew 18:35)

Mike Wise doesn’t know it, but his struggles in life weren’t just the result of someone abusing him. Those results would have been bad enough, but they were compounded by his lack of forgiveness of the offender.

I’m not saying it is easy – it isn’t. It’s hard. Perhaps the hardest thing that you will ever have to do. But the alternative is even worse.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Spiritual Apathy Will Kill You as Surely as Sin


I’m teaching one of the small groups in our church on John 15 – the passage of the vine and branches. The key lesson is the need to abide in Christ. But what does it mean to abide?

The primary meaning of the word abide is to remain or to maintain a continual presence. The concept of abiding therefore is to maintain an intimate, vital connection or relationship.

When it comes to grapevines (the illustration Christ used to represent the Christian’s relationship with Him) the only way that a branch can bear fruit is to maintain a vital relationship with the vine. Once that connection is damaged or broken the branch is no longer useful to the vine. The only way that Christians can bear spiritual fruit is to maintain a vital relationship with Christ. Once that connection to Christ is damaged or broken our usefulness to God is adversely affected.

A damaged relationship can be the result of a number of different issues. The one that immediately comes to mind is sin. Left unchecked in our lives sin saps our spiritual vitality and damages our connection to Christ. Most Christians understand the danger of not dealing with sin, but there are other issues that can harm our relationship with Christ that we often overlook.

Spiritual apathy is perhaps one of the most ignored diseases (keeping with the metaphor of the grapevines) in the Christian life. It’s a condition of the heart. It rarely, if ever, manifests itself in open rebellion. Instead it’s a secret thing, sometimes not even evident to those around us (although often evident to others before we even admit its presence in our lives). Spiritual apathy doesn’t care; it’s an I-can-take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward spiritual things: Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, church, witnessing, our world view, our service etc.

The thing about spiritual apathy is that it rarely strikes like a bolt of lightning. Instead it sneaks up on you; it’s a process that you don’t see coming. Few Christians become apathetic overnight – but they do over years. We all know people who once were faithful but who over time stopped attending church, reading their bibles, praying, witnessing – in short, stopped living the Christian life in any meaningful way.

Spiritually apathetic Christians rarely admit it, either because they are spiritually blind to their own condition or because of the hardness of their hearts. But make no mistake about it, spiritual apathy will damage your connection to your spiritual vine just as surely as sin. That’s why it’s imperative to abide in Christ, to maintain that vital connection . Because the alternative is to slowly dry up and become useless to the Kingdom of God.

The question that we need to ask ourselves is: What will I do today to abide in Christ? What will I do today to build that vital connection with Him? If we are not actively doing whatever is necessary to abide we will, by default, become one of the damaged branches.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me (John 15:4).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve


Composite of Calendar Pages and Clock

Time is an interesting concept. Consider this:

Our lives are controlled by time. Our lives are dictated by the rising and setting of the sun; the hands on the clock; the movement of the earth that gives us days, nights, years and seasons.

We are slaves to time. Whether you wear a watch (old school) or carry a telephone, you are constantly checking it to make sure that you are where you are suppose to be at the time you are suppose to be there. Time dictates our every movement.

We each have exactly the same amount of time. At least in terms of days. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. No one gets 25 and no one gets cheated out of even one minute.

So what can we do with time?

The Bible give us some insights into time. For example it says:

Time is a gift from God.

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things. Romans 11:36
What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7.

The time you have on earth is short.

What is your life? It is like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14.

Time as we know it will end someday.

Then will come the end. Matthew 24:14.

You will give a report of how you used your time on earth.

Each of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:12.

You need to use your time wisely.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16.

Each moment of time is something that you will never get back. How you use it cannot be changed.

While none of us uses all of our time wisely, it is possible to use more of your time wisely today than you did yesterday. You can’t get back time once past but you can move forward in life with a determination not to waste such a precious commodity.

Redeem whatever time you have left – use it for God’s glory and as a blessing to other people.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

You Need to Run Well


Another Olympics has ended and the athletes and spectators are returning home. For some who stood on the podium holding their medals as their countries’ anthem played over the loudspeaker it was the dream of a lifetime.

For many more who never reached the podium – who never had a realistic chance of reaching the podium – it was an experience they will never forget.

The Olympics reminded me of the similarities that the Christian life has to an athletic endeavor. Several times the Bible describes the Christian life in athletic terms because the original readers of the New Testament letters were familiar with the Olympic idea.

Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews employ the imagery of the runner.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1

There are numerous applications to the Christian life that we can glean from these images.

-Living the Christian life in order to receive a reward is our motivation (knowing that we will give it all to Jesus in the end.)

-Self-control is essential to the success of the Christian life.

-The reward at the end of the Christian Life will be worth every sacrifice you make.

-If you’re going to live the Christian life successfully, you can’t give up when it gets difficult.

-You can’t win the race of the Christian life if you’re carrying excess baggage (sin).

-Without a long-term perspective the Christian life will be almost impossible to live.

-It’s essential to keep your eyes on the goal to finish the Christian Life well.

-The Christian life won’t be easy!

Maybe you can add some additional applications to this list.

The point is that Christians, like Olympians must train rigorously, deny themselves many enjoyable things, and be laser focused on one thing to be successful.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle


One of the more difficult assignments that we have as Christians is to offer comfort to people who are going through deep trials. Comfort that is both Biblical and helpful. It’s easy to offer a quick cliché but it’s hard to give genuine comfort that ministers to a hurting soul.

One cliché that we’re all guilty of – even pastors, is to tell someone going through deep trials that God will never give you more than you can handle. That statement has bothered me for a long time. Somehow it never rang true.

Think for a minute – what do we mean by that? Don’t we mean that the person will be healed and not die? Don’t we mean that it will all work out for their good in the end when sometimes it doesn’t?

If that’s NOT what we mean than why don’t we say, God will never give you more than you can handle but you might suffer for the next ten years and then die an agonizing death? Because that’s what happens to some people. Where was God and what happened to His promise?

Too many people go through too deep waters and don’t get through (in a very human sense).

I’m sure that we mean well when we say it. And I’m sure that we believe it to be true. After all Paul says that no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13). That seems to make the case.

But does it?

Pastor Mitch Chase of Kosmosdale Baptist Church has written a great article with the title God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle (I stole my title from him – I just couldn’t think of anything more original!) in which he points out the problem with our common understanding of this verse.

You can find his article here. I’m not going to rehash everything he said because he said it so much better than I could. I would encourage you to read it.

There’s one line in his article, however, that I love: God will give us more than we can handle – but not more than he can.

That’s the truth that we need to share with people who are hurting. GOD CAN HANDLE THIS!

You might not be able to handle it, but HE can. So we turn to Him in faith in our times of deepest need and trust Him to bring us through the dark times.

We trust Him to do what is right in our lives. To do what we need Him to do to make us more like Christ. To change us by our suffering.

We trust Him not to be capricious but to have a purpose for our suffering. To have a reason for our pain.

The next time you have an opportunity to offer words of comfort to a hurting soul point them to Jesus. Tell them that He knows. That He understands. That He can be their rock. That when they’re weak, He’s strong. That when they can’t take it anymore, He’ll be there for them (working through you and His Word).

Put their focus on Jesus.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve