Church Pew Bar Stool Response

Clayton Jennings has created an emotionally stirring video that condemns the church in several ways.  I invite you to watch the video, and then read my response.

Here is the video. Go watch and then come back.  I’ll wait.

First of all, he misunderstands the purpose of “church.”  Church is not a Dairy Queen that hopes people come in so they can make them feel good.  The New Testament church is the “Ekklesia” or “called out assembly.”  This means it is a group of people who have been called OUT of the world to assemble together as believers for the purpose of worshiping God together, encouraging each other, educating each other, and helping one another become more like Christ.  Church is not a place for unsaved people to go to feel like they are a better person. And the unbelievers that DO come to church should totally feel like there is something missing in their lives, because there is. They should feel WORSE about themselves because they should have just been confronted with the knowledge that they are a sinner who will one day answer to God for their sin, and unless they accept the sacrifice Christ made for them, they will pay the full penalty for that sin. Without Christ, they should leave church terrified.  If unbelievers are going to church and leaving with a “feel-good” attitude, they’re going to the wrong church.  They’re going to a church that is being nice to them all the way to Hell.

Secondly, this man went to ONE church in his life and left unsatisfied from that one encounter based on his perception of people’s reaction to him going to church smelling like booze. He didn’t even get verbal condemnation, he based his entire perspective on his own perception of other people’s looks.  I challenge you to go to a gathering anywhere (except a bar obviously) reeking of booze and get a better reaction than that.  Walk into a family style restaurant smelling like pig barn and see if you get looks of disgust.  I bet you do, and I bet the people there aren’t actually judging you, they just don’t like the smell.

But back to my main point here: he went to ONE church ONCE in his whole life, and has decided he’s never going back. That’s dumb. That’s like saying, “Well, I went to Taco Bell and didn’t like it, so I’m never eating Mexican food again.” No, actually that’s more like saying, “Well, I went to Taco Bell and didn’t like it, so I’m never eating at a restaurant again. They have bad food at restaurants.” Try a different church, dude. Try going when you don’t reek of booze.

Then Mr. Jennings says, “He felt more love and acceptance on a bar stool than he did in a church pew.” Of course he did. That’s because sinners love being around other people who are doing the same sins. They don’t like being around people who don’t have the same sins.  If you are a Colts fan are you going to be more comfortable in a room of Colts fans or a room of people who dislike Colts fans (say…Patriots fans)? If you’re a drunk are you going to be more comfortable with other drunks or with people who traditionally believe that being drunk is wrong?  Of COURSE he felt more acceptance in the bar.  But we don’t go to church to have our sins endorsed, but pointed out. And that brings me to my next point.

Yes, Jesus hung out with drunkards, but by doing so He wasn’t ENDORSING their drunkenness. When asked why He hung out with drunks and not with “good” people, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He called the drunks “sick” because they needed to stop getting drunk and follow Him. I’m tired of this idea (Jesus hung out with sinners) being used as a blanket statement that Jesus somehow endorsed the sins they were committing. That somehow He was OK with their sin.  The adulterous woman is a frequent example.  People say, “Jesus didn’t condemn that woman!” To which I say, “You’re right, He didn’t.  But what did He say?  Go and sin no more.”  He said (in effect), “I’m not going to condemn you for your sin, but knock it off. Stop doing it.” He didn’t condemn her because He loves her, but He pointed out the fact that she WAS INDEED sinning because He loved her. See? Pointing out sin does not mean we aren’t being loving.
“Showing love to the rest of the world” does not mean “being nice to people.” Love is sometimes hard. Love hurts sometimes, because love means doing what is best for someone else, and when I see someone behaving in a self-destructive way, the loving thing to do is point it out to them.  If my sister became a heroin addict, I would do everything in my power to convince her to stop, even if that meant doing things that were not “nice” like holding an intervention, putting her in rehab, etc.  Love is doing what is best, not what is nicest.

Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love FOR ONE ANOTHER.” He was talking to His disciples there.  In other words, our love for our fellow believers. To leave off those three words is to change the words of Christ into a statement that seems to mean “they will know you are Christians because you are nice to everybody” which is NOT what Christ was saying.

Mr Jennings twice used the phrase “beating people over the head with a Bible.” What exactly does this mean? Not once in my life have I ever beat someone with a Bible. I have quoted verses appropriate to the situation (as he did in this video), as Christ has given me the example that I should do, and maybe to someone who is not right with God that feels like “beating over the head” but I give them the Word out of love, not to “beat them over the head.”
Now, what I thing Mr. Jennings was trying to say is that people in church need to stop looking at newcomers with scorn, disgust, etc.  I understand that point.  But I can tell  you that the first church I ever joined (at the age of 16) welcomed me in when I was NOT like them.  I had long hair.  I wore inappropriate clothes to church (usually jeans, a jean jacket, tennis shoes, t-shirt).  My parents smoked, so I usually reeked of cigarette smoke. And yet the people in that little fundamentalist Baptist church loved me and accepted me.  They pointed out the areas where I was wrong, and with God’s help, eventually my inside became more like Christ.  And when my inside cleaned up, eventually I cleaned up on the outside too.

But twisting the Word of God and throwing a blanket condemnation over the church of Jesus Christ is not the way to do that.  The video leaves you with the feeling that the problem is NOT that the man is rejecting God, that he is basing his entire view of God on ONE HOUR with a room full of people who claim to know God, that he didn’t even give God’s people a fair chance by even cleaning up before showing up (like you would if you were going anywhere in public that wasn’t Wal Mart).

Church people, we should be kind to visitors, no matter what they look like.  We should welcome them in and help them.  But our goal should NOT be to make them feel good about themselves and their personal choices, as Mr. Jennings seems to indicate.  Our goal is to help them see the fact that they are lost and headed for an eternity of punishment unless they ask God to forgive their sins.  Only THEN will they feel acceptance from God and peace with God.
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Stranger Fathers

A friend recommended this show on Netflix, “Stranger Things.” I was a little hesitant because one website listed the show as “horror” and I don’t do horror. But then I read an article which referred to it as “sci/fi suspense thriller” so I decided to watch it.

Well I can say this, the show reminds me of several old movies from the 1980’s: ET, Stand By Me, The Goonies, etc. I enjoyed watching most of it (there were a few parts I fast-forwarded through…for instance, I don’t need to watch teenagers making out).
However, there was one thing I noticed, and I don’t know if it was done on purpose, or if it was accidental, but it bothered me.

There isn’t one good father in the entire series.

Here’s the list of characters whose fathers are mentioned or shown:

Will and Jonathan Byers: this guy is a real piece of work. He is selfish, neglectful, he attempted to use his own son’s abduction for financial gain, he
Eleven: Yes, I know Dr. Brenner isn’t her “real” father, but she treats him as such. He’s an evil man who asks her to do evil things.
Nancy and Mike’s dad: this guy isn’t bad per se, but he is standoffish, milquetoast, and acts like he’d rather be doing anything else the entire show.
Steve’s dad leaves his troubled son home alone for days, and is described by Steve in such a way that we understand he is not a nice person.

Just about the only father that could be seen as a “good father” is Chief Hopper, whose daughter died of cancer before the show started, and he has now divorced his wife and sleeps with random women and has a substance abuse problem.

Contrast this with the mothers:
Will’s mom believes in him and stops at nothing to show her love for him and his brother Jonathan.
Eleven’s (presumed) mother has been in a comatose state as she mourns the loss of her baby daughter over ten years ago.
Nancy and Mike’s mom: she’s there for her kids, taking them places, showing an interest in their lives, having the hard conversations, and helping them.

The only mom that could be called “not good” was Barb’s mom, who didn’t seem to care that Barb was missing.

Fathers are needed. Fathers are necessary. And we need good examples of fathers in the shows and movies we watch. Here’s to hoping that season two of Stranger Things has a few good dads.

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God is Good All the Time

There were two accidents on Interstate 80 this weekend.  On Sunday a missionary couple and their three children were driving through Nebraska headed to Colorado for training before going to Japan, when a distracted semi truck driver slammed into their minivan killing them almost instantly. Another driver also died.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Illinois on Monday there was another accident involving three semis and a car.  Two people in the car died as did someone from one of the semi trucks.

A friend of mine was driving on the same road in Illinois, and stated that the accident happened just behind him and his wife in their car.  Someone commented and seemed to indicate that their safety was proof that God was watching over them.   I too am very glad that God protected them, but it made me think.

Do we only think God is “watching over us” when good things happen to us?  Was God not watching over the missionary couple in Nebraska?   I submit that He was.  God loves that family, and He loves my friend as well. The outcomes of their respective travels this weekend are in no way an indication of the level of God’s care for or attention to their well-being.

I’m going to say something, and you may want to write it down.  Get a pencil.  I’ll wait.

Here it is:   The amount of God’s love for you cannot be determined by the good or bad things that happen in your life.

For us Christians, God loves us and has a perfect plan for us.  This plan does not always go the way WE think it should.  Sometimes that plan includes fire, flood, storm, death, sickness, tragedy, and sorrow.  No matter if we are rich or poor, sick or healthy, happy or sad, God is still in charge, and His will is still the best possible place for us to be, even if it doesn’t seem best to us.

Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”   He doesn’t say “Rejoice in the Lord when things are going your way” or “Rejoice in the Lord when you agree with God’s choices.”  It says “always.”   Remember that today.

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The Ultimate Trump Card: The Insider Masquerading as an Outsider

I turned on the TV to see the GOP convention being broadcast on most channels. I read how the GOP establishment crushed the grassroots attempt to change the rules for 2020. And I see all the Trump Cultists cheering and celebrating their candidate’s victory over the conservatives.  Trump, the candidate lauded by many as the “outsider” who would work against the establishment, is now unabashedly PART of the establishment, and is suppressing all dissent, just like he accused the GOP of doing to him for the past several months.  Trump was never an outsider. He has always been an insider, it’s just that before he was the power behind the throne (money and influence) and now he’s the front man.

And watching the show in Cleveland, even though I’m not a Republican anymore, I’m angry. I’m angry at those Republicans who have continued the failed tactic of electing the most liberal candidate on the roster. They did it in 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2012, and now they’ve done it in 2016.

I heard someone on the radio this morning talking about how the #NeverTrump movement is all but dead now since Trump is going to get the nomination. They only display their ignorance, in that the point behind “NeverTrump” is not “Never nominate Trump” but is instead “Never vote for Trump.” He’s an immoral, ungodly, narcissitic blowhard, and he’s not qualified to be President, no matter how much worse Hillary Clinton is. And I’m not even sure she is.

They’re both horribly unqualified, but every Presidential election they do this: let’s pick the two worst possible choices and then tell people they MUST choose between the two. Would you like a turd burrito or a crap sandwich? Those are your only choices.

I for one will sit this one out. I will not be a part of the destruction of the country that I have loved all my life. May God have mercy on us.

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Why I am #NeverTrump

FB_IMG_1467540876520I have heard the voices of my conservative Christian friends, telling me that I should vote for Trump so Hillary doesn’t win. I would like to respond one last time to let these, my brothers and sisters, know why I am not voting for Donald Trump.

First let me say that I love each of these people as a brother or sister in Christ, and though we may disagree on this issue, in 50 years we are going to be in the same place and we’ll be in total agreement at that point on who our governmental leader should be (Jesus Christ).

I understand that the next President will pick several supreme court justices. I understand that welfare is out of control.  Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813) said, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”   

I think we’ve already passed that point, and I firmly believe that the best days of the United States of America are behind us. This is because there are too many selfish people in our country who have decided that they are going to vote for whoever promises them the most stuff, and not whoever can fix the problems we have.  It’s the NIMBY principle (Not In My Backyard) where people don’t have a problem with evil occurring, so long as it doesn’t affect them.

And so I’m faced with the choice of voting for one of two people who stand against almost everything I believe in.  One of these people (Hillary) is definitely evil, in that I believe she has had a personal hand in murdering people who get in her way, she’s corrupt, she’s as liberal as Obama, and I believe that she would destroy our country.  The other person (Trump) is evil in the sense that he is a hedonist.  He lives solely for himself.  He has never admitted to making a mistake (at least not that I could find), and therefore he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.  He says whatever is expedient, whatever gets him the result he wants.  When someone changes their story as many times as Trump has, I have to ask myself, “How can I trust him when he says he’s going to do this or that?”  How can I trust that he’s going to stand for second amendment rights?  How can I trust him to appoint good justices? How can I trust him to keep ANY of the positions that he now claims to hold? I understand that you’re saying I should vote for Trump because Hillary definitely won’t do what is right and Trump might do what is right. But from what I have seen of Trump I don’t think he WILL do what is right.

Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits,” and while that verse is referring specifically to false teachers, I believe the principle applies to government leaders as well. In the world of investing they say past performance does not guarantee future results, but it is usually a good indicator. It is well established that Trump has no morals.  He is a serial adulterer, has implied he’d like to sleep with his own daughter, and voting for a man as blatantly anti-God as Trump is not something I can bring myself to do.  I believe that voting for an immoral man like Trump can only reinforce our culture’s belief in “if it feels good, do it” and “whatever makes you happy is good.”I personally believe that the biggest manifestation of evil in our modern world is abortion. The fact that almost a million children are murdered in our country alone every year speaks to our health as a society. The fact that Trump supports Planned Parenthood says more about him in my mind than anything else. Actually, I believe it is entirely possible that this election, in which we have two ungodly people running for office, MAY be the Judgment of God on our nation for the murder of millions of children, among other things.

I shared a picture on Facebook yesterday that sums up my entire argument against voting for Trump. Basically it says that Jesus never told us that when faced with two evil choices, we should take the one that is less evil, because it’s a waste to do the right thing if nobody else is doing it.

I guess what I’m saying is that I understand my friends’ point about the numbers, and if I don’t vote for Trump this increases Hillary’s chances of winning because it means one less vote for the only person who can probably beat her. But what I’m trying to say, is that I don’t believe that voting for Trump is the right thing to do, and is only marginally less wrong than voting for Hillary. And so I will follow my conscience and, I believe, the Holy Spirit, in voting for neither of them. I am not answerable to God for the votes of the other three hundred and twenty million people in this country, I am only answerable for my choices. I think each one of us has to do what we believe God wants us to do in this situation.

Finally, no matter who is President next year, we should keep our focus on the fact that we are Christians first and Americans second.  I love my country, but I love my God more.  I get shivers when I hear the Star Spangled Banner, but if the American flag comes to represent tyranny and oppression, I will no longer pledge allegiance to it. While it is true that I am an American citizen,  just as Paul was a citizen of Rome, we are both citizens of Heaven, and as such I would like to follow his example  of putting my responsibility to God before my responsibility to my country. As Peter said in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

And so, no matter who wins in November, two facts will remain:
1. God is still in charge of the universe. The United States of America is not my God, and if this great experiment fails, it will not shake my faith in God.
2. I am here on Earth not to bring about a glorious age of holiness and justice, but to witness to others about what Christ has done for me and what he can do for them.

That is my duty and responsibility as an ambassador of Christ. I echo the words of Martin Luther, who said “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

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Orlando

I watched with sadness as the news unfolded yesterday from Orlando.  I was working night shift, so I was getting the text alerts from CNN in real time.  My first thought was “just another random shooting” because that’s what it seemed like at first.  People get shot every day by other people, and as sad as this is, it has become commonplace.  But as the news continued to update, I realized this was something different.

If you have been living in a cave for the past 32 hours, here’s the short version:  a Muslim man affiliated with ISIS went into a gay nightclub in Orlando and shot 102 people (we’re still fuzzy on the total number, it may change).  He was then shot by police.  49 of his victims have died so far.

I feel like I need to make some observations here.  First of all, it is a tragedy whenever one human kills another human.  I know that sometimes we get numb to all the killings that happen, and sometimes we have to kill humans who are intent on killing other humans (such as when the police killed the shooter in Orlando, or when we go to war [usually]).  Life is precious.  Each person only gets one.  That’s why I fight for the right of the unborn to live (because I believe they are human and they are alive). That’s why I think this news is so sad.

I feel like I need to say something here that should be obvious but is not, evidently.   Christians do not hate gay people.   I mean, yes, some individual Christians say stupid things or do stupid things or are just wrong. that’s because all Christians share one thing with all Muslims:  we’re all human, and we’re therefore fallible.  But by and large, on the whole, MOST of us don’t want to run out and kill people because they disagree with us.  I do not hate gay people.  I am perfectly willing to live among gay people and allow them the same rights and respect they allow me.  I am perfectly willing to live among Muslims also, under the same condition.  However, it boggles my mind that liberals are attacking Christians for “hating gays” when WE aren’t the ones killing gay people all over the world.

Those on the left in the US that say conservative Christians hate gay people because we don’t want to bake them a cake are just wrong.  We don’t want to be forced to express implicit approval of their lifestyle choice.  I don’t want to make this post about the fight between conservatives and liberals, but I felt I should point out the difference:

not baking a cake = disagreement.
killing you = hatred.

I think it’s horrible that this Muslim American killed a bunch of Americans.  Their sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with the tragedy of the situation, even though it may have factored in the shooter’s motive. It is not somehow “less-tragic” that they died because they were gay, and if you believe I think that way, you’re just wrong.  I think it’s horrible that Muslims all over the world are killing people (including gay people).  And it irritates me that some people (including the President) somehow refuse to understand that a majority of Muslims are in favor of killing gay people.

Here’s a fact that you can carve into stone, cross-stitch into a pillow,  or whatever craft thing is your deal:  A majority of Muslims want to kill people who disagree with them.

I know, not all Muslims feel this way, but a majority do.  It boggles my mind that liberals are attacking Christians for “hating gays” when WE aren’t the ones throwing gay people off buildings, stoning them to death, and hanging them because of their sexual preference. That is Sharia law, which is accepted by Muslims all over the world.

Christians do not hate gay people. We love them.  It’s because we love them that we speak out and try to tell them the truth found in the Bible.  Sometimes we do it wrong.  The Bible says we are to “speak the truth in love” and sometimes we neglect the last two words.

Why do we love gay people? Why do we love Muslims?  Because first of all, God loves them. Christ died for them.  And if we don’t show them, lovingly, that God wants them to turn from their sin and trust in Him, then they will die in their sins and go to hell.  And we don’t want that.  I’m not saying everybody that died yesterday went to hell, because I just don’t know.  Perhaps some of them WERE trusting in Christ. I don’t know.  But generally speaking, people trusting in Christ are not found at a gay bar at 2am on a Saturday night.

Imagine your brother is a heroin addict.  You know he’s making bad choices, and you know the danger he is in.  You try to help him see a better way, but ultimately the choice belongs to him.  That is exactly how I feel about gay people and Muslims: they need Christ.

The tragedy yesterday was not just that these people died, it was the fact that their window of opportunity for trusting in Christ was closed forever.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

This is a story I heard as a kid.  At the time I thought it was funny, mostly because at the end of the story the emperor willingly marched down the road completely naked. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s short, and you can read it here.

The basic story is this: the Emperor really liked clothes.  I mean a lot. He hired these two guys who said they made clothes so fine that people who were stupid or unfit for office couldn’t see them.  After they spend lots of time “weaving” the new clothes (which don’t exist), the emperor walks down the street wearing nothing at all.  Since the emperor didn’t want people to think he was stupid OR unfit for office, he said he could see the clothes.  The townspeople didn’t want to be seen as stupid, so they said they could see them as well.  And so it went until a little boy called out, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”  And then the townspeople finally admitted to themselves that it was a sham.  But the emperor kept acting like he was fully clothed.

I’ve talked to people like this recently.  They refuse to see the truth even when they are beaten over the head with it.  The whole idea that men are able to become women (or vice versa) is more ridiculous than a naked man claiming to be fully clothed.  People who claim that “animals are people too”.  i could go on.  The list of insane positions that otherwise intelligent people hold to is getting longer and longer.

But the only change to the story in modern times is this:  instead of the truth being revealed and accepted by all but a few, the person who announces the lie is ostracized and mocked.    If HCA were alive today, his story would end with the boy being shipped off to a boarding school to teach him the virtues of invisible clothes.

In the comic book “Civil War: The Amazing Spider Man #13 (2007),” Captain America said the following, “Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — “No, YOU move.” ”

Until I die, as long as I have breath in me to proclaim the truth to those who would hear it spoken, I’m going to keep shouting it as loud as I can:  He hasn’t got anything on!

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