Category Archives: Thoughts To Ponder

The Gay Card

President Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage sent nothing less than a shockwave of emotions and opinions throughout every corner of the good old USA. As a pastor, I have taken particular interest in how the church would respond. Unfortunately, most of the popular media has chosen to let judgmental pastors and brainwashed singing toddlers represent what I believe to be the minority.

There are many churches that don’t agree with our President’s current view but I’ve spoken with no one, in any of those circles, who agrees that a modern-day concentration camp, or teaching children to proclaim hell on the gays, is a good idea. It might not make the best nightly news story or sell papers but there are many Christians who understand this issue is not going away and that hate never brings about a positive exchange.

I believe Jesus heart breaks when he hears people who claim to follow Him respond with hate instead of love. After all, He was the one who told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) My prayer is for all my gay brothers & sisters, who are human just like I am human and deserve respect and love, to find it inside the church. My desire is for everyone, gay and straight, to find the life-changing liberation that only comes through Jesus. I believe love will open that door and I believe love is the foundation of many churches. I am hopeful the ignorant opinions of a few will not detour people from experiencing the true legacy of love left by Jesus and proclaimed by many of His followers.

We must value all life because God created life and everyone has a story. 

Thoughts to ponder… 

For or Against?

When Jesus came to earth He was surrounded by a culture of religion that chose to speak more about what they were AGAINST than what they were FOR. This attitude oppressed the people of Jesus culture and He came to set creation free.

Jesus offered this freedom by speaking more about what He was FOR than what He was AGAINST.

He was FOR love. He was FOR peace. He was FOR  grace.

No doubt it’s often easier to fight AGAINST something than it is to fight FOR something but I would argue more of us need to realize it’s worth the extra effort. People on the outside of church tend to see us as a divisive group of people who, although playing on the same team, rarely seem to agree. In honesty, I believe most of us who claim to follow Jesus have more that unites us than divides us but we yell louder about the things we don’t agree on.

Before Jesus left this earth He prayed those of us would choose to follow Him would experience oneness with one another (John 17:21). If we want God to answer this prayer, I believe we need to do a better job of telling people what we stand FOR instead of yelling at them about what we’re AGAINST.

Thoughts to ponder…

CV

For the Regulars, the Sporadics & the First Timers

Many of us, from a variety of backgrounds, will attend church to celebrate Easter this Sunday. 

  • Some of us will be regular attenders.
  • Some of us will be sporadic attenders.
  • Some of us will be first timers.
  • The regulars might be sporadic because think they’ve already found the perfect church.
  • The sporadics might be sporadic because they have yet to find the perfect church.
  • The first timers might be first timers because they’ve avoided imperfect people who act like they’re perfect.

The issue with ALL of this is that many people, from each group, are focusing on the wrong thing. The perfect church is a myth. It’s an urban legend at best and we would be wise to shift our focus elsewhere if we ever want to experience an authentic connection with God. As many of us prepare to attend church this Sunday, here are a some thoughts to ponder:

  • For the Regulars: Get involved in more than filling a seat. Love your church but love God more. People will let you down but God’s love never fails.
  • For the Sporadics: It’s time to end your endless search. Stop trying to find a perfect place that doesn’t exist and get planted in a place that will help you grow relationally and spiritually.
  • For the First Timers: You might have been unwilling to give the church a chance but give God a chance . Let God guide you to a church that will admit their imperfections and help you grow.

It Doesn’t Just Happen!

 

Last night I stood with a crowded room full of people as our worship leader (Josh Strange) & the CP Band kicked-off our first Collide of 2012. Collide is a quarterly worship event at Centerpoint we started last year & it’s had a growing amount of  success in it’s first 3 rounds.

Josh is an incredible worship leader & he’s help develop a talented band behind him. Everyone of these guys are as humble as can be & although they refuse to tout themselves I talk them up all the time because they’re that good. Last night people left saying the same types of things they say every week after the bands done with their set:

Wow that was great! 

Man they’re good!

Unbelievable!

Inevitably someone always says something like: “How did they get so good?” The tendency can be to over spiritualize this answer and although their God given skill & anointing has a lot to do with why they’re good I would argue it’s not not the main reason. These guys are good because of HARD FREAKING WORK! They rehearse 4-5hrs. every week to do a 4-5 song set on Sunday. They’re the first ones in the building & the last ones out. In preparation for last night’s Collide, they were rehearsing until after 1am the night before. That’s how they got so good.

I don’t care what your skill is. I don’t care how anointed you are. If you want to be great at what you do you have to put in the time because greatness doesn’t just happen. I believe God has placed a great deal of  world changers on this earth but unless we put in the time we will never see the full potential of greatness he has for us.

Thoughts to ponder…

CV 

What will they say when we die?

Yesterday marked the 4-year anniversary of my dads passing. He wasn’t even 60 years old & he had fought 3 separate battles with cancer. He beat the first 2 despite the odds but the last 1 beat him. It was a tough pill to swallow & at times, it still is.

Over the past few years I have transitioned from reflecting on my fathers life to learning from it. Although he taught & impacted the lives of many I don’t think he left anyone with bigger shoes to fill than my brother & I. I don’t say this as  a slight to the my sister, or my mom, but my dad was a husband & a father, something only my brother & I can be.

I confess that I write this post with a specific audience in mind: MEN

When we die people will talk.

What they say will depend on how we lived.

Nothing that is said will be more important than the words of our wife & children who we might have to leave behind.

So what do I say of my dad? 

My dad followed Christ before he followed anyone or anything else. He loved my mother & he didn’t just say it, he showed it. He never made me, my brother or my  sister feel like we were an afterthought & he was there to support us through everything we did. My dad was an incredible pastor & leader but he never made apologies to the people he led for making his biggest priority our home. My dad was generous & he sacrificed regularly asking nothing in return. The list could go on but as I move towards year #5 without my dad this is what I say of him. The respect & love I have only continues to grow & I don’t expect that will ever stop.

So here’s my question men: What will our wife & kids say about us when we die? Death is not something we like to think about but it will happen to all of us & this is a thought every real man reading this post should be willing to ponder. We might be tempted to put it off until tomorrow but we aren’t even promised the rest of today. We need to step up & lead our families with the love & support they deserve. We all leave a mark when we die but the mark we leave is up to us. 

CV

CHANGE or DIE

At this point in my life, change comes easy. When things become un-effective, outdated, & boring I’m usually one of the first to change the method & start over again. This view has directly impacted the way I see the church. The numbers don’t lie & churches are shutting down more than they’r opening these days. I believe many churches die simply because they refuse to change. 

In talking to a pastor recently who is struggling to change the methods & mediums by which his church shares the Gospel I had a revelation of sorts. The story this pastor shared of his churches history was intriguing to me because at one point, they were engaging their community & using everything available to them to communicate the Gospel. Now, the church is arguing over whether or not they should have a Facebook account. So what happened? Why did this progressive & growing church stop changing? 

I believe this church stopped changing because they found something that worked & changing that method to venture into the unknown scared them to death. They resisted change because they feared the death of their church. While trying to save their church from death, they had actually died trying to protect the method that was comfortable to them.

What I realized was that few churches or organizations start like this. When there’s nothing to lose we go all out but once we find something that works, and people show-up, we realize we could lose it all so we hold back & cling to what we know. No one is exempt from this problem. Even a young, entrepreneurial fellow like myself, who welcomes change now, might become so unknowingly corrupted by success that I would forget the risks & faith it took to get us to that place to begin with.

The world around us is constantly changing & if those of us who lead refuse to change our organizations will almost certainly die. I believe good leaders recognize that, as we age, we must continue to surround ourselves with people who are younger, more creative & more aware of where culture is headed. It takes humility for a leader to admit change isn’t as easy as it once was but that humility is often the difference between a successful organization & a dying organization.

Thoughts to ponder…

CV


The Poor Guy With The Flatscreen TV

Last week a story started swirling around Southern Ohio about a panhandler who used money people gave him to buy a flat screen TV. That swirling turned into a significant regional news story that many people have weighted in on over the past week. John Snavley is the panhandlers who is at the center of everyones recent attention & last summer, before he was making local headlines, I got the opportunity to have a conversation with John & like everyone else on the face of planet earth, John had a story. 

The sad reality is that few people who have given their opinion on John will ever take the time to hear his story. This guy is a bum in their mind & nothing he could ever say is going to change that. He took their hard earned $2 & used it to buy a flat screen TV & shame on him for it they think! I can think of worse ways I’ve saved & spent my money, both the money I’ve earned & the money I’ve been given, but we have a harsher standard for others than we do for ourselves.

This post is not for those outside the church. This post is for those inside the church. Those who proclaim the love of Christ. Those who have been shown grace time & time again. Those who are reminded by Jesus Himself that we are NEVER to judge (Matthew 7). People on the outside aren’t held to the standard we are because people on the outside aren’t claiming to follow Jesus.

We might all have different opinions on whether or not to give a panhandler money. I have given John money & I will do it again because I’ve heard John’s story. The poor guy with the flatscreen TV deserves the same love & grace as the rich man with the flatscreen TV. We are all God’s children & I believe it’s time those of us who claim christ start treating our brother & sister accordingly. Our faith should cause us to see these types of situations differently.

CV

This weekend reminded me why I will always have a love/hate relationship with social networking. In one way, I saw it used to greatly enhance an event we were doing at Centerpoint. In another way, I saw it used to discuss a serious & private matter in a very hurtful & public way.

Facebook & Twitter aren’t going away but we would do well to remember that our words are our words whether spoken or typed. It’s easy to hid behind a screen & type critical statements we would never say publicly. Letting people know you’ve had a rough day is one thing but openly flaunting personal matters or tearing others down simply isn’t acceptable.

If Jesus lived in today’s culture I’m convinced he would re-write Matthew 12:34 to say “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks & the fingers tweet.” Our words matter to God & it’s time we start realizing this. I have been that angry person behind the screen & through failure, I have worked to change my ways.

What might life look like if we approached our posts & tweets with grace? 

Thoughts to ponder.

CV

Celebrating Death

Like many people, I to found myself caught up in the celebration of Osama Bib Laden’s death last night. It was a testament to diligence, a lesson in patience  & a battle where evil was defeated! However, in the midst of the celebration I started viewing this situation through a lens of faith & when I did, I was slightly convicted at my response. 

By all accounts, Osama Bin Laden was an evil, merciless man & needed to be stopped. Because of the terrible things he had done it was easy to get caught up in celebration of his death instead of the  justice his death brought. These are two very different things yet the line between the two is thin.

There are numerous accounts in Scripture where justice through death is celebrated. Think of David & Goliath, Samson & the Philistines or Moses & the Israelites escaping as the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea. In all of these instances we see praise for the justice but I’m not sure we praise the death of the individuals.  Proverbs 21:15 tells us that justice will bring us joy  but  Psalm 24:17 cautions us NOT to rejoice over our enemies failure & defeat.

Earthly justice does bring us joy & there is nothing wrong with that. At the same time, as much as we might hate to admit it, Osama Bin Laden was one of God’s creations who clearly strayed from His plan. He is now facing more justice in eternity than anything he would have ever expereinced on this earth. Although we rejoice in the justice may we remember that God’s heart is that NO ONE should perish (2 Peter 3:9), not even Osama Bin Laden.

Like you, I will rejoice in the earthly justice but I will also pray for God to help us see every person & situation though His eyes so that we may praise the justice without celebrating the death of someone who lived & died apart from God. Again, there is a thin line between the two but I pray we search for that line instead of simply losing ourselves in the moment. Lost souls break God’s heart & they should break ours as well no matter who it is. 

Thoughts to ponder…

CV

Disturbing the Comfortable.

I recently heard it said that “Jesus came to disturb the comfortable & comfort the disturbed.” Despite the fact that I’ve believed this for most of my adult life, I cannot tell you how much this statement rattled me. Why? Because I am comfortable.

Comfortable in my life.

Comfortable in my relationships.

Comfortable in my faith.

It’s the last one that frightens me. When God’s Spirit is guiding our life it is rare we are comfortable in a spiritual sense because God’s Spirit always calls us to more. That more usually disturbs our comfort level so the question becomes, if I’m so comfortable, what is God getting ready to do or ask that will disturb my comfort?

I would imagine many of us would do well to ask this question.

Thoughts to ponder.

CV