Dec 19, 2013

My thoughts on the Duck Dynasty Dilemma

Duck dynasty is a great show.  Ratings prove its popularity.  I think the show has been a great window into the reality of right wing Christian southern lifestyle.  I laugh at it so much of it because I see my family through the different scenes and scenarios.  I love the faith, family, and ducks worldview that the Robertsons adhere to.  That’s been the unspoken motto of the home I grew up in and the home that I am raising.  It’s a good show that has broken many records and, in my opinion, that’s because it’s a rare TV combination of humor, silliness, redneck living, family values, and faith.  You just don’t see many shows like this one anymore.  There aren’t many shows anymore that an entire family can sit on the couch and watch together without worrying about whether the content will be appropriate for everyone sitting and watching.

I had Phil Robertson preach for me when I pastored in Louisiana.  He’s genuine and down to earth.  He, his wife, and entourage stayed until 1:00 AM signing autographs and talking with people. After everyone else left He and I visited for about an hour.  The man is on a mission to preach the gospel.  He’s also someone who thinks.  He has a lot of opinions.  He is one who is outspoken with his wide range of opinions.  The night he spoke for me he covered topics ranging from duck conservation, duck call styles, hunting methods, homosexuality, manhood, alcohol, crawfish boils and the gospel.  I loved his insight and candor, but I didn’t agree with everything he said. What mattered to me was that we agreed on the main thing, Jesus. He gave a compelling and convicting presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and several men were saved.  I’m grateful he and his family have been given the opportunity to preach the same message he shared that night in Milton, Louisiana to millions of Americans.

The truth is, there are a lot of Phil Robertsons out there, I am one of them.  Millions of viewers and evangelical Christians agree with what he said, maybe not the way he said it or the magazine he said it to (I find GQ to be an incredibly immoral and offensive magazine), but none the less, millions believe homosexuality is a sin.  The Bible is very clear on what sin is and homosexuality is one of them.  There a lot of us out there, and we are not going away, nor are we changing what we believe.  As a result, things like this will happen.  We should not be surprised, it's happened before.  It happened to Jesus, Peter, Paul, and in one way or another over 2000 years to every disciple of Jesus that radically seeks be light in a dark world.  Hollywood is a tough dark place for the Christian, but I’m proud of people like Phil and his family who still give it a shot and use the avenue that God gives them in Hollywood to tell people about him. 
Certainly this has caused pressure and stress on this family and on Phil himself.  I hope Phil and his family will stick together, trust in God, and continue to show grace and love through this while at the same time not back down or compromise.  I want to encourage his fans  who are outraged, like myself, to pray for him and his family.  I want to encourage you also to keep the mission and message of the gospel at the forefront of your discussion.  Protest, boycott, rant, or whatever, but don’t forget that Jesus called us to reach the lost with His gospel.  We should stand up for what we believe in, be salt and light, don’t back down, but don’t be unloving as you do.  Use this event to have friendly debates but do it with the purpose of winning the lost to Christ.  Don’t treat them the way Phil Robertson has been treated.  Our mission is not to bring a TV channel down because they messed with our favorite duck hunter.  Our mission is to build the kingdom of God by making disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

We are told to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  Both the truth we share and the way we share it is important.  You must do both, too many do one without the other.

All of this has reminded me of something that Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18

I close with this: 
The Bible is also very clear on this:  God loves sinners.  God loved us all so much He sent His own Son Jesus to die for our sin and to free us from our sin.  To forgive and save people who practice the same sins I do and people who also practice the sin of homosexuality.  I think that's awesome.  That no matter who you are or what you do, God loves you and Jesus can save you.

Dec 16, 2013

What Every Dad Should Learn from the Christmas Story

Dad, what an incredible task we have been given as fathers.  Studies, statistics, and reality continue to show that dads are the most influential person in our home.  Being a dad is a high calling and a tough responsibility in our modern society.  The enemy and the world he controls want to demolish your family.  His best plan of attack is to go through you.  He wants you to fail.  He wants to see your wife lose all love and respect she has for you and your leadership.  He wants to see your kids spend eternity with him in hell.  The enemy hates you, the world hates you, and maybe even your kids will hate you too.  Being a dad is not an easy job today.  But the truth is the spiritual success of our family rises and falls on our shoulders.  But listen dads, God knew what he was doing when he chose you to be a father.

In the Christmas story we see a dad who is given the responsibility to raise a child.  It’s a heavy responsibility being a dad to any kid, but can you imagine the weight of responsibility in having to raise the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the King of kings??!!  We don’t know a lot about Joseph, we only see a brief snapshot of who he is and where he came from in the story of Jesus’s birth.  But in the brief snap shot we have of Joseph we see some character traits that every dad should have if they want to win at fatherhood.  God knew exactly what He was doing when he gave Joseph the responsibility of raising his Son.

Character Trait #1 - Meekness

Matthew 1:18-19
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

 Meekness is not weakness.  It is harnessed power.  Meekness is humbly submitting our freedom, strength, power, influence, money, and ego to the will of God.  The ball was in Joseph’s court and he had the freedom and right to do what he wished with Mary who was carrying a child that wasn’t his.

There were 3 routes Joseph could have legally taken at this point:  Stone her to death (Leviticus 20:10), claim the child was his and go forward to save embarrassment, or publicly divorce her.  But, Joseph showed meekness when he chose to divorce her quietly.  Joseph maintained his cool, didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t try to get even, and didn’t kick Mary to the curb.  Even though he was in the position and had the right to ruin her life and the life of her seemingly illegitimate son, he took the route of a good man, a real man, a Godly man.  It was a path of grace, a path of character, a path of Godliness…a path of meekness.  And it was this meekness that enabled him to be used greatly by God to be the earthly father of Jesus.

Dad’s we need to learn to show meekness to our wife and kids.  We constantly need to let God harness our freedom, authority in the home, power, influence, strength, success, money and time by submitting to the will of our Heavenly Father.  Showing our children that even though we have a right to be angry or have the right to get it our way, we control our temper and handle the matter with meekness.  We must show meekness to our kids when we arguing with their mother, disciplining them, in dealing with the blind umpire at their ball games, the slow waiter, the idiotic driver that just cut us off, the boss that is unfair, or our child's carelessness with the cup of milk.

If you want to produce good children, then be a meek man.  Showing grace, patience, kindness, and gentleness can ALWAYS be done without showing weakness.  That’s what meekness does.

Character Trait #2 - Obedience
vv.20-22 “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel”

Crazy story, crazy dream.  If I had a dream like that I might wonder what my wife mixed into our lasagna from the night before.  The amazing thing is that he did exactly what the angel said to do.

This story fits so well into the Bible.  Joseph was commanded to give Mary’s son the name Jesus, it's derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua, the name means “Yahweh is salvation.”  The first time we see the name Yeshua in the Old Testament is when we meet Moses’s right hand man and understudy, Joshua.  Joshua was the man that got to lead the Israelites into the Promise land.  He was a great leader, a man’s man, a warrior, a hero.   Listen to the faith and conviction of Joshua:

Joshua 24:15  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

 Now, there are a lot of men who will say, “As for me and my house”

"As for me and my house…"we’ll make a lot of money"…"we’ll be a successful"…"we’ll kill a big deer or bunches of ducks"…"we’ll catch a big fish"..."we’ll drink with the boys"…"we’ll be liked by everyone"…"we’ll be great athletes"…"we’ll win the lottery"…"we’ll run our roost"…"we’ll never back down"…"we’ll never lose a fight"…"we’ll never be wrong."

But what is missing from most American homes is men who like Joshua and Joseph who will say, “As for my an my house, we will serve the Lord”

Guys, what is your family known more for?  Serving the Lord or killing big deer?  Serving the Lord or being successful?  Serving the Lord or being great athletes?  Serving the Lord or showing our influence?
Dad's when our children stand before God one day he's not going to ask them how successful they are, how much money they made, what their GPA was, how fast they could throw or how far they could hit a baseball, how many tackles or touchdowns they had, what was the biggest deer they killed or fish they caught, how cool they were, how many girls they dated.  He's going to ask them one question:  "What did you do with my Son Jesus?"

Being a family that is known for serving the Jesus begins with being a man who is known for serving the Jesus.

Character Trait #3 – Spiritual Leadership

vv. 24-25 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…And he called his name Jesus”

Joseph believed the angel, he believed in his Son, and he did everything he was instructed to do and everything he knew he could in order that his son could “save his people from their sins.”

Joseph led the way in listening to God’s will for his family:  notice Matthew 2:13-14 when moved his family to Egypt, Matthew 2:19-23 when he moved his family back to Nazareth

Notice how Joseph led the way in worshiping with his family:  Luke 2:22-38, 2:14, when he took his family to the Temple

He made priority of his child’s spiritual life.  He took it seriously.  He got involved with it.  Joseph was the dad who took his children to church (the temple), he didn’t just drop them off or let them go with Mary while he slept in, worked, or hunted.  Joseph was the dad who prayed for his children and worshiped with his children.  Joseph was the dad that made sure they were growing in knowledge of the word.  The spiritual growth of his children was important to Joseph. 

Dad’s we need to lead the way when it comes to the spiritual growth of our children.  Lead.  Don’t just leave it up to their mom, your parents, the church, the pastor, the children’s minister, or some other father or family.  Lead.  Worship with them, pray with them, pray for them, read God’s word to them, serve with them, witness to them.

God knew what he was doing when he put his own Son under the earthly fatherhood of Joseph.  Men, God knew exactly what he was doing when he put your children under your earthly fatherhood.
Hey, be a fun dad, a loving dad, a protecting dad, a successful dad, a disciplining dad, a killing ducks and deer dad, a coaching dad, a friendly dad.  These are great kinds of dads to be and I hope you are one.  But don't miss out on being the kind of dad God chose you to be.  Be a dad that leads your kids to Jesus. 


Dec 10, 2013

Immanuel: God with Us!

There are a lot of devastating things in this world that cause us to ask:  WHERE IS GOD?  Where was God when I lost my child?  Where was God when I lost my job?  Where was God when I lost my house?  Where was God when the drunk driver hit that car?  If God was here, if God was real, then I wouldn’t be facing these things, right? …where is He?


 Where is God?  God is with us. That was the message of the very 1st Christmas so many years ago. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said that Joseph’s fiancĂ© Mary was to have a baby.  But it wasn’t going to be just any baby, it was THE baby.  The Son of God, the promised Messiah.  And the angel said that he would be called Jesus, that he would save is people from their sins.  All this happened because of an old prophecy from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) that said that the Messiah would be called Immanuel.  Immanuel is a combination of Hebrew words meaning, “God with us.”  So Jesus was born, Immanuel came.  That night in Bethlehem God was literally and physically “with us.”

Immanuel means that God loved us so much that he would come and dwell among us.  He has firsthand experience with our pain, tragedy, and suffering.  He would walk through the same things we do and feel what we feel.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, illustrates the truth that God is with His People!  It shows that God is (and has always been) with us in every situation we face whether it be pain, grief, anger, frustration, unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, poverty, illness, surgery, hurt, cancer, and even death. Immanuel is here to surround us with His love, encouragement, comfort, and His Spirit. 

Immanuel means that we don’t have to face the reality of pain, anger, lose, fear, or even death alone.  HE IS WITH US.  The baby that was born that night, the light of the world, is the one who continues to shine his light in our night.

We find Immanuel all through the scriptures:
Joshua 1:9 "Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go"
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Matthew 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s Immanuel!

St. Patrick said this…
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

You see, the Christmas reminds us that God is no stranger to our sufferings.  God understands our pain.  Rather than just answering our questions like “why does this happen?” from afar, he came down to us and walks with us through them.  He feels what we feel. 

We all have questions.  Good questions, real questions, valid questions.  We find ourselves getting overwhelmed by the questions, but let me encourage you to look past your questions, and pursue the One whose name means that HE IS WITH YOU.   You can ask your questions, but don’t for a second think that you are asking a cold heartless God, who has no clue what you are going though.  HE IS HERE AND HE KNOWS!  Reach out to Immanuel, He’s with you.

I once heard a story of a father, who had told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for his supper, if he broke the laws of the home once more.  (A little harsh if you ask me and the story is probably not true, but at look at what happened next)

The child disobeyed again and was sent to the attic to spend the night.  That evening the father could not eat. He had the boy on his mind and his heart. His wife said: "I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring the boy from the attic. It would cause him to disobey again. He would have no respect for your word. You must not cheapen your relation as his father by failing to keep your promise."

To which her husband replied: "You are right. I will not break my word. But he is so lonely up there." He kissed his wife good night, entered the attic, ate bread and water with the boy, and when the child went to sleep on the hard boards, his father’s arm was his pillow.

That is Immanuel.  That is God’s presence in our lives. That is one of the messages of Christmas.  That is why we can have hope in hard times.  God chose to suffer for us and with us, and He still chooses to suffer with us. 

So you can either focus on all the questions and as result come up empty and cold towards God, or you can reach out to the Immanuel, who understands and can heal your loss, who is with you.

Immanuel didn’t just come to sympathize with us and hold our hand.  He also came to answer our questions and heal our pain.  He came to deal with the fear, evil, sin, and death that haunts every one of us.  In fact, it is Immanuel’s suffering on the cross that is His ultimate answer to all the suffering we face!  The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that there will be an end to suffering, pain, death, and loss!

 Psalm 30:5 reminds us this “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” 

Pain and suffering won’t last forever…there is an end to it.  God has handled it through the cross of Immanuel and through the resurrection of Immanuel.  In his time the reality of his “handling it” at His cross will show up in your life, but until that perfect timing, remember that He is with you and He is here for you!  So bring your questions, bring your grief, bring your pain, bring your hurt, and bring your loss…HE IS IMMANUEL, HE IS WITH US!

Dec 2, 2013

Christmas: Holy or Hectic?

If your family is anything like mine then the tree is already up, the lights have been hung, the gift shopping has begun, and the holiday weight has already rising.  Christmas is such an exciting time of the year with such rich and fun traditions that we always look forward to:  the music, the trees, the decorations, the cards, the special foods, and the anticipated time with family.

But Christmas can also be an extremely hectic time of year:  parties, presents, traffic, year-end deadlines, the spending, family, traveling, and yes, the holiday weight gain!  Suicides go up, debt goes up, blood pressure goes up, and weight goes up!  Though we look so forward to Christmas, we sometimes look equally forward to it ending.

I wonder, did Jesus really intend for his birthday to be this hectic?   Did he really intend for us as Americans to spend over $450 billion every year on Christmas?  Did He really intend us to eat more, travel more, stress more, spend more, and sleep less as we celebrate His birthday?

Did He really intend all of this or have we done it ourselves?

Many Christians focus all their energy during the Christmas season on the hectic traditions of Christmas and yet focus very little energy in comparison on the real meaning of Christmas:  Christ.  Is it any wonder why the “Politically Correct Police” are forcing people to not talk about Christ at Christmas?   Think about it, they are just asking us to do what we’ve already done in our celebration of Christmas:  make it about something other than Christ.

I want to challenge you and your family to do something this Christmas:  spend less time, less money, less thought, and less stress on the traditions of Christmas and focus more upon the reason for Christmas.  Think less about the gifts you are going to get and the gifts you are going to give and think more about The Gift He has given and about The Gift that He wants us to give our friends, neighbors, and family. 

2013 years ago a little baby boy was born quietly in a dirty, smelly manager.  There were no lights, no trees, no ornaments, and no eggnog…in fact very few people even noticed at the time.  His name was Jesus the Messiah.  He was “God with Us.”  He came, lived, died, and lived again so that you and I could have the greatest gift God ever gave:  eternal life.  That’s Christmas…simple, powerful, and eternal.