It’s a War Out There

The title of this blog can relate to almost any area of life today.

If you are over 50 you can probably remember a time when life was much calmer; people weren’t so uptight; the news wasn’t so depressing; political parties tended to work together in congress for the good of the people; and for the most part, everyone got along with everyone else.

Did everyone agree? Of course not, but there was a certain civility and respect that permeated our society.

The 60s change a lot of things. Many of the changes had ripple effects into other areas of life that I’m not sure we understand even today. Since then it seems that we have become more uptight, less peaceful, less respectful of other people, less tolerant not more, and less hopeful – as a nation and as individuals.

Many people – mostly the older crowd, remember life before the 60s nostalgically and long for the good ol’ days, while those who were born after the 60s scoff at the thought of every going back to the days of Ward, June and Beaver.

The post-60s crowd is right – you can’t go back. But does that mean that we’re destined for ever-increasing bickering and division in our society? Isn’t it possible for us to move forward and do it in a civilized manner, respecting our differences and honoring those with whom we disagree?

Here’s where I take issue with my own tribe. As Christians we have failed to set the example. In fact Christians have often been at the forefront of the political wars – and it’s difficult to tell who’s a Christian and who isn’t. We’ve made things worse not better. That shouldn’t be.

I’m not suggesting that Christians avoid controversial issues – I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t do battle the way other people do battle. Our attitudes, methods, responses and reactions are to be distinctly Christian. If they aren’t then we may will the battle but we’ll end up losing the war. Not the cultural war perhaps, but the more important spiritual war. The war for the souls of men.

Over and over the Bible implores us to be careful how we walk through life (Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12). In fact we are not to act like other people act (Ephesians 4:17) and we’re not to act in ways that fulfill our natural desires (Romans 8:1).

The Apostle Paul reminds us that though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

What would happen if Christians actually began to act like Christians? If we approached the political-cultural issues with a Christ-like attitude, spiritual weapons, and dependence on God instead of on a political party?

What would happen if we really understood that the war is essentially spiritual in nature and began to fight it that way?

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

It’s Time to Take a Hard Look at Ourselves

There is something taking place in our country and it’s terribly wrong.

I’m not talking about the acceptance of same-sex marriage nor the push to allow anyone to use the public bathroom or shower facility they happen to choose.

I’m talking about how Christians are responding to these cultural issues.

You don’t have to read too many Christian blogs, Facebook posts or Tweets before you get the impression that we are M. A. D. We’ve had enough and we are not going to stand for any more!!!

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

But I believe it’s time for Evangelical Christians to reexamine how we react to our culture.

I’m not advocating for a change in our core beliefs – I’m suggesting a change in our core behavior. Because most of what I see on the internet from people who profess Christ is not Christ-like. Our behavior is toxic.

We justify our behavior in so many flimsy ways:

 They don’t respect our beliefs!

So what, the world has never respected the Christian faith. They threw the first Christians in jail for their beliefs (Acts 4). Later they fed them to the lions, cut them in pieces, burned them at the stake, drowned them, beat them, stoned them and basically abused them in the most grotesque ways they could think of (Hebrews 11). You shouldn’t expect the world to respect your beliefs.

 They’re taking over/changing our country.

This isn’t your country – you have a greater one. Abraham on this earth as in a foreign country (Hebrews 11:9) Why? Because he knew he was a citizen of something better – a city built by God. Keep your eyes on the prize (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 But it’s IMMORAL!

Of course it is – what did you expect?! Sinners act like sinners – you shouldn’t. To expect a moral culture run by people who have no moral compass is absurd. It will never happen.

It’s time to ask ourselves some serious questions:

 Since when is it godly for Christians to tell jokes that demean another person, even if they are gay or transgender?

 Since when is it godly to speak disparagingly of other people including, and perhaps especially those of the LGBT community?

 Since when is it godly to discriminate against another person based on their sexual preference or gender confusion?

 Since when is it godly to NOT love someone – even if they are confused about their gender or practice a brand of sexuality that is contrary to the Word of God?

But too often these are the ways we react.

I’m not asking you to agree with the LGBT lifestyle – it’s wrong. I’m not asking you to never speak up – you need to, but in love. I’m not asking you to change your beliefs. I’m asking Christians to get their beliefs in line with Jesus. To stop talking the talk until we can walk the walk.

Our primary purpose in this life isn’t to make sure every law conforms to the Bible, nor to make sure that every person lives like Jesus (WE can’t even do that!). Our purpose is to share the love of God with sinners – the exact people that we are often guilty of attacking.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

A Perspective on the Future of SCOTUS – and Our Country

Reactions to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia have been all over the map. Those with liberal political leanings are mostly hopeful and excited about the prospect of another liberal judge on the high court while conservative reactions have varied from hand-wringing to militant.

Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offered his perspective in a recent article. I have always found Dr. Mohler to be serious minded and Biblical. You can find his article, which I would encourage you to read, at:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/02/14/a-giant-has-fallen-the-death-of-justice-antonin-scalia-and-the-future-of-constitutional-government/

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 http://cliffordstumme.com/2015/11/06/merrychristmasstarbucks-is-a-symptom-of-pointless-conservative-christian-self-martyrdom/

#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. https://www.facebook.com/joshua.feuerstein.5/videos/689569711145714/)

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

Along the Road to Sodom

Paraphrasing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Friday, June 26, 2015 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States Supreme Court determined that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. For some it was a day of celebration. For others it was another step along the road to Sodom.

Numerous articles have been written since Friday suggesting the best way for evangelical Christians to respond to this political/social/spiritual development. I would like to add a slightly different perspective from what you may have heard or read.

Few Christians will argue that as a country we are on the road to Sodom – if we haven’t already arrived. What is easy to miss, however, in all of the noise about the same-sex marriage issue are the other people on the road. The greater issue at stake is not how the United States defines marriage, but the lives, often badly broken by a culture spinning out of control that you will meet as you travel along the road.

On the road to Sodom you’ll meet the party girl who used her body for popularity but was quickly discarded by those she called her friends; the homosexual/lesbian who chose a life characterized by sexual desires eventually to realize how unfulfilling and empty it was; the drug addict who traded everything in life for moments of ecstasy, now living in an empty shell; the moral hypocrite who could tell everyone else how they should live but was blind to their own advice; the religious zealot who thought they had all the answers but forgot that godliness is in how we live not in what we say. The road to Sodom is littered with broken lives; wasted lives; empty lives. And God has put us on the road to be Christ to them.

As a nation we have traveled faster and farther down the road to Sodom in the past few years than at any time in our history because as Christians we have failed to be Jesus to our fellow travelers. We’re standing at the gates of Sodom and it’s not just their fault; it’s also ours.

It’s time that Christians stopped with the harsh, condemning rhetoric and begin to put lives back together. It won’t be easy and it certainly won’t be fun. But God put us on this road at this time in history to make a difference – not in which laws are passed but in which lives are saved.

The road to Sodom is our mission field. The broken lives are our responsibility. If we don’t reach them who will? If we don’t mend their lives by the love of Jesus, who will?

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

The Christian and The Enemy

As Christians we understand that we are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-12). The problem for many Christians as one writer explained is that we either over emphasis the battle; some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons, or we under emphasis it by completely ignore[ing] the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers.

A difficult issue that we need to discuss in the context of spiritual warfare is the issue of the enemy. Who is the enemy? The Bible is clear that Satan and his cohorts are our enemies (Ephesians 6:12), but what about those who oppose Biblical teachings and values? What about the same-sex activist? What about the atheist? What about the liberal politician or the biased news media? Are they also our enemies?

I think that we need to tread carefully here. The Bible does talk about people who are apart from Christ as the enemies of God (Romans 5:10, 1 Corinthians 15:25). In fact it says that we were all in that camp at one time (Colossians 1:21). You could easily make the argument that anyone who is an enemy of God is automatically the enemy of the Christian.

There is, however, another very critical part of this discussion, and that is how we as Christians are to relate to our enemies. We have been conditioned by our culture to believe that the best and possibly the only way to interact with an enemy is to attack them with the ultimate goal of total victory. So we go after anyone who dares to openly, and sometimes loudly, disparage our beliefs. We want to put them in their place, to destroy their credibility, even to attack their character.

But that is not how God has told us to relate to our enemies. Instead He said love your enemies (Matthew 5:44) and if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirst, give him a drink (Romans 12:20). That’s a far different approach than many Christians have/are employed/employing. I think the problem is that we have been indoctrinated more by our culture than by our God. I’m not saying that we need to keep silent when someone takes a stand against Biblical truth, I’m just saying that we need to agree with God more than we agree with the dominant views of our culture. We need to employ God’s tactics instead of the tactics of the world. The Bible is clear that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). That alone should give us a clue that the standard operating procedures of this world are not to be those of the Christian.

The question for the Christian is not Who is our enemy? The question is How will we treat our enemies? If more Christians would begin to treat those who disagree with us with grace and compassion instead of anger and hostility we would stand a better chance of impacting the direction of our culture.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal or Moral Issue?

The United States Supreme Court has taken on the task of deciding one of the more far-reaching moral issues of our lifetime. Should same-sex marriage become the law of the land? Whatever their ultimate decision turns out to be, it will shake the foundations of our society.

There is a question that has been largely ignored in this debate – or perhaps marginalized. It is the question: Is this primarily a legal issue or a moral issue? Those on the side supporting same-sex marriage have tried to frame this debate as a legal issue in the courts of our land and an issue of fairness in the courts of public opinion. Those who oppose redefining marriage have largely abdicated the moral argument and tried to argue this case on a legal basis, perhaps because they are afraid of how they will be judged in the court of public opinion.

But make no mistake about it – this is a moral issue that will require a moral judgment.

To say that prohibiting marriage between two people of the same-sex is wrong is a moral judgment. It is also a moral judgment to say that sanctioning marriage between two people of the same-sex is wrong. No matter which way you dice this issue it comes down to a question of morality – not legality. The legal issue will always be undergirded by the moral question. The very concepts of right and wrong presuppose a standard of morality.

Laws by their very nature are based on that standard. Why do we have laws prohibiting murder, polygamy, incest, speeding and a host of other issues? We have them because we believe that those actions are not only harmful to society (another moral judgment) but at their very core they are immoral. As a society we believe that it is not only unsafe to drive 60 mph past an elementary school as children are walking home from school – it is immoral. The argument that we need to keep morality out of this discussion is bogus. You can’t have a law without making moral judgments.

When the Supreme Court announces their decision, they will not only determine the definition of marriage in our country, they will determine the moral direction of our country. And no amount of legal jargon can change the inevitable. Legal decisions do not exist in a vacuum. They determine actions, influence world views and teach the next generation what our society views as right and wrong.

God has made it clear that righteousness is a good thing for nations. Proverbs 14:34 says Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. The nine members of the Supreme Court, from a secular perspective, are the gatekeepers of the moral culture of our nation. They need to accept the fact that they will determine the moral course that we will follow and make a decision that not only stands up to legal scrutiny but is in the best interest of the moral future of our country.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve