Christians Don’t Need Another Celebrity


For some reason Christians seem to need celebrities. When a Christian achieves celebrity status our chests swell with pride. One of us has made it! We finally have value. When someone with a connection to Hollywood or professional sports becomes a Christian the internet explodes with rejoicing. But it’s not exactly a Luke 15:10 rejoicing. It’s like we need someone with celebrity status to validate our existence. A celebrity Christian lets us hold our heads up high. We need our Tim Tebows.

None of this is new. When I was young and living on the West coast in the 60’s our Boys Brigade group traveled to Oakland to hear all star baseball player Felipe Alou give his testimony. We were awestruck. We weren’t just in the presence of a Christian – we were in the presence of a bon a fide star who believed like we believed. There was a lot of hero worshipping going on that night. We went away convinced that what we believed was real – it HAD to be, he believed it too.

Times haven’t changed. We still get giddy whenever a celebrity announces that they have accepted Christ. One of the recent stories circulating the Christian realm is that action hero, Sylvester Stallone became a Christian several years ago. An article has popped up twice in the past week on my Facebook page (this is not a criticism of those dear friends – good people all – who posted it). The title was, Sylvester Stallone: I Have Surrendered My Life to Jesus Christ, and the article linked to a video produced in 2006 by Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Robertson could hardly contain his enthusiasm that another poor soul had been rescued from the evil clutches of Hollywood.

The only trouble is that nowhere in the video did Stallone make that confession. He talked about God and how his life in Hollywood had gotten out of control but he never confessed Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. To his discredit Robertson never pressed him on the issue. The entire interview was more about publicity for the latest Rocky movie than it was a testimony for Jesus Christ.

Since that interview Stallone has said things that are cause for serious skepticism. For example in a 2010 interview with GQ magazine he was asked about eternity. Here’s the exchange:

Q: Do you ever have any concerns about your own mortality?

A: I don’t believe that we go anyplace. You make your heaven and hell right
here, and you are what you leave behind. But don’t think that you’re going to change anything; you’re not.

Not exactly what you would expect to hear from someone who had surrendered his life to Jesus.

When Stallone’s publicity rep was asked in 2013 to verify that Stallone had given his life to Jesus Christ his reply was one word – “wrong”. After first jumping on the Stallone bandwagon, the Conservative Tribune, to their credit, corrected their original report and asked their readers to pray for Stallone’s conversion.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy when anyone – famous or not, comes to Christ. What perplexes me is why we get more excited about the thought that perhaps Sylvester Stallone became a Christian than we do about John Doe who lives down the street making a genuine profession of faith. Why does Pat Robertson give a seriously questionable interview to someone who talks all about God but can’t say Jesus is my Lord and Savior? I suspect for Robertson televisions ratings have something to do with it. That’s beyond sad.

Here’s the bottom line: Christians don’t need another celebrity to validate their faith – we already have One and He’s all that we need (Colossians 2:10).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Keeping Perspective


It’s important to keep life in perspective. In fact, perspective is everything.

This week my Facebook page is filled with the colors of the French flag as people identify with the French people in their hour of suffering. Blue, white, and red are evident in abundance. And that’s as it should be.

However we cannot allow the evil that resulted in such tragedy to dominate our hearts and minds. It’s too easy to throw up our hands in despair or – on the other side, to let anger and even hatred fill our hearts. It’s a matter of perspective.

What should our perspective be in the face of such evil and suffering? Here are a few things that should dominate our thinking.

>We have a God of grace and mercy

Our focus is not to be on evil but on good, and as Jesus reminded us only God is good (Matthew 19:17). That means that He is to be our focus. He is to be the One who dominates our hearts and minds. In a time of suffering, confusion and turmoil we are to see His Grace and His Mercy. He is the One who puts it all into perspective.

>Light dispels darkness

It’s a universal truth. Light will always dispel the darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light – light always overcomes darkness. That’s true in the physical realm and it’s even truer in the spiritual. Whenever a great tragedy happens it seems like we are being engulfed by the darkness. But as long as we carry the light (Matthew 5:14-16) there is hope for those in darkness. Light puts the darkness into perspective.

>Love conquers hate

Someone posted on Facebook this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. As counterintuitive as it seems we are called to love the hater who took so many innocent lives because only love can drive out hatred. We’re not only commanded to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39) we’re commanded to love those who bomb us and take the lives of our sons and daughters (Matthew 5:43-48). As hard as that is – it’s how Jesus loved us (Romans 5:8). Love puts hatred into perspective.

>Jesus is the answer

It’s tempting to think that bombs and killing are the answer. But they’re not. Humanity has been bombing evil (often a matter of perspective) since anyone can remember. And it’s still here. It just changes form – and names. I’m not suggesting that we should ignore the evil or concede defeat. I’m just saying that force is not the ultimate answer to evil. It will always come back. The ultimate answer is Jesus Christ and that’s where Christians need to focus their time, energy, and resources. Jesus puts the entire world into perspective.

Empathize with the French people. Pray for them. Show your support for them. Mourn those who were lost. But keep it all in perspective.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Should You Drink Starbucks Coffee?


By now you have probably read about the Starbucks controversy. It’s all over the internet. It centers around Starbucks’ Christmas coffee cups. I don’t patronize Starbucks – I don’t even like their coffee. But that’s not the point.

There are Christians who are as mad as hel . . . sorry I got carried away for a moment. Anyway they’re mad because Starbucks has removed all Christmas decorations from their coffee cups and replaced them with a simple red cup.

Well some – many evangelical Christians are up in arms about it. They see it as an attack on our Christian values and they’re not going to take it anymore!

I’d like to offer an alternative perspective from the pen of Professor Clifford Stumme from Liberty University. He just says it better than I could.

You don’t need to agree with him – just hear him out and ask yourself if what he says makes sense for Christians.

If you want to read his original article (which I have duplicated below) you can read it at

#merrychristmasstarbucks Is a Symptom of Pointless Conservative Christian Self-Martyrdom

You may have seen the pictures or videos Conservative Christians are spreading around the Internet of the words “Merry Christmas” handwritten on Starbucks’s redesigned red Christmas cups.

The phenomenon was started by Joshua Feuerstein, a former evangelist and current antagonist of “political correctness.” He realized that Starbucks had redesigned its cups to remove festive Christmas tree branches and ornaments, and had made its cup much more simple, with a sleek, red design.

Feuerstein claimed that Starbucks employees are no longer allowed to say “Merry Christmas” on the job (and a real-live Starbucks barista has debunked this claim in the comments below–thanks, Judi). He concluded that Starbucks was making war on Christmas and filmed this video:

(Note: here’s the link to the video if you want to watch it, Pastor Steve.

Feuerstein says in the description of his video: “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus … SO I PRANKED THEM … and they HATE IT!!!!

I did some quick research and found what Feuerstein found: Starbucks through its VP of Design & Content claims that “In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs . . . This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

This leads me to conclude what Feuerstein concludes: Starbucks is being more inclusive of holidays and what people celebrate this time of year.

What Feuerstein doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that (1) Starbucks is an international company that markets to people both in America and elsewhere who do not celebrate Christmas and (2) that even if Starbucks was run by Christians (which recent decisions by the company suggest it isn’t) wishing people Merry Christmas does not directly spread the Gospel. As it is, Christmas is almost completely taken over by consumerist capitalism. Any blow to Christmas in America is a blow not directly to Christ, but maybe more likely to Wal-Mart or .

What is Feuerstein doing wrong? There are five things I’d like to talk with him about if he’d be willing to contact me:

1. He’s trying to impose Christian morals on a secular company. Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth that holds spiritual meaning for Christians. The rest of the world celebrates other things on December 25th and certainly the least festive thing is to try to make people feel guilty or stupid for not acknowledging your holiday.

2. He’s confusing a greeting with the holiday. Christmas is larger and bigger and will happen whether a company recognizes it or not.

3. He’s taking the battle to a company rather than to the hearts and minds of people. As we’ve seen in the past few months, Starbucks tends to serve as a stomping grounds for flashy, dramatic conservative Christian performances of antagonistic faith. It is a great place to demonstrate how you stand up to the “liberals of the world,” and because Starbucks wants your money and for you to like them, they won’t fight back. They don’t care. These people are still buying coffee. And, incidentally, while Starbucks is demonstrated at, friends and neighbors who could be being loved or given truth to about the Gospel are being ignored.

4. He’s equating Christianity with conservatism. Conservatives are right about a lot–I identify as one–but Christian does not equal conservative and certainly doesn’t equal American or gun-owner. When Feuerstein flashes his gun and challenges “all great Americans and Christians” to “prank” Starbucks as though they are the same thing (probably something he could clarify but which his syntax implies), he’s completely wrong.

5. Feuerstein isn’t convincing anyone. By accusing Starbucks of hating Jesus in his video description, he’s vilifying them and using flashy click-bait tactics to spread his video. His tactics encourage disagreement and win-lose situations.

What should we be doing?

If you’re an American and a Christian worried about the growing absence of Christ in public businesses or institutions there are three things that we can do that won’t make the situation worse:

1. We can stop martyring ourselves with no cause and stop “fighting back” with flashy, viral, passive-aggressive demonstrations. Losing a Christmas greeting on a cup is very small battle compared to the battle for the one neighbor you’ve been meaning to tell about Jesus but haven’t gotten around to talking to yet. Starbucks isn’t persecuting us and even if they were, our marching orders from Christ himself are simple: “Turn the other cheek.”

2. Do extraordinary acts of love. It’s not about winning arguments or using brute shows of force. By the way, if Feurestein is correct in saying that tens of thousands of Christians have visited Starbucks in the last 20 hours and done this, that’s at least $100,000 worth of business he’s sent to his opponent. Starbucks is laughing all the way to the bank. And if Feuerstein’s sarcastic, flippant, aggressive attitude is indicative of the attitudes of those working with him, Starbucks employees probably aren’t being convinced of the extraordinary love of Christ.

3. Stop equating Christianity with America or conservatism or gun rights. Civilizations come and go. They are mortal in the truest sense as C. S. Lewis points out in The Weight of Glory. Human souls are eternal. If we were expelled from America, lost all of our guns, or couldn’t vote for Republican candidates anymore, we Christians would still be Christians, and we could still follow Christ. The rest of that can melt away. (Admittedly, such a situation sounds terrible, and it’d be difficult for me to let go of some of those things peacefully, but Christ is in me perfecting me so that I truly can cling to Him when I lose everything else.)

That’s all I’ve got to say, and I’d love to chat with Mr. Feuerstein if he’s available. I’m sorry to my regular readers for deviating from my pop song analyses. Have a wonderful day everyone, and let’s love people well.

As I said at the beginning, you may not agree with everything Professor Stumme said, but there’s a lot there to digest.

Matthew 10:16 – Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Philippians 2:14-15 – Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Some Spiritual Lessons from Halloween


I know there is a debate raging among Christians about Halloween – it’s been going on for years and it’s not likely to end soon. How Christians respond to Halloween run from unrestricted participation to nonparticipation. Here’s a good article by John MacArthur’s Grace to You on the subject with some good suggestions.

The debate has even spilled over into Facebook with comments revealing which side of the spectrum people fall on. Without taking sides in the debate I was intrigued by one Facebook posts by a man named John Moore.

I don’t know anything about John Moore except what he posted on his Facebook site so this is not an endorsement of any kind. According to his Facebook site he is the CEO of John Moore Ministries & Leadership Consulting in San Antonio, Texas – and that’s the extent of what I know about him.

However, I found his post about his participation in Halloween both interesting and challenging. Here it is:

I opened the door to give out candy tonight in my preaching robe (see previous post). The kids asked me what was I? I said, I’m a preacher. A 9 year old girl asked me could I pray for her? While I was shocked, I said sure. After I prayed for her, the girl parents starting telling me how they left Christ and that they have been going thru tons lately and they wanted prayer as well. I prayed for them and they rededicated their life to Christ right on my front porch. They are going to church tomorrow for the first time in 6 YEARS! Get this, that was the first of 3 families who asked for prayer tonight because I was dressed as a preacher in a robe. My point? How many times have we as Christians missed an opportunity to win souls because we weren’t in a church, on program, or in the spotlight? I know most church people don’t celebrate Halloween, and that’s totally fine. However, I’m glad I didn’t take Halloween off as a Christian. Many Christians protest it and tell others how wrong they are and that they are “going to hell” when really all we should be doing is working to win souls! They came to my door looking for candy, but I gave them COMPASSION AND CHRIST!

Of course he received praise for his actions and condemnation for participating in what some see as a pagan holiday.

My purpose is not to argue for or against Halloween. That’s another discussion. I shared his post because it challenged me in the area of sharing Christ. Whether you think he did the right thing or not you can’t deny that there are some lessons here for all of us. Five that come to my mind are:

-Take advantage of the opportunities around us. We all have opportunities to share Christ. You don’t have to manufacture them, just use the opportunities that God brings into your life.

-Be creative in your approach to sharing your faith. I have to confess I would never have thought to do what he did – and I AM a pastor. I think with a little creativity we might see more results.

-Don’t be intimidated. It would have been easy to be intimidated in this situation. Intimidated by the occasion. Intimidated by strangers. Intimidated by what other Christians may have thought or said. We don’t need to be intimidated into silence when it comes to the gospel.

-Expect the unexpected. It was interesting that God used a 9 year old girl to change the whole dynamic. I’m not sure his plan was to pray with people when he started out the night, but that was God’s plan. God often brings about the unexpected when we’re faithful.

-Trust God with the results. If we are faithful God will do what only He can do. Let’s trust him.

Who would have thought that we could learn some spiritual lessons from Halloween?

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Where Will We Go From Here?


It’s a question many people in many parts of the world are asking. I try to stay current with events in several countries around the world because 1) I have friends there and 2) God as allowed me the opportunity to minister in those countries. Once you’ve been to another country and personally know people you seem to take more interest in the things that affect their lives. For me those countries are Haiti and the Philippines. Both countries are in the process of elections just like we are in the U.S. – although we are at the beginning of the process (even if it feels like we’ve been stuck in the election cycle forever!).

One of the interesting things that I’m seeing is that elections today, no matter where they take place around the world, are about change. I know you hear that in every election – at least from those who have been out of power. But this time it seems like it’s more than a political slogan. People are genuinely looking for something to change. And increasingly they are looking to the political arena.

A friend in Haiti (Haiti just had the second of three rounds of elections yesterday) recently lamented on Facebook that no matter who was elected to the highest offices in Haiti, nothing significant ever changed.

He’s not wrong. I’ve traveled to Haiti almost yearly for the past 25 years and much of what I observe is the same as it was on my first trip. There are cosmetic changes – more cell phones and motorbikes, but few substantial changes that affect people’s lives.

That brings me to the question: How should we as Christians view change? Especially changes that impact the moral direction of our countries? Should we put our hope in the political process? Should we advocate for change? Or should we just give up on change?

Here are some thoughts related to the Christian and change.

1. We don’t need to be pessimists, nor realists – we need to be Biblicists. Pessimists are tempted to give up when things don’t change for the better. Realists can be wrong in their analysis of what needs to be changed. Biblicists look at what the Bible says about change and work within that context to bring about the maximum change.

2. We need to understand that it’s not an either/or but a both/and situation. In other words it’s not either things change for the better or they don’t, it’s some things change for the better while some things change for the worse – both scenarios are true. It seems to me that the picture the Bible presents is that as we go through history, or what the Bible calls “the last days”, things change on the macro level for the worse (2 Timothy 3:1f, esp. vs. 13) but it holds out the hope that things can change on the micro or individual level for the better (2 Corinthians 5:17).

3. We need to recognize that ultimately the needed change can only come through Jesus Christ. It is only as individual lives are changed by the power of God that true, lasting change takes place. Yes, politicians can make changes that affect and potentially improve our lives. But those changes are at best temporary and lack eternal value. Only internal, spiritual, change really matters in the long run.

4. Having said that (#2 & 3) the paradox in the Christian life is that while the world continues to spiral in a downward direction we have been called to affect change in every aspect of life. That’s the battle against sin. Sin affected every part of creation (Romans 8:18f) so our battle includes doing all we can to change poverty, sickness, natural disasters, injustice, hatred, violence, environmental destruction (after all it belongs to God) AND hearts.

Where will we go from here? The answer is simple: to the Kingdom. While the world spirals in a downward direction we are marching in an upward direction toward the culmination of the Kingdom. And we will take every opportunity to make every positive, godly change along the way. Not waiting for change to be sent down from Washington, Manila or Port-au-Prince. But stepping out boldly with grace to affect change in our own world for the world yet to come.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

The Thorns


The Thorns

We all have them. Some are larger, some smaller; some hurt more, some less. But we all have them – the thorns of life. Even spiritual giants have them. The Apostle Paul comes to mind (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

No one likes the thorns, they cause heartache, tears, doubt, worry, anger (often at God), sleepless nights and anxiety-filled days. From our perspective they serve no earthly or heavenly good. They are useless intruders that rob us of our peace and happiness.

But what if, as Laura Story sings, what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise? If you haven’t listen to Blessings in awhile, take time to listen again here.

If you are familiar with Steven Saint’s story you know that he has been enduring tremendous suffering as the result of an accident. Recently he posted this poem online. I shared it on my Facebook site but for those who don’t communicate that way, here it is again.

The Thorn
Martha Snell Nicholson

I stood a mendicant [beggar] of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

The thorns of life are not arbitrary nor are they pointless. They have a purpose often greater than we can see. Life would be radically different without the thorns. And not always in a better way.

Think about how the thorns impact your life.

Without the Thorns we would

…trust Him less
…love Him less
…want heaven less
…pray less
…cherish His blessings less
…encourage others less
…grow in Christ less
…grow weary of this world less
…desire God less
…learn about His grace less
…spend time with God less
…experience God’s power less

My heart goes out to those who are being pricked by the thorns. It’s never fun. My prayer is that you will know the grace of God in your time of suffering (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that your thorn will reveal the face of the One who loves you more than any other.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

The Difficult Work of God

Difficult Work

Have you ever wondered about God? We all have at some time. Why does God act the way He does? Why doesn’t God act the way we think He should? To our minds, God is difficult to figure out. I’ve often wondered why God has been so tough on Israel. Sure Israel wandered away from God; broke His law; worshiped pagan idols; and generally lived more like the pagans of the world than as God fearers. But think about what the Jewish people have gone through over the past several thousand years of world history as a result of God’s judgment: the Assyrian captivity (northern kingdom), the Babylonian captivity (southern kingdom), 400 years of silence from God before the birth of Christ, the Roman occupation and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., world-wide dispersion since the first century, the holocaust, pogroms, attempted annihilations, hatred, multiple wars intended to destroy the Jewish nation, and constant terrorism. Talk about shock and awe! Hasn’t God overdone it just a little bit?

Then I read this passage in the book of Isaiah: For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:7-8).

Wow! God said that His judgment of Israel is just for a mere moment and His wrath was little – but in comparison His mercy to Israel is going to be great and everlasting!

There is no comparison between His judgment (which has a Divine purpose) and His mercy. That’s why the prophet Jeremiah could state unequivocally in the middle of the book of Lamentations, This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23). Even when we cannot understand God we can hold onto the truth that His mercy is far greater than His anger; that His kindness will far outweigh His judgment.

When you don’t understand why God does what He does, remember that His mercy is great and His kindness is everlasting. And that He is working in the events of your life for His glory and for your good. Trust Him and let Him build you into the image of Christ, even through His difficult work.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve