Too Familiar…

So I’m doing this Bible study with one of my youth kids. We meet once a week and usually have some food (this is vital as we both LOVE to eat) and talk through a passage of Scripture. I should make a few things clear about our study. First, this youth kid is pretty new to the faith and hasn’t been “churched” for very long. Second, we are going through a book of the Bible that I have studied probably 20 times, easily. (That’s probably a slight exaggeration, but you get my point)

I confess when we started this study I was less than excited. I was excited that this student had committed to reading through a book of the Bible and I was very excited that he was taking it seriously and seemingly learning from it. I wasn’t excited for my own part in this. I mean after all, I had read this book several times, so what new revelation could I possible deem from our time together.

I am SOOO glad God is bigger and better than my wildest expectations. I have learned so much in this study and have been struck by a number of things.

    1. Often new believers or “unchurched” individuals have a fresh and new perspective on things. I learned this very early on and it was overwhelmingly obvious. Things were seen through different lenses, lenses that I too needed to look through. I found this to be powerful and challenging.
    2. I take way too much for granted. I read passages that I think I know the interpretation to because I’ve always interpreted it this way, and sometimes, that isn’t correct or is incomplete.
    3. This one is probably the toughest and is ultimately the point of this post. My faith has become way too familiar. I can read passages about the suffering of Christ or about his death with little or no emotion or impact. Jesus’ death on the cross has become so familiar that it’s like another thing I check off my list of things that happened or things I believe.

    As I watch my kid read this passage with amazement and wonder and thankfulness and pain and passion I am convicted. I am convicted that I must never allow the Gospel to be average news or comfortable news but I must always remember that it’s The Good News and it’s just as good today as it was when I first heard it. I must continually “renew my mind” so that I am not complacent, lazy, mechanical or apathetic. I can not and I will not allow my faith to become so familiar that it has no focus or power. This is my prayer, this is my desire!


    March 8, 2009 at 10:42 am 1 comment


    Recently I had breakfast at the International House of Pancakes, also known as IHOP. I was eating alone because it was early and I was combining a little work with breakfast. Now in case you didn’t know, IHOP has this insanely cool thing called, all you can eat pancakes. Friends, this is a gift from God. I sat down, and I made my order and as I waited I did a little reading. The waitress came back with my first three pancakes and they were hot and delicious. (If you aren’t hungry by now, something is wrong!) After a few minutes she came back and asked if I was ok and I let her know that I was ready for my second round of pancakes. She looked at me a bit surprised and then turned and left to retrieve more delicious cakes.

    She returned with three more pancakes, just as delicious as the first, and I ate them as well. As my waitress came to check on me again, I informed her that I was ready for my third round. Again she looked confused, turned and went and got some more pancakes. As she dropped the cakes off this time, I asked her if I was requesting my pancakes incorrectly or if something was wrong because she seemed a bit perplexed when I asked for more. She responded “No honey. You are ordering them just fine. I just have to tell you. When you sat your little skinny self down and ordered all you can eat pancakes I didn’t think you would even finish the first three, and then you ordered more, and more. To tell you the truth, I am just shocked you can eat that much. I had you all wrong.” It all made sense then.

    Here’s another one. I went bowling recently with some friends and there was a very nice guy bowling next to us. He bowled a few games and then afterwards started talking to me. He asked me to look over at lane 4 at a lady who was about to bowl. He then informed me that the lady was blind. I thought for sure he was kidding around. But sure enough, she was blind. She had memorized how many steps it took to get to the line and was bowling all by herself. I watched her walk down, throw her ball, and to my surprise, knock down ALL the pins. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. The guy then informed me that the lady I was watching was his wife. He then told me a few stories about how people had made judgments underestimating his wife. I felt guilty because I had underestimated her as well.

    The truth is that we all do that. We all look at people and make judgments about them based on what we perceive or think we know. The reality is that often we are wrong. The old saying of you can’t judge a book by its cover is oh so true. Often our preconceived notions about individuals preclude us from unpacking and experiencing what is true. We miss out on experiencing the real because we deceive ourselves with what is false. My point is simply and obvious: Don’t make snap judgments about people! I make this challenge with the realization that it’s hard, and I myself am guilty of committing this offense. However, I believe that when we open our eyes, hearts, and minds to see people and situations as they are, we are better off for it. May God give us all the wisdom, courage and discipline to gather all our facts before we make judgments.

    March 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm 1 comment

    Very Thought-Provoking Article…

    I’m very sorry I haven’t written in like forever. I will be getting back to that soon  hopefully.  Here is an article that I think is very well written…(about the economy and values)

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    February 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

    Why a Christian Can vote for a Democrat…

    I wasn’t planning to write this. In fact, I don’t want to write this. I am a very political man, but I tend to keep my political views and ideas to myself. This is primarily because I know that political views can be very strong and often cause unnecessary dissent. Consequently, I am hesitant to share my views with the masses. However, a series of events, comments, ugly talk, and frankly, ignorance has caused me to write this article. I confess it is not all encompassing. I have two primary goals.

    First, I just want to make the claim that one can be a Christian and not a republican. I confess that having to make that statement seems quite silly. Having to defend it, is infuriating.

    Secondly, I hope to explain my reasoning for not always voting republican. I pray you read this with an open mind and with a heart of understanding.

    Let me pause and say this: I am a Christian. I happen to be black. I am also a pastor. My primary and main filter for decisions is, what does Jesus call me to do, think, believe, and act. It is however, foolish to believe that other factors don’t contribute to my decision(s). We all come from different perspectives. We all have issues and causes that we find important. In a way, that is another point of this post.

    I do not believe there is a “Christian Party”. That is one the silliest things I’ve ever heard. Neither party is fully Christian, thus individuals have to come to conclusions independently about what they believe is important. I don’t think all Christians have to vote the same way anymore than I believe we all have to go to the same Church, or be the same denomination, or wear the same color shirts on Sunday. Though some of my friends insist that their “Christian Worldview” propels them to vote for a Republican, I have a worldview that I also believe is Christian, that often (not always) propels me to vote differently.

    The structure of this has been greatly influenced and often will be the exact same ideas found in a recent article I read from a guy named Keith Drury.

    Republicans Issues I support:

    1. I do not believe in abortion. If I was a one-issue voter and abortion was the only issue I’d vote Republican.  But I have other issues to consider, and I honestly don’t think the Republicans actually deliver much on this issue…what they deliver most is rhetoric. I suspect most evangelicals tilt Republican on abortion alone.  However even if “the Republicans win on abortion” where will it get us?  Republicans have no hope of outlawing abortion in this nation or the world—they have given up on a constitutional amendment.  If Republicans get what they want (overturning Roe v. Wade) it would merely turn abortion back for the states to decide.  Where would that get us?  The best bet is that 95% of the people in the USA would have abortion readily available and 5% would be restricted. And wouldn’t the 5% just get on a bus and go to the next state? Is this what I want?  I disagreed with the notion of “states rights” when it came to slavery and I disagree with it on abortion too. I want the whole nation to reduce abortions to at or near zero and neither party helps me there.  Handing back the decision to the states would restrict abortion only to those without money to travel out of state—that’s doesn’t impress me as a better moral choice. In five years, and ten, we will have just about the same situation in this country whomever we elect and whoever is appointed to the Supreme Court—even if Roe is overturned.  So, while I believe the matter is of serious moral consequences, on the practical side I see little difference in the outcome no matter which party is in power.

    Additionally: It should be noted that when John McCain was asked to rate issues from most important to least….Abortion was number 9 on his list! In other words, voting for McCain, doesn’t exactly change the abortion status in our country. (No more than the past 8 years with Bush have) So why should this be the ONLY issue I vote on? Seems very silly to me. Again, mostly rhetoric.

    2. As for gay rights I lam generally spiritually conservative and politically moderate—I believe it is wrong to deprive gay Americans (or Americans who commit adultery, get divorced or otherwise sin) of their civil rights—such a fair access to housing or jobs. But I reserve the right of religious organizations and churches to hire whomever they want to based on whatever lifestyle issues they consistently practice.  I believe no government can tell a church to hire someone practicing any behavior they forbid—alcohol, tobacco committing adultery, the gay lifestyle, wearing a hair covering, or wearing a yellow beanie. (that was a joke, if you didn’t get it, you need to relax a little) Whatever we consistently practice as a biblically based lifestyle in the church or organization as a matter of religious conviction can rule when it comes to employment.  But as a nation I am willing to extend civil rights to both saints and sinners.

    As to “Gay marriage” I am generally disinterested politically. Let me say that clearly, I tend to not care. I’m not even sure I like the government in the marriage business at all and prefer the church to decide who gets married and who gets to take Communion. I’m a pastor by heart, not a politician—so I’m more concerned about the church being pro-family than the world. But generally I lean toward the Republicans on this one, though not far enough to deprive civil rights from any sinners—straight or gay.

    These are the main issues that most republicans argue with me about. I am told that these issues alone should propel me to always vote republican….I tend to agree with republicans on these issues…

    But on many other issues I find likeness with Democrats:

    3. The environment is an important cause for me.  The Democrats are far less than I want but the Republicans are even more distant from what I think is the Biblical position.   I see caring for the environment as a deeply religious conviction growing out of the Scriptural call for stewardship of the earth. Our refusal to accept this view of creation is simply sinful pride and egotism—we can’t imagine God cares for anything but us humans.  But He does.  Do you not believe that God cares about the sparrows and knows when one falls?

    4. The care of the poor is important to me and is vastly and greatly important to God. Caring for the poor is not an option for anyone who takes a serious reading of the Bible—it is a demand and even a test of whether I am really a Christian.  I think Democrats have done a better job trying to do this than Republicans.  Sure, they have not produced perfect programs—almost all of them are flawed as badly as my local church’s  attempts to run Sunday school or evangelism programs.  But an imperfect work is better than no work at all.  I know most evangelicals say, “This is what the church should be doing.” My response to that is show me where!!  What church does this in a serious way?  There are a few, but it is a cup when an ocean is needed. Is your church doing it? More importantly, are you doing it? In fact, even if you are, I believe there is enough need in the world that both can do it! Most churches gather money to spend it on themselves, not the poor.  Are we willing to forgo our new building to care for the poor and pay the bills for all those aged parents in nursing homes (Oh, you didn’t know that Medicaid pays most of those?) Democrats help me fulfill this command of Christ far better than most Republicans do.

    5. As for health care I believe deeply in some sort of a nationalized system that considers justice and compassion over the medical cartel’s profits. When a nation finds people beaten and bleeding by the road I think they can’t respond with, “Take responsibility for your own problems” or “Too bad—doesn’t your employer have insurance.”  A real Good Samaritan pays the bill.  So would a “Christian nation.”  I find even many Democrats wrong on this issue too. My position here grows out of the teachings of the Bible, not economics.  It is the compassionate thing to do and the church won’t do it—face it, Christian organizations are often more stingy than secular ones on this issue with their employees.  It is a problem we’ll have to solve through government—God favors the church but He also ordained government and the family.  When one agency fails He is willing to use another.  Christ spent huge amounts of his precious time on earth healing the sick—it must be a value of God’s since Christ came to show us what God is like. Caring for sick people out of compassion and not for profit comes from the Bible in my view.  I’m with John Wesley here—medical doctors and others who get rich off of sick people will have a hard time entering heaven—as Wesley said—“it is possible but hard” (as hard as a camel going through the eye of a needle). Jesus did spend extraordinary energy relieving pain and suffering.  On this issue I lean with Democrats.

    6. I’m with the Democrats on Equality and Justice too—though most Republicans now pretend they’ve been there all the time.  I think women should not be denied their rights because they are women.  They should get equal pay for equal work and should have access to the same jobs men can do.  I believe the same is correct for minorities, the disabled, and everyone! I believe the Bible on this—we are neither slave nor free, male nor female in the kingdom of God—and we should take those values into the world if we can.  Seeing Republican resistance on progress for women and other justice related issues is saddening to me, and their recent conversion doesn’t impress me much.  Sorry, Republicans, I end up wanting to support Democrats for standing on the Biblical side of this issue even when they get hammered for doing so.

    7. I generally favor increased taxation of citizens who are better off for the sake of those less fortunate.  I don’t want to redistribute all income, but I’d be happy to redistribute more of it.  Why?  It is simply the teaching of the Old and New Testament.   I can’t see how one would have any other position and be true to the Bible.  Republicans might say that rich Christians ought to give their money personally to the poor and not through the government but somehow if a person is serious about the Old and New Testament’s teaching you’ve got to redistribute resources. I wish people did it personally. It is a nice idea.  But, have you seen this happening much?  If we did away with all taxes would you give your taxes to the poor?  Seriously?  Since churches are not taxed do you see the church giving generously to the poor?  Seriously?  I personally think rich people will always figure out ways to make money.  The church ought to urge us to do the right thing, but if we don’t, then government ought to figure out a way to make us do it.  We should share with those less fortunate than we are.  If it is through generous personal giving we get a reward in heaven.  If it through taxes taken from us by force and without complaints we may get no reward in heaven but at least the people are helped. The Democrats are closer to Biblical values as I see them on this point.  Sure I would rather “teach a poor person to fish than give them a fish.”  But teaching fishing is a far more expensive welfare program than distributing fish—so I’m willing to spend even more to enable the poor to get off their backs and take over the fishing ponds.

    8. I believe national self-interest is selfishness and thus sinful and both parties are wrong on this.  Christian values call us to feed our enemies, not just “use our aid to reward our friends.” Real Christians exchange “enlightened self-interest” for “enlightened other-interest.”   Sure, a nation cannot give everything away—we couldn’t be that much like Christ.  So, I accept a moderate level of national self-interest, but what I see from both parties is not Christian. To my thinking the Democrats are a tiny bit more Christian on this one but not enough. Jimmy Carter who thought justice and human rights played a part in international aid, not just America’s interests.  That was a Christian value.

    9. I believe that God wants capital punishment banished from the earth so that neither individuals nor governments kill people, including unborn people and evil people alike.  Of course our religion’s greatest event occurred as a result of capital punishment at Calvary. It was wrong then and it is wrong now—for the thieves as well as the Savior (though of course God turned this evil to good).  I think if Christ ruled this earth there would be no capital punishment—so I want to make things closer to his kingdom now. The Democrats are often closer to what I think God wants on this issue though most now are quite willing to fry criminals to get votes.

    10. On the size of government I reject the argument, “that the government which governs best governs least” and believe it to be as silly as saying, “that father which fathers best fathers least” or “that church which worships best worships least.” I want good government not little government.  The Democrat’s affection for centralized large government often fits better with my take on things.  On this one I traditionally tilt toward the Democrats but I can’t honestly say it has anything to do with my theology or the Bible. It is a non-starter issue for me as a Christian.

    Additionally, I am disgusted with Christians who oppose government assistance but take government assistance. If you want the government to stay out of your personal affairs, you want less government, then you shouldn’t partake in programs that are government funded. For an individual to tell me that there should be less government while being on welfare is slightly hypocritical and extremely frustrating to hear and see.

    11. I believe corporations who have paid less and less of the tax burden over the last three decades should pay far more until they are paying their fair share.  Yes, I know that merely “raises the price of the product” to the consumers.  But buying their product is my choice so I don’t need to buy it if I don’t want to—I think it is wrong to shift taxes from Boeing to Wal-Mart clerks.  Corporations are getting a free ride recently while the “average Jane” pays the Corporation’s share of taxes.  I think rich people should pay tithe just like the poor people.  Likewise I think rich corporations should care for the poor too. Democrats are usually better at calling for more taxes from corporations and rich people than Republicans and are in my mind closer to the Biblical values of “of whom much is given much is required.”

    12. I think we need massive initiatives in education because the Bible calls us to bring up the next generation.  I’d even be satisfied if we’d put 10% of the money we’ve been squandering in Iraq, into grants for college students. And, another 10% into public elementary and secondary education.  Where’d we get the idea that a Christian should be for low taxes and against education?  I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible.

    There are honestly (and I mean this) other issues that I could write about. I have taken a great deal of time, energy and effort to think about issues and who best represents what I believe. So, when someone tells me that I voted a particular way because I’m black or because I just haven’t thought about the issues, not only am I offended but I tend to get slightly pissed. (I know, I’m a pastor and I probably shouldn’t say the word pissed, but after all, I’m a crazy liberal…) I have thought about the issues and in fact, I believe I’ve thought about them A LOT more than someone who votes based on two issues alone. Especially when those two issues are affected so minutely by whoever is in office. When I go into the voting booth and vote for a Democrat it is not in spite of my faith but because of it. (You too can do that and be a Republican )

    I don’t care if you disagree with some, most, or all of what I’ve written. I simply want you to know and understand that my Christianity doesn’t FORCE me to blindly vote republican. If yours does, that’s fine. But please, please, please, don’t try to undermine my Christianity based on who I voted for. That, my friends, is a sin and is quite harmful and hurtful.

    November 6, 2008 at 3:26 pm 27 comments

    Back…for real this time!

    Guess who’s back! Back again! Noah’s back! Tell a friend! What’s up people! In case anyone still reads my blog, I am back! I haven’t written in months and have taken the summer off, but here I am back…So let’s stop the introduction and get on with writing!

    So, my grandpa is in his 70’s and got a hole in one the other day. For those of you that don’t know what a hole in one is, let me explain. It’s when you get the little white ball in the hole with ONE shot…(hence the name) It was a 149 yard par three and my grandpa knocked it right in with one shot. It’s quite amazing when you think about it. He’s in his 70’s and that’s a pretty hard thing to accomplish.

    He was talking about it a few days later (after it was in the local paper in Dallas) and I was giving him a hard time for using a 3 wood to accomplish this feat. (the 3 wood is the second largest golf club) I was giving him a hard time because it took a 3 wood for him to hit the ball 149 yards. He of course, reminded me that it didn’t matter what he used because he got the ball in the hole.

    If my grandpa had tried to use the same club that everyone else used, he would have never been able to accomplish that hole in one. He knew what his strength was and he went with that regardless of what everyone else was doing.

    Sometimes we think that people have to go about life the same way we do. We judge people when they think differently or take a different route than we did. We make statements (or think statements ) like “that’s not how I would do it” or “I would never do it like that”.

    Or maybe WE think that WE have to go about life like other people. We make little gods out of other people and try to model our lives completely after theirs. Of course, it’s wise to learn from others but God never intended for us to be other people. He has a unique and different path for us all.

    So here’s my point: We are all different and we all have different strengths and weaknesses and those should be embraced not changed.

    August 17, 2008 at 11:17 pm 1 comment

    I’m sorry I havent written in forever!

    Hey everyone, I am so sorry that I haven’t written in forever. (I just repeated the title of this post, weird…) I have been crazy busy, but i assure you alot has been going on and most of it has been great. I had a wonderful retreat this past weekend with my youth kids. I plan to write about that either later tonight or tomorrow. It was a great time of renewal and a pretty challenging weekend! Don’t give up on me, I am going to be back in the swing of things soon! Peace!

    March 10, 2008 at 5:38 pm 3 comments

    Doing Well

    I just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing very well. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but things seem to be getting back to normal, which is good. Thank you all so much for your thoughts, prayers, posts, e-mails, phone calls, and notes. They have been wonderful and I thank you greatly.

    Soon i will get back to normal blogging…YEAH, get excited! 🙂

    February 19, 2008 at 4:02 pm 3 comments

    Older Posts

    Stuff I am reading:

    The Ultimate Priority
    The Ultimate Priority
    John MacArthur

    How Soul Change Leads to Social Change
    The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change
    Brenda Salter Mcneil

    The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity
    The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity
    Donald W. McCullough

    Books I want to read soon….(In the on deck circle)

    Making Disciples a Few at a Time
    Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time
    Greg Ogden