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Is judging only okay for reality t.v.?

April 28, 2016

“Judge not, and you will not be judged.” It’s one of the most commonly quoted verses from the Bible. Many people use this verse as a first line of defense when accused of wrongdoing. It is also a favorite stone thrown by those outside the Church to accuse Christians of hypocrisy. “Didn’t Jesus say not to judge people?”

A couple of years before I went into grad school, a book was written called UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity. This book was huge and many of the statistics from that book circulated widely in churches and seminaries across the country. It’s based on research done among non-Christian millennials and one of the main findings was that about 90% of millennials view Christians as “judgmental.” Given the prohibition against judging issued by Jesus, this would mean most people view Christians as hypocrites, because nothing says “biblical expert” like quoting one saying of Jesus out of context.

Given these findings, it’s pretty important that both Christians and non-Christians understand what Jesus means when he says “judge not.” The key is recognizing that the word “judge” is used in two different ways in the New Testament, much like it still is today. Sometimes “judge” is used to mean “judge between things,” to differentiate, or discern, to make a decision concerning someone or something. In this case, we judge between right and wrong, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous.

This kind of judgement, was in discernment, is not what Jesus is forbidding. In fact throughout the Bible, we are commanded to discern. In the same chapter of Luke 6 and in the very same discourse as the famous “judge not” statement, Jesus talks about having the discernment to see the difference between good people and evil people (Luke 6:43-45). He compares them to trees. Good trees, he says, produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. The call to differentiate good from evil is to judge, to discern, correctly. To further the point, followers of Jesus are called to be so discerning that we are “as wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16).

This is where Christians get into trouble in our overly-tolerant and increasingly diverse culture. When a Christian labels something as “wrong” or “evil” we are often declared as being judgmental and out of step with Jesus. I do find it ironic and humorous that to pronounce someone as a hypocrite is to, in fact, also make a judgement.

Certainly, sometimes this is the case, but very often the accusation is the result of a society and a people that no longer understand the difference between discernment and condemnation.

F.F. Bruce, a New Testament scholar, explains the linguistic dilemma this way:

“Judgment is an ambiguous word, in Greek as in English: it may mean exercising a proper discernment, or it may mean sitting in judgment on people (or even condemning them).”

It is this second definition, to condemn, that Jesus forbids and he makes that clear when the whole sentence in Luke 6 is read: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned.” Jesus is making a statement using a common rabbinic tool of his time, make the same statement twice, but alter it slightly for emphasis.

He’s calling us to not condemn people, to not pass final judgment and declare them irretrievably guilty. This is an incredibly important idea if you understand the context in which Jesus was speaking. The entire society of his day was built on the notion that some people were acceptable and others were not. And the way you defined yourself, your identity and place in the world, was by comparing and contrasting yourself with others.

So, for example, in the time of the New Testament Jews saw themselves as inherently better or more acceptable to God then non-Jews. They commonly referred to anyone not Jewish as “dogs.” Many Romans had equally dismissive views of the Jews, and these judgments were not limited to the communities of other races. Rich people were seen as more blessed and acceptable to God than poor people. The healthy were seen as righteous, and those with diseases or disabilities were judged to be sinners receiving their due.

It is this kind of judgment that Jesus says is absolutely wrong. When we judge and condemn someone we are declaring that they have no value or worth,  that they do not matter to us or God.

We do this still today, mainly as a means of elevating ourselves. The more people pushed below us, the higher in value we must be. Greg Boyd captures the problem of judging really well. He says: “You can’t love and judge at the same time,” because “It’s impossible to ascribe unsurpassable worth to others when you’re using others to ascribe worth to yourself.”

This is the problem Jesus is addressing, that the idea that our worth requires someone else’s condemnation.

Of course this wasn’t just a problem in from during the life of Christ. Consider what Martin Luther King Jr. said in one of his sermons. He describes why segregation, a form of exclusion and judgment, is so wrong:

“Segregation is not only inconvenient-that isn’t what makes it wrong. Segregation is not only sociologically untenable-that isn’t what makes it wrong. Segregation is not only politically and economically unsound-that is not what makes it wrong. Ultimately, segregation is morally wrong and sinful…It’s wrong because it substitutes an ‘I-It’ relationship for the ‘I-Thou’ relationship and relegates persons to the status of things.”

Judgment causes us to see the other not as a person, but as a thing, as less human and therefore less valuable. Once we do that to a person, or a group of people, we rob them of the divine image given to all of mankind by the Father in Creation; it opens the door to all kinds of terrible evil: segregation, injustice, abuse, even genocide. Jesus is warning us about excluding anyone, or seeing ourselves or our group as inherently better than any other. We may disagree and discern another person or group to be wrong, but when that discernment causes us to value another person or group less, then we’ve crossed the line into judgment, condemnation, and exclusion.

Obviously there are, and always will be, people and groups that we disagree with theologically, socially, or politically. However, we seem to venture from discernment into judgment so easily today. In present political conversations, or in descriptions of other faiths and nationalities, we quickly move to write off “those people” as less valuable. We exclude them from the status that we feel privileged alone to occupy.

This seems to be the accepted posture on many political television and radio programs. Sometimes television personalities speak about “liberals” as if they’re demonic. Of course many “liberal” blogs caricature “conservatives” in equally disturbing ways. If you have strong political views, that’s just fine. Defend your views, disagree with others, engage on the level of ideas, but when we start to condemn those who disagree with our politics, when we see them as intrinsically inferior, we enter dangerous and distinctly unChrist-like territory.

When we see other people as wrong, not just about what they believe, but in their core identity as people, then it’s easy to convince ourselves that we don’t have to love them; we don’t have to serve them; we don’t have to respect them. This exclusion and condemnation of others fuels so much of what’s broken in our world today. It’s what convinces one group to kill another; or one person to abuse another.

Yet Jesus says, not so with you, not among my people. The Christian is never to judge, never condemn, never exclude, never to see anyone as without value or dignity-even the person we disagree with most. To quote Greg Boyd again, “The Christian’s job is to agree with God that every person you meet was worth Jesus dying for.” We cannot ascribe that kind of value and dignity to a person and condemn them as worthless at the same time. It’s just not possible.

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Is one worse than the other?

January 5, 2016

One of the things that you quickly discover when you start seriously getting into the subject of theology is that your opinion is very likely to change on certain subjects, given enough time and reading.

There is no shortage of humility required when reading, studying, and pondering the mysterious infinities of God Almighty.

The subject that I have most recently looked at is the subject of sin itself. I have spent the majority of my adult life as a Christian and so this concept of personal holiness and avoiding sin is nothing new to me. Recently, however, I came across something that challenged a long held belief of mine concerning the weight of sin with concerns to God’s holiness.

In short, the point is this: not all sins are equal in the sight of God.

I struggled with hearing this at first. If God is holy, then any affront to his character in the form of sin is unacceptable. This, however, is not the statement made. Certainly, all sin is terrible, from murder to even the most innocent-seeming white lies. A classic verse from Romans 6 comes to mind, “the wages of sin is death.” It isn’t this point though, that is in question.

As a person in ministry, I find it incredibly important to feed my own soul and to keep my mind sharp with reading and listening to podcasts of a more theological nature. They don’t always help with the day to day business of youth ministry, but they are very refreshing for me personally. This issue of the weight of sin was the subject of one such podcast. One person made the statement that the notion of sin equality is a lie that needs to be challenged in our churches; he then backed his statement up with multiple Scripture citations.

In Matthew 5, Jesus points out that lust and hate being placed firmly in the hearts of the Pharisees makes them guilty of breaking two of the Ten Commandments. Jesus then later goes on to say in Matthew that adultery is one of the only acceptable grounds for divorce.

Now, the podcast I listened to and the author of this blog are not questioning the teachings of Jesus, but playing them out to their own logical conclusion. If lust in your heart is the same as actual adultery, then most marriages are perfectly allowable by Jesus to be dissolved via divorce. It seems that these two sins  bear different weights.

Many would argue that certainly sin has a wide range of consequences. Rolling a stop sign at an empty intersection does not scar the world in the same way that genocide does, but are they, in their very nature equal in weight and depravity to the Father?

The next point made was that of Jesus’ conversation with Pilate in John 19. Jesus, in playing down Pilate’s authority in the situation, states that, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

A greater sin? I admit there is some room for different interpretations as to who and what Jesus is referring to. The Greek verb there is singular and masculine, so I tend to lean toward Judas Iscariot being the subject of the one bearing the greater sin, but that point only matters in comparing him to Pilate. Judas betrayed Jesus while Pilate seeks to release him. Even if Jesus is referring to the religious leaders who seek to have him killed, he still is places greater guilt on them, and not Pilate.

This theme of greater guilt and greater reward is one that Jesus often uses in his teachings. Any quick reading of the parables will find some slaves are given more reward or punishment than others for their deeds; but the point that really knocked the ball out of the park for me was looking at the teachings in Matthew 12 concerning blasphemy of the holy spirit.

Whatever tradition you come from and whatever opinion you hold in interpreting that passage, at the end of all the discussions, Jesus says that there is one sin so terrible, so offensive to God the Father that he will not forgive it.

Several other points were made concerning the level of atonement that is required in the Old Testament laws depending on what laws are broken,  some sins are even referred to as abominations, while others almost seem to be a passing thought. Clearly some were more pressing in their severity than others.

Sin is a terrible thing; the call of the people of God is to abstain from personal and corporate sin and to be a holy nation. I am not somehow downplaying the terrible brokenness that our world is in so desperate need of repair from. Christ died for all sin and for all sinners. These are tenants of the Christian faith that I do not intended to budge on.

There are, however, terrible things that the world is guilty of; some make us cringe and shudder and weep in our very souls. I think this is the reason that we know in our gut that murder is way worse than lying about your weight or going 5 miles over the speed limit.

As I said at the beginning, however, I could easily be wrong. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Death threats? Wisecracks?

“When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean?”

November 25, 2015

Why, yes, I did just quote a line from a Justin Bieber song. I know what you’re thinking, “how could I attempt to gleam anything useful for a cheesy pop song…especially from Justin Bieber?”

First, let me say that in any attempt to bond with kids and be relevant in youth ministry, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and admit that anyone in their 30’s and older is, in fact, “old” and by proxy, no longer cool. It hurts at first to admit you are no longer cool, but eventually the sting subsides and you learn to deal with it.

Regardless of how I feel about Justin Bieber and his music, one member of my youth group is a “belieber” and it helps me interact with and relate to her by knowing a little bit of his music. And if I were honest, that song in particular is pretty catchy.

The logical move, for me as a youth minister, is to go from knowing about my teenagers preference in music to knowing what is going on in popular culture. The things that are important to my teenagers may not be important to me, but it is to them. For me, a married man who has graduated from college with his Master’s, high school problems and concerns are simple and irrelevant to the big picture, but for my youth group, those problems are everything. I cannot be an effective minister there for them on any level if I do not know what their world looks like, and that includes but is not limited to movies, music, and pop culture.

One of the first rules of war is to know your enemy. One of the first rules of public speaking is to know your audience. One of the first rules to relationship is to know the person you are interacting with. One of the first rules of ministry is incredibly similar; know where your friends, relatives, family, acquaintances, neighbors, or community is hurting and struggling and go to that need to help, pray, and struggle with them. This is how you show them the love of God.

It is this idea of showing people the love, justice, and life of God that I want to talk about.

Recently, I came across a quote from Rick Warren, a pastor and author, that I found incredibly helpful.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

It is this tension and seeming contradiction that comes to mind when I think of the lyrics of Mr. Bieber’s song. “When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean?” People often accuse the Church of bigotry, hate, and fear for holding to the long-held beliefs of Christianity concerning any number of topics. Abortion, Homosexuality, Casual Sex, Corporate Greed, etc.

“How can a people who believe in God’s love and equality for all people tell people that what they are doing is wrong? How can you say that my relationship with this person is sinful? Who do you think you are telling me that I have enough? What do you mean?” (**See what I did there?)

All jokes aside, to many the faith seems contradictory; we preach love but show no tolerance for certain subjects. To love someone is to tolerate what they do without question or comment; this is a lie.

Want for war or pray for peace?

November 17, 2015

I had intended to write something concerning the terror attacks in France, Beirut, Iraq, Syria, and the bombing of the Russian Airliner much sooner than today, but knee-jerk reactions are rarely the correct way during a time of pain and grief. Our emotions often want us to move in more drastic ways than we really should.

One of the great blessings of my life has been to know and learn from Dr. John Mark Hicks at Lipscomb University. I was my privilege to be his student in several classes while both in undergraduate studies and in graduate school, and while I graduated with my Master’s degree this past May, I read his blog posts and books to continue my personal studies and to feed my soul.

Dr. Hicks recently wrote a short blog about the escalating violence overseas and I found it very helpful. I have copied and pasted that blog below in its entirety and accompanied it with the link to his blog site.

Grace and peace to you all.

“Three prayer requests.

1. Pray for comfort and peace in Paris, but also in Beirut which was bombed the day before, families on the Russian airliner, and for Syria and Iraq where people suffer on a daily basis from the violence of ISIS.

I wonder why we painted our Facebook pages with French colors but not Lebanese or Russian. Perhaps I have some sense–we have a historic alliance with France….and because they are European…or perhaps the events in Paris are closer to home–they certainly are in terms of media coverage.

Whatever may be the case, we pray for France, but we also pray for everyone affected by ISIS’s violence. Perhaps this is a moment to deconstruct our Western centrism and embrace a desire for all human beings to live in peace. Consequently, we pray for all–including Syrians, Russians, and Iraqis–who have, in recent days, experienced the horror of ISIS violence.

Let us serve them as we are able.

2. Pray God will “break their teeth” (Psalm 58:6) and defang their power; pray God will put things right and reveal a sense of divine justice amidst this violence.

Imprecatory prayers are part of the Hebrew Bible, and they are also part of the New Testament, including Revelation 6:10. This is a legitimate way to express our anger, even our desire for revenge, and especially our desire for justice. We have these feelings, and the presence of these prayers are a divine invitation to express those feelings and desires to God.

At the same time, we leave them with God. We express them, give them to God, and plead with God to do something about it. We trust God will one day put everything to right, and God’s justice will reign upon the earth. Prayer places it in God’s hands, and we divest our hearts of any such feelings by pouring them into God’s heart. And God will do what is right, though perhaps not in our timing.

Let us give our anger to God.

3. Pray for a heart to love refugees, immigrants, and others who come to the West as they escape the violence of Syria and Iraq; pray God will give us a love for our neighbors rather than anger.

I pray my brothers and sisters will not visit the sins of ISIS on their Muslim, Middle Eastern, or immigrant neighbors here in the United States.

I pray we will not permit a few terrorists or ISIS fighters to subvert the merciful intent to receive refugees who seek safety and peace.

I pray we will seek every opportunity to share the love of Jesus with people who come to live among us as the world comes to us and we have a grand opportunity (which we have not had previously with many Muslims) to love them as Christ has loved us.

Let us treat our neighbors with goodness and mercy.

May God have mercy!”

From http://johnmarkhicks.com/ 

Isaiah 1:18

October 15, 2015

So I was having lunch with a good friend yesterday and, like usual with this particular gentlemen, our conversation drifted into politics. This is, of course, the best thing to discuss between good friends over good Mexican food. While having an excellent conversation, he made a statement that I myself have made to other people in recent history, and it gave me a sort of validation for my social observation. Our culture, that of the United States, is having a huge problem being able to handle the opinions of other people without responding to said opinion with frustration, fear, anger, and hate.

For many parts of the world, and I suspect a small minority of people here in the USA, intellectual debate and conversations about religion and politics are welcomed, cherished pastimes. However, for what seems like the majority of people in our country today, debates and conversation cannot take place without someone feeling threatened, belittled, oppressed, or insulted. This often, it seems, has little to do with the conversation itself.

A great many people in this country find it incredibly difficult to have someone completely disagree with them. Often the shock of disagreement moves many to the defense of throwing insults and calling names, all with venom and malice dripping from every word.

I think it needs to be plainly stated and greatly emphasized that to disagree with someone is nothing more than that, a disagreement. There are no further implications that need to be made past that. Disagreements on politics should never render someone a “heartless, greedy Conservative” or a “Socialist, hippie Liberal,” nor should disagreements on social issues end with people being labeled with racial slurs, sexually insultive terms, or slander toward one’s intelligence. To say you don’t support someone’s choices, affirm their lifestyle, or agree with their political stance is NOT the same thing as hating that person for being born.

As a Christian, I try, and sometimes fail, to emulate the love and teachings of Jesus, a teacher who saved his insults and name calling for those who oppressed and subjugated others, (See Matthew 12:34 and Matthew 23:33) but even then his monikers for those people were founded more in descriptive names based on traits that they possessed, not simply giving them a name to offend them.

I once read a theologian who described the act of debates itself as divine, that to have a relationship with any depth requires conversation, sometimes even disagreeing. Abraham debates with God about sparing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of his nephew, Moses verbally spars with God for the fate of the people of Israel, Jonah converses with God over the people of Nineveh, and Jesus responds to almost every question he is asked with another question. “What do you think?” or “How do you understand it?”

We cannot and must not equate someone else’s line of thinking that differs from our own as evil, stupid, or hateful. To say you disagree with someone’s place on a subject is not bigotous, close-minded, or hateful.

We can discuss, debate, reason, converse, laugh, joke, cry, regret, and find common ground from all sorts of different religions, races, sexual preferences, and ethnicities. We must not be afraid of different, but instead must try to understand why that person believes and speaks as they do. Remember the words of another great philosophical teacher, “Fear is the path to the darkside. Fear leads anger, anger leads to hate; that leads to suffering.”

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.”

Out with the Old Testament and in with the New?

September 10, 2015

Part of this whole conversation on Gay Marriage and the position of the Religious Right is how do Christians view and interpret the Old Testament. Some point to passages in Leviticus and scream that this shows how clearly God is against homosexual acts, while others demand to know why those same protesters are not for the deaths of those who curse their parents, refusing to eat pork and shellfish, or still wear clothes made of more than one fiber. These are all laws also found in Leviticus and other OT books.

So why does the vocal Evangelical section hold onto some verses but not others? I think the better question is, why is this the only time we quote the book of Leviticus? Jesus quotes Leviticus as much as he does any other book in the Torah, so why is this the only time Christians quote a book that was obviously so important to Jesus?

This is another one of those difficult issues that I cannot do justice in a short blog post, but I will try my best to boil it down to the most basic of points.

I think it stems from two basic, simple points: 1. The majority of Christians today are not Jewish. Christians believe that with the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ the covenant with God found in the Law of Moses has, to put it simply, been retired, and we now live under the covenant of the Cross. The early Church, as recorded in Scripture, decided that those believers who were Jewish should still follow the OT law, but the Gentiles, including myself, were exempt from a vast majority of the OT laws concerning holiness and cleanliness, of which Leviticus belongs. This account is recorded in Acts 15. Paul will also continue this theology in many of his writings, the most direct that I can think of is Galatians 3-5.

Again, a great more can be written about this subject, but my intent is to keep this blog short considering the subject. This decision by the Early Church leads me to my second point. 2. As non-Jews, most Christians don’t understand the importance and context of Leviticus, or a great majority of the Old Testament for that matter.

The Law of Moses was designed for God’s people to stand out from all people surrounding them at the time. Many of the laws about food and clothing are placed so that the Israelites would live lives in contrast to those of the people around them. This includes the laws concerning sexual purity. Much of this gets lost and forgotten when an angry protester is shouting out Bible verses at people and then threatening them with Hell for them not following passages from a book that they don’t believe in.

Sadly, we only use a couple of verses out of one book when we want to tell a broken world about how broken it is. Something here, in the larger context of the story of God, seems terribly out of place. Jesus certainly held Leviticus in higher regard, and clearly studied all of the Law, yet the Church at large only uses it when we need to condemn others. Bad form, indeed.

I will not tackle my opinion of homosexuality in this blog post, but I will instead leave a short critique for boths sides of the debate. Neither side is having a conversation about the subject. They are instead like two whining children, shouting at each other and calling each other names. Neither side will find peace and acceptance until we learn to love one another and speak to people respectfully and with dignity…you know, like Jesus did.

Would Jesus run for president?

September 8, 2015

In recent history I have seen a lot in the media and online concerning homosexuality, the definition of marriage, the decisions of the Supreme Court, and how the Federal Government enforces those laws. I’m thinking specifically of the case of Kim Davis, the KY clerk officer who is currently in prison for not issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples. All of these issues come together and provoke a great many questions, not just of a religious nature, but of the role of government in our society and how one can resist the government if and when the need arises.

This is by no means an easy subject; I give here only my own opinions based on my own convictions. I don’t like name-calling or unnecessary labeling simply to fill the space with words. Here, I will do my best to only express my own thoughts as respectfully as I can. I do so as a Christian, a follower of Jesus trying to emulate what I see from his life in my own life today.

First off, I love people. All people. Whether white, black, yellow, red, brown, straight, gay, transgendered, christian, muslim, atheist, satanist, fat, short, tall, thin, nerdy, geeky, jock, whatever. I believe that, as a follower of Jesus, I am called to walk in his footsteps and love everyone equally without finding fault. It is important to note, however, that the love Jesus had for his fellow humanity did not stop him from calling out people who needed to be called out, whether for their pride, arrogance, lack of understanding, sexual immorality, etc. Jesus loved people, but he loved them too much to leave them in their brokenness.

This is also NOT the only thing Jesus did during his short ministry. He did not spend all of his time pointing out the imperfections of his fellow man; I am not sure he would have had much of a following if that were the only thing he did.

I say that to say that I believe there are times when we should speak with love into the lives of others to help direct them onto a better path. A key factor in this process is relationship. We often leave out and neglect the fact that Jesus always starts his ministry with people on a personal level, then moves into helping pull them out of their brokenness only after he has loved them for who they are. Jesus shows us that you can, in fact, love someone and disagree with their lifestyle.

In short, there is a time and a place for those conversations.

I don’t expect people who aren’t believers of Jesus to act as though they are. I don’t expect people who don’t give any credit to the Bible to act as though it is the word of God. That would be foolish.

I do expect Christians to act like Christians. I expect people who claim to love Jesus to not picket the private residence of the judge who put Mrs. David in jail. I expect those same “Christians” to NOT call people hateful names, tell people that they are going to Hell and will suffer forever, or to cry and scream when a non-Christian world acts as though it isn’t Christian. All of which, by the way, I never see Jesus doing in any record of his life. More often than not, Jesus is dispersing angry mobs as best he can, as often as he can.

I’ll be writing some more with thoughts along the lines of this subject, but I merely want to begin this dialogue by repeating what Jesus once told his followers. “A new commandment I give to you, love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

I don’t think Jesus meant this just for his disciples that were present there with him, and I don’t think he meant only for believers who interacted with people in the Church. I think he meant this for all of his followers when interacting with all people.

Thnks fr th Mmrs

September 8, 2015

So…it’s been such a long time since I have blogged about anything. My last post was way back in 2011, more than 4 years ago, and, I must admit, having some trouble remembering my log-in password for Word Press.

A lot has happened in the many days since my last post. To tell you the short version, I graduated with my M.div from Lipscomb University, received my second degree black belt in Okinawan karate, I married an awesome woman, and lastly, my wife and I moved back to my home in south Georgia. I currently work two different jobs; I am the youth minister at Avalon United Methodist Church and I am an instructor at Brunson Martial Arts, both in Albany, GA. My wife is the curator of the Albany Museum of Art and we are in the midst of repainting the inside of our house. Life is so very good right now.

I want to blog again, but this time I want to do it more consistently. I’m sure the variety of topics will be broad, sometimes I’ll be covering martial arts, sometimes covering news events, sometimes my adventures in ministry, and so on. I fully expect to also write on my own personal views on certain hot-button topics. I encourage dialogue always, however, I do not endorse hate speech, slander, name-calling, or other immature expressions of communication. So please feel free to leave comments, but do so respectfully.

I have included a picture of my wife and I. This picture is about two years old, but it is still one of my favorites. I find it helpful to have a picture of the person speaking (or blogging) to help picture the dialogue mentally.

DSCN2075

“It’s just another day for you and me in paradise…”

July 11, 2011

I haven’t blogged since the end of March, mostly because I have been too busy with life. I haven’t taken the time to sit down and breathe, to contemplate and reflect on everything that has been going.

As I stated last time, I work at a hotel in downtown Nashville. The job isn’t bad, but it isn’t what I went to school for either. My undergrad degree is in Theology and the Master’s degree that I am working on is in divinity. I want to teach and talk about my faith, to talk and write about what I see God doing in the world and give hope to people who lack enough to even make it through the day.

It is this desire that has lead me to become somewhat disenchanted with my job at the hotel. Again, it isn’t a bad job, it just isn’t what I went to school for. Recently, however, a brief conversation left a memorable impression on me concerning my current place of employment.

One of the things my job includes is security of the hotel, and so, I routinely patrol the hotel property. On occasion, I have to ask homeless people to leave the property for loitering, panhandling, or being disruptive. This has more than once tugged on my heart’s strings; I feel a tremendous amount of guilt as a Christian in having homeless people arrested for having nowhere to go. Sometimes, the Police are very necessary when dealing with a homeless person, such as someone who may hurt themselves or someone else, but more often than not, I have to call the Police on someone who just wants to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. That bothers me.

So, about a week ago, early in the evening around 6pm, I walk out the front doors of the hotel and find that it is raining. Sitting calmly and quietly under the hotel sign was a man who was obviously homeless; his clothing and hair that lead me to that conclusion. I decided not to say anything to him, after all, he wasn’t bothering anyone and he just wanted shelter from the rain.

As I began to turn around and walk inside, he spoke to me. “Hello, sir. How are you?” he asked. His voice was sincere and genuine, something I haven’t encountered often when I might have to call the Police. I responded that I was doing well, and asked him in kind how he was doing. Again full of sincerity, he gave his retort, “I’m doing well, thank you for asking. I don’t mean to be any trouble, I just wanted to get out of the rain. I promise I won’t bother anyone.”

I was moved by how humble this man was; I couldn’t help by find myself wanting to talk to him more. We talked for a couple minutes about the rain, which eventually moved to the weather in general and about how hot it was.

He then said something that hit me right at the core of my being. “Well, at least you’re in an air conditioned building, wearing a nice suit. You look like you’re doing well for yourself, for a man of your age.”

I immediately felt convicted that I had ever complained about my job, my responsibilities at work, or the pay I make. I’ve begun to think that I am blessed in a way that many people aren’t right now. I have a job that pays my bills. I have food to eat and a roof over my head. That should be enough.

Sometimes it just helps to have someone say something to help but things in perspective, regardless of where that spoken word comes from. Thank you, sir, your words helped put things in perspective.

Hebrews 13:2

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am”

March 31, 2011

The title of this blog is from John 13.

I’ve been contemplating what to do after graduation. Graduation day is on May 7, which is not very far away, and I am starting to doubt all of the plans that I had laid out before me.

I had planned to stay in Nashville over the summer to work and begin grad school in the fall. I have loved my time here at Lipscomb University and I was looking forward to continuing my studies by pursuing my Master’s Degree in Divinity. However, I am finding it difficult to find a place to live with the money that I make at my job. I wouldn’t say that I make bad money, but it is not enough to live on my own, and even with a roommate, I worry about making enough money to pay for my share of the bills, the bills that I have currently, and with paying for graduate school out of pocket. I have acquired too much debt while here at Lipscomb, and tuition continues to increase every year.

On a bit of a side note, my job is not bad. I am a “manager on duty” at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Nashville. It is a pretty title, but a bit misleading. I am little more than a glorified security guard. I handle guest complaints, lock doors, escort workers to their vehicles, handle the hotel lost and found, and collect door hangers at night. In retrospect, I don’t think the job was represented to me very well, but I am grateful for having a job right now when so many people are still struggling to find work in this economy.

My job is a great college job. It has decent pay with good benefits. Yet, it is still just a college job. It reminds me every time I go in that I don’t want to be there permanently. I desire to teach. I know that has shifted somewhat over the last couple of years, but I think maybe I have always wanted to teach and I simply didn’t know it yet.

The idea of being able to do what the Bible faculty here at LU has done for me gives me great and tremendous joy. The professors here have challenged me spiritually, lead me to question my theology constructively, and have matured me in my faith more than any number of years in my life combined. I long to continue my studies and to learn as much as I can about this very passionate subject in my life, but I seem to coming up on some sizeable road bumps in the near future.

I have always believed firmly that God takes care of those who are doing and pursuing His will. I don’t mean a version of the Health and Wealth gospel; what I mean by that is God being faithful when you are faithful to Him. Take Moses for example, or just about any other Old Testament figure for that matter. God called Moses to a specific task and role in his life. At first, Moses resisted, but he eventually submitted to the will of God. When Moses listened to God’s call, God was there with him doing wonderful and amazing things. God called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, and God worked around Moses and with Moses to make it happen. Moses was faithful and God worked. Same with Abraham, Noah, Daniel, Jacob, Rahab, Joseph. They were faithful and God worked.

I am not struggling to be faithful to God, but I am struggling to see past the obstacles and focus more on what I know the Father has called me to do. I have passions in my life that I know have been placed there for a holy purpose, but I am just a man who worries about paying the bills and where I will be living in the mean time.

These are the kinds of things that keep a person up at 3 in the morning, when an 8am class is quickly approaching.