Saturday, July 4, 2015

We might have missed the "head fake"

If you ever read Randy Pausch's book "The Last Lecture," you might remember the "head fake," he talked about - the loud distraction that draws your eyes away from the bigger thing at hand.

I think it's possible some of us missed the head fake that took place last week.

While everyone was up in arms about gay marriage, they missed the fact that adultery and fornication continue to be far more pervasive threats to the health of the church.

You want to get a cheer? Preach against gay marriage. You want to really feel the heat? Preach on adultery and fornication. Experience talking.

I have never been walked out on, had my wife physically threatened, personally grabbed by my coat and threatened in the assembly (during the Lord's Supper), yelled at in the church building, or made to feel the need to arm myself, due to a homosexual who disagreed with me (that's not to say it couldn't ever happen, but...).

But I have faced ALL (yes all, and more) of those things as a preacher from professing heterosexual Christians who hate what the Bible says about living in the sin of adultery.

I believe and teach that both are sin, and maybe one day I'll be threatened just the same with regard to teaching on homosexuality, but folks, many in the church have welcomed heterosexual adultery and fornication IN THE CHURCH for years without batting an eye.

I have friends who are gay, but I'll bet even they don't celebrate infidelity. And, thus far, not one of them has demanded I marry them and their partners or to place membership in the church and threatened my wife if I don't. Again, I'm not naive. People of all stripes might disagree and do any of those things, but thus far, a tremendously disproportionate amount of the negative responses I've gotten from my preaching have come from those who live in infidelity/adultery. I'm talking 99-1 disproportionate.

No, I don't agree with the SCOTUS decision at all. I believe it is a moral Pandora's box. But sometimes, while we are watching one thing so intently, we are ignoring not only what is, but what has been under our nose for a long time.

 If we've been guilty of silence on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage concerning those in THE WORLD (and I hardly think we have been), it has been my experience that we are far more guilty of compromising when it comes to the heterosexual infidelity that has cracked and devastated our families IN THE CHURCH.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The unique opportunity of suffering

Praise to God is acceptable in all seasons and circumstances of life.

It's just easier when things are going our way. 

Social media illuminates and amplifies our inclination to shout from the rooftops the glory and power of our awesome God when things are going our way, or when our relationship with God directly benefits us in a tangible way.

And this is not unrealistic. On more than one occasion, Jesus spoke of present, earthly reward as a result of following Him (see: Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; John 10:10, etc.). 

However, it seems to be not as often that people are inclined to praise the God of their adversity. "Praise God, I lost my job today." 

I wouldn't say we're guilty of anything, it's just an observation. I don't imagine God expects us to revel in our tragedies. However, I do know He expects us to affirm His goodness in spite of them. 

Job could echo Paul's words in Philippians 3:8, "I have suffered the loss of all things." Yet in spite of that adversity, and under the darkened shadow of lesser revelations, Job still affirmed the goodness of the Almighty, under Whose direction his suffering came (Job 1:21). He wasn't jumping for joy, but he was declaring that his anchor ran deeper than his troubles.

I'll admit, there have been times that I have cringed when I hear of people praising God in the good times. But this is based upon my perception of an imbalance, not because praising God for favorable circumstances is the wrong thing to do.

It is always right to praise God. So when it is easy, and comes natural, we are right to proclaim the goodness of our God, and the present joys of our faith. 

But we must know that it comes at a price. 

We draw a double-edged sword on ourselves when we disproportionately affirm our faith, that is to say, when we do it primarily good times. Praise to God for personal, earthly benefits is of little value to an unbeliever. 

Satan claimed that Job only praised God because of the "stuff" God blessed him with, and that, once removed from him, Job would turn and deny that same God. That spirit is still in the world around us. 

Many believe - especially in the health and wealth culture of modern Christendom - that followers only follow because of what they can "get," and that, if but a few negative things happened, many would abandon their faith. And you know, they are right. 

Many then and now follow Jesus for the food, but don't stick around for the teaching, the hard stuff. Critics know this, can expose the hypocrisy of it easily, and can smugly go back to their lives without God, because the way they see it, they have about as much faith as those who tout God's goodness while receiving good things, but remain silent when trouble comes. That faith is as good as no faith.

When we affirm our trust in God under the crushing weight of suffering, there is nothing to expose, nothing to argue against. At that point, the critic can dismiss it as insanity, but even critics know this is an uphill battle. Few people want to be known as the one who criticizes a sufferer's faith. 

Unlike proclaiming God's goodness when in wealth and health, when one proclaims God's goodness in poverty and illness - yea, even in the face of death itself - it has a certain effect on the heart of those who are witness to it. It bears the marks of authenticity. 

Hypocrisy and authenticity are oppositely charged magnets. People are repelled by hypocrisy, but they are always drawn to authenticity. When we suffer, we are given opportunity to demonstrate the authenticity of our faith. 

Good times, by contrast, do not afford this same opportunity. After all, who wouldn't praise God when things are going their way? People are skeptical of it. They smell hypocrisy, even if it isn't. 

We are right to proclaim God's goodness, all the time, because He is always good. But let us remember that it is when we are under the weight of suffering that we have been given, not only an adversity, but a special opportunity to lead others to the Anchor of our soul.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Random Acts of Poetry: I am a Christian

A Haiku (5-7-5 syllable poem) about my faith. Westernized by stacking, telling a story, and adding rhyme :) 

Hope you enjoy.

I am a Christian.
So am I better than you?
No, that can’t be true.

I am a Christian.
So, your sins are worse than mine?
No, not in God’s mind.

I am a Christian.
Do I now know everything?
No, I’m not Divine.

I am a Christian.
Am I that diff'rent from you?
No, I need grace too.

I am a Christian.
The difference may seem slight.
No, that is not right.

I am a Christian.
So, what is the difference, then?
Jesus is my friend.

I am a Christian.
The gap between us is great;
Bridged but by His grace.

(c) 2015 Rick Kelley