Monthly Archives: June 2013

Stoning Paula Deen

Paula Deen is a terrible person who doesn’t deserve anything good in life. At least, that is the conclusion one might draw from listening to our national discourse after her confession and subsequent apology for using the offensive “N” word in a conversation that took place some 20-or-so years ago. The fallout for Deen has been significant. Walmart, Target, and other retailers are removing Paula Deen’s products from their inventory. The Food Network will not renew their contract with Deen. And, if that wasn’t enough, a significant number of Americans are having a field day casting stones at this woman and celebrating her professional downfall as if she was the very manifestation of Satan himself.

Those who know me well know that I am no fan of political correctness (PC). PC, in my opinion, is contributing to the ruin of our society. With that said, I find the “N” word horribly offensive. This piece is in no way intended to defend Deen’s use of the word; I find that disturbing and disappointing. However, I am disgusted and angered by the vitriolic reaction of many of my fellow Americans and the business partners that have cast Deen aside as if she were poison. I’m disgusted and angered, but I’m also saddened, for many of my fellow Americans who are dancing in the streets over Deen’s professional downfall profess to be Christians. This piece is for them.

God teaches us through His Word that we are equal with one another in one very important aspect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). In the context of the Paula Deen controversy, the Bible tells us that Paula Deen is no better than any of us, and we are no better than Deen, either. The playing field here is completely level; each of us is a sinner and each of us falls short of God’s glory. Was Deen’s use of the “N” word a sin? I believe it was. Because she sinned in this manner is she a lower person in God’s ranking than me? I believe the Bible tells us she is not.

Jesus gave us an example of how we Christians should respond to an individual caught in transgression:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11)

Look what happens here: A woman, caught in a sin considered particularly egregious, is brought before the Pharisees. The Pharisees, in an attempt to trap Jesus with a trick question, cite Old Testament law as they state their intention to stone her. Instead of answering their question directly, Jesus levels the playing field, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, her accusers drop their stones and walk away. Does this mean that Jesus thinks the woman’s sin was “OK”? Of course not! This was a lesson in pride; a lesson in humility. Jesus’ parting words to this woman are also very important, “Go now and leave your life of sin,” (italics added for emphasis).

As Christians, we know that the way we live our lives testifies to who we truly are and what we truly believe. Our life is our witness, and people draw conclusions about us based on what we put on display. More importantly, people draw conclusions about God based on what we who profess Christ display in our daily living. Our response and reaction to Deen’s use of the “N” word is an opportunity for Christian witness. The worldly response is to dog pile; tear her down; rip her to shreds then dance in the streets as she fades into the background. Sadly, many Christians have chosen that response.

I believe that the Bible teaches a different response for the Christian. We acknowledge her sin, just as we acknowledge our own. But then we forgive her sin, just as God forgives her sin and our sins. And, in the words of Jesus, we say, “Go and sin no more.”

Before I pick up a stone to cast at Deen I must look in the mirror and examine myself. I quickly see that I am no better than she is. And, fellow Christian, neither are you.

“Prophet” for Profit? ~ Acts 8:9-25

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! Acts 8:20

Simon the Sorcerer’s world was rocked when the apostles arrived in Samaria. Proclaiming himself as someone great, he amazed people with his magic to the point where people referred to him as being the “Divine Power” (8:10).

When the people responded to the Gospel preached by the apostles, things began to change. Noticing that believers received the gift of the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them, Simon wanted in on the action, for he saw profits instead of promise. Simon offered the apostles money in exchange for giving him the ability to convey the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money.” (8:20). Peter then advises Simon to pray to the Lord for forgiveness; Simon asked Peter to pray for him. Perhaps Simon realized that his motives were not proper.

God doesn’t want my money; He wants my sincere love and devotion. He wants me to focus my attention on Him, not on the material distractions of the world. The Gospel is about winning people for Jesus, not about gaining position for myself. It is about eternal life, not about temporal profit. My ministry must be about Him, not about me. God has brought me a long way on my faith journey, but I still have much maturing to do. I pray that God, in His mercy, will continue to mold and nurture me into the man, husband, father, and servant that He would have me be.

Ponder this: Are my motives for all that I do honorable to God?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of faith. Help me to share my faith through all that I do, all that I say, through all that I am. Bless me when my motives are pure and correct me when they are not. My hope is to always honor You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Using Evil for Good ~ Acts 8:1-8

And Saul was there, giving approval to his (Stephen’s) death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1

Saul first appears on the scene in this passage, giving his approval to Stephen’s stoning and initiating a wholesale persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem. As a result, “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (8:1) I am always amazed and encouraged when God turns something negative into something positive in support of His will. In this situation, the persecution of the church scattered the disciples of Christ, effectively launching a worldwide ministry of the Word as Jesus said in Acts 1:8 “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

As the Sanhedrin questioned Peter and John in chapter 5 and contemplated putting them to death, one of the high priests admonished his brethren to leave them alone; if their work is of man it will fail, but if it is of God the Sanhedrin cannot defeat it. Here that admonishment plays itself out: Saul launches his persecution of the church, those sharing the Word scatter and the church grows as a result. How cool is that!! God will later convert Saul, who will become one of His most powerful witnesses.

Looking at our world today I sometimes get discouraged. I see many churches embracing worldly ideas that are inconsistent with God’s Word. I see morals and values inconsistent with God’s Word presented as normal and good on so-called family TV. I see a country in which civil discourse is often abandoned in exchange for non-productive personal attacks. I see all these things and my human nature begins to worry. Then I think about Saul – the great persecutor turned great preacher of the Gospel – and I remember that God can use all circumstances, good and bad, for the furtherance of His kingdom.

Ponder this: With God, nothing is impossible no matter how dark or dreary circumstances may appear. What worries me? Why not turn that over to God today?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, no matter what I may face today, help me to never lose sight of You; of Your good and perfect will. Use me, Lord, to be a beacon in the darkness in service to You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Gifted by the Spirit ~ Acts 6:8 – 7:60

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”Then he fell on his kneesand cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. ~ Acts 7:59-60

Stephen was the first Christian martyr. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen preached and performed miracles. Certain Jews rose up against him and reported him to the Sanhedrin, presenting their case with trumped up charges supported by false witnesses.

English: St Stephen (detail), painting by Giac...

English: St Stephen (detail), painting by Giacomo Cavedone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The final stated charge against Stephen is “For we have heard him (Stephen) say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place (the temple) and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” (6:14). Stephen addresses the final charge directly: “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my home and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? Says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’ (7:48-50). After telling the high priests that they are just like those who came before them – they reject the Holy Spirit and killed the Righteous One: “And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (7:52b-53). This so infuriated the high priests that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him until he breathed his last.

It is clear that Stephen spoke under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit: As the charges were presented, “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (6:15) After answering the charges, Stephen said “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (7:56) Stephen’s words, spoken between these affirmations from God, are truly those of God Himself. This was not Stephen speaking; it was God speaking through Stephen.

There are many examples in Scripture of God gifting ordinary people to equip them to do His will, all the way from Moses to Stephen and beyond. God’s purpose will be accomplished, and He will continue to use ordinary people to accomplish it. Think about that. Even in today’s world that in many ways actively rejects God’s precepts, God’s Will will ultimately prevail. And as God rolls out His perfect plan, He will continue to equip His people with the gifts we need in order to serve Him.

Was Stephen brave before the Sanhedrin? Yes; but not of his own accord. Praise God for His amazing, incredible, and powerful gift of the Holy Spirit.

Ponder This: Whose will do I seek? Whom do I serve? How will God use me in achieving His good and perfect will?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, you have a plan and I believe I have a role in fulfilling Your plan. Show me. Inspire me. Gift me. Guide and direct my footsteps that I might be an effective witness for you. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

These Dogs are Barkin’!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I confess. I am a huge fan of Del Griffith. Del Griffith? You know, the shower curtain ring guy played by John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

One of the character traits that impresses me most about Del is his “take it as it comes” approach to life. A widowed traveling salesman with no permanent home (“I haven’t been home in years,” he says), Del experienced tragedy in his life at the loss of his beloved wife. That loss placed the daily inconveniences of life into proper perspective for Del. As a traveling salesman, life’s inconveniences often manifest themselves in the form of travel delays. Diverted from Chicago to Wichita, KS during Thanksgiving week, Del meets cynical marketing executive Neal Page, played by Steve Martin.  Together the two are the epitome of yin and yang; Del’s glass is half full while Neal’s is slightly less than half empty.

I travel on business regularly, and today was one of those Murphy’s Law travel days. And, like Del, “I’m just rolling with the flow, like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream.”

Or am I? For me, today was a travel day in which much went wrong, starting with a thunderstorm perfectly timed to delay my early morning departure from DFW airport and ending with a departure delay of just over an hour headed home from Corpus Christi. How did I handle it? Did I “roll with the flow like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream” or did I get frustrated and let my frustration show to those around me? Was I a Del Griffith or was I a Neal Page? Was I a discourager or was I an encourager?

Blogging at 34,000 feet

Blogging at 34,000 feet

To be honest, I was a little of both. Neal Page would be proud of my Facebook posts from this afternoon. Rather than reassure my family and friends that these travel delays were no big deal and all would be fine, I posted items designed to drag people into my pit of travel misery to wallow there with me. After all, why wallow alone? However, as the cynical approach began to weigh me down I decided to change my tactics. I met eyes and exchanged smiles with my fellow passengers. I made a TSA agent laugh as I caught her making fun of the way I dumped my backpack onto the security conveyor – classic Del Griffith.

"These dogs are barkin'!"

“These dogs are barkin’!”

Life is short. It’s far too short to live as a cynic. Cynics are too busy being cynical to enjoy the curveball moments life throws at us every once in awhile. Life threw me some curveballs today. The Neal Page in me whiffed a few, and the Del hit a few solid singles. For now, I’m enjoying the lightening show playing for me outside my airplane window as the twin Rolls Royce engines on this Embraer jet (it’s amazing what you learn from listening to flight attendant Tom’s in-flight announcements) whisk me home to the DFW Metroplex.

“These dogs are barkin’!” They are, indeed, but they’re happy now. Thanks, Del. Maybe I’m on the right track.

“Called by the Spirit” ~ Acts 6:1-7

“Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:3-4

The passage in Acts describes a dispute that arose in the early church between Jews of Grecian descent and those of Hebrew descent. The Grecian Jews complained that their widows were not included in the daily distribution of food. The apostles directed them to select seven men full of the Holy Spirit to take ownership of this issue as the apostles focused on prayer and the ministry of the word. Seven spirit-filled men were selected; Stephen among them, and the issue was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. By enabling the group to address this on their own, with the apostles’ blessing, the church maintained its course.

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Holy Spirit’s presence in the early church was key to its growth and success, for without the Spirit the apostles may have been tempted to lose focus by taking on this issue themselves. The apostle Paul writes, “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28) A senior pastor and several pastors who each oversee a different aspect of the church’s ministry staff our church in Keller. While the senior pastor takes “center stage” each Sunday as he preaches God’s Word to us, each of the associate pastors are working behind the scenes and fulfilling critical roles. The Holy Spirit, I believe, appoints each of them, and each of them needs the prayer support of the entire church family.

Of course, not all churches are staffed with multiple pastors. Whether led by one pastor or many pastors, the Holy Spirit gifts each of us as well. God wants every believer to be engaged with His family; the church is one place at which we do that. The church is where we go for instruction, for blessing, for encouragement, and for nurture. But it is also the place where we, each in our own way, is a source of instruction, blessing, encouragement and nurture to fellow believers. Hearing God’s Word preached each week and giving and receiving instruction, blessing, encouragement and nurture equips us to go into the world and fulfill Christ’s command, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Each of us is gifted and each of us is called. Let’s go serve the Lord.

Ponder this: Am I actively participating in the ministry of a local church? Am I using the gifts God has given me to offer instruction, blessing, encouragement and nurture to my church family according to my gifts? Is there something God wants me to do?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am guilty of letting the world take center stage and thereby distract me from using my gifts in your church. Forgive me, and help me to reprioritize my time so that I may most effectively serve you and my fellow believers. I pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Merry Christmas, Fellow Texans!

I have long been frustrated with the militant atheists who insist on removing any acknowledgement or mention of religious tradition from public places. Not only do they desire to not practice religion (which is their right), they don’t want anybody else to, either – at least not in public (which is my right).

My frustration is not with their taking a position; it is with our courts that have supported their position. The Constitutional question of what “freedom of religion” means has been twisted out of sync with our Founders’ original intent. The fact that the state does not sponsor a religion was not intended to preclude we citizens from practicing our religion and displaying symbols of our religion in the public places paid for by our tax dollars. Unfortunately, some judges, choosing to legislate from the bench, disagree with that interpretation. Their rulings have effectively moved our country towards the state-sponsored religion of Atheism.

The judicially sponsored religion of Atheism has reduced many Americans to such silliness as erecting “holiday trees” in our schools, changing “Christmas break” to “winter break”, and narrowing the choice of music for the school choir concert to secular winter tunes. Many Americans are even afraid to greet their neighbors with a cheery “Merry Christmas” for fear of persecution.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankfully, my great state of Texas has taken a stand against such silliness in the form of legislation passed last week. Dubbed the “Merry Christmas” bill, it passed easily in the Texas House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Perry last Thursday. Our new law protects Texans and Texas schools from legal action stemming from the display of religious symbols. Symbols of all religions enjoy equal protection under this law, which I believe is consistent with the intent of our Founding Fathers as they drafted our Constitution.

Some will attack this bill as trivial. Others will say that Texas has taken a step backwards from the so-called “progress” that the anti-religious segment of society believes they’ve achieved. Me? I applaud my legislature and my governor for defending our Constitutional rights when our Federal courts and Federal legislature have failed to do so.

I can’t wait for December 25. It will be a Merry Christmas in Texas, indeed!

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