Identity Crisis

(NOTE: This is a sermon I preached on Thursday, July 27, 2017 for Empowerment Church during their Summer Revival Series. It is a sermon to the Church in the United States).

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In her book, The Great Emergence (2008), religion expert Phyllis Tickle[1] writes, “About every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale.”[2] In other words, every 500 years or so, the Church goes through a time of significant change and reinvents herself. Ms. Tickle argues that we are “living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales.”[3] Approximately 500 years ago (the 1500s) the Church went through The Great Reformation. Five-hundred years before that (1000 years ago), the Church went through The Great Schism. Five-hundred years before that (1,500 years ago, the 6th century) was the Fall of the Roman Empire and The Dark Ages. Go back another 500 years, and you are in the time of Christ and the birth of the Church.

Here argument is compelling, but I do not share her optimism! Ms. Tickle believed that out of the dizzying upheaval, we are presently in, would emerge a stronger, and healthier, Church. I hope she is right. I have my doubts. But the verdict is still out. However, I do find comfort in Jesus’ words to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:17-18). Continue reading

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Civility

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)

That’s a simple, straightforward verse, is it not!

It is really easy to read.

It is not really easy to follow.

Our society has become progressively less civil to one another. Does anyone disagree with that statement? If so, explain your reasoning.

Like so many things, Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said, “Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.”

Well, maybe Jesus said it better then Mr. Franklin. Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

Since the 2016 elections, it seems we have lost all civility with one another, especially with people with which we disagree.

All of this incivility came to a head (bad choice of words) when comedian Kathy Griffin held a bloody head of President Trump. Most people, including conservatives and liberals, believed she went to far. Ms. Griffin has paid a hefty price for her error in judgment. (In the picture below, I have chosen to blot out the image of President Trump.)

It should be pointed out, however, that Kathy Griffin is not the first person to “kill” a president.

During the last episode of the first season of HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones, the severed head of President George W. Bush was on a spike in a row of heads of people executed by King Joffrey. The creators of Game of Thrones were forced to apologized and the scene was edited for future viewings. (I chose not to blot out President Bush’s head because it is a profile and not a complete image.)

Then, in 2014, the producers of the hit miniseries, The Bible, depicted a character of Satan that looked a lot like President Obama. (See Picture below.) Likewise, they were forced to remove that scene from the final version. (And the producers of that miniseries claimed to be evangelicals! I believed the entire miniseries should have been pulled because of this.)

 

Below (and to the right) is a cartoon from 1840, depicting President Van Buren as a kangaroo. I have no idea the point being made in the cartoon, but I assume, in that day, it was controversial.

We have always had a love / hate relationship with our politicians. But, since President Clinton was in office, three things have occurred to me:

  1. In each election cycle since President Clinton, incivility has gotten worse. I didn’t think any president could be treated worse than President Clinton, but then President Bush came along and he was treated worse then President Clinton. I thought after President Obama was elected things would get better. But nope! President Obama was treated worse then President Bush. Now we have President Trump. I hate to admit it, but he is being treated even worse. This brings me to my second observation.
  2. Our incivility toward our leaders has bled over into how we treat each other. The hatred, and the hostility, and the down-right meanness I have witnessed, is unbelievable to me. We no longer know how to debate honorably and agree to disagree. We are now, officially, an angry people. (Maybe not you personally, but our society as a whole has become angry.) This brings up a third thing I have observed, and this is the most troubling to me.
  3. Those who claim to follow Jesus, have been some of the most uncivil people I know. (Again, not you personally, but as a whole.) As Christians, we should know better. We should be known for our love and compassion, not our hateful, judgmental attitudes. We can do better than that. We must do better than that!

Now, more than ever, we, followers of Jesus Christ, need to lead by example and Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

 

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Two Observations

While I have changed a lot of my thinking over the years, I still consider myself to be a conservative when it comes to my theology. My views on a lot of social issues, however, are considered liberal by most of my conservative friends. So, I find myself in an odd position. My liberal friends think I am too conservative and my conservative friends think I am to liberal. I am a man without a country.

The reason I bring this up is because of something I have noticed over the last few years. As I have become more and more involved in social justice issues, I find myself rubbing shoulders more and more with mainline denominations. For some reason, there are very few evangelical churches actively involved in issues that are important to me. Furthermore, when my church needs help with the ministries we are involved in, more often then not, the churches that are willing to help are mainline, instead of evangelical. Continue reading

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The First Time I Saw Her

The first time I saw her, I was 15 and she was 14. It was the first day of a new school year. My attraction to her was immediate. Several weeks later we were an “item.” In November of that school year, I got my driver’s license. It was a Thursday. On Saturday we went on our first date. We went to a Mexican restaurant on White Bridge Road, and a Vanderbilt basketball game. I don’t remember who they played. It didn’t matter. I don’t remember what I ate, but she did not eat all her meal. She asked if I wanted to finish her meal. At that moment I knew it was true love. I have been eating off her plate ever since. That was 1981.

We got married on Friday, May 15, 1987. This Monday we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. In about an hour from now, we are leaving on a weekend trip to the place we spent our first night together. My bride, Misty, has stood by my side every day since our first date 35-plus years ago. Along the way we have raised two beautiful kids, that are now adults. In my mind, Misty is still the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. When I look at her, I see the same 20 year young girl I married. She is my soulmate. The love of my life.

Here’s to 30 more years together.

I love you.

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A Number I Cannot Ignore

I am not a numbers person. The truth is, I am not a detailed person at all. I think big picture and get lost in the minutia of particulars. But there is one number that I simply cannot ignore. I have tried and tried to get this number out of my mind. I have tried and tried to let it go and move on to other things. But I can’t. This particular number is driving my crazy because I can’t wrap my mind around it. This number has made me question many things I have believed my entire life.

What is that number, you ask?

Here it is: Continue reading

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We Can Do Better

Late, last Thursday afternoon (May 4th), I was contacted by a friend of a friend to see if our church’s community center could be used the next day (Friday, May 5th) for a press conference about the negative effects the new healthcare plan could have on people in poverty and with pre-existing conditions. I agreed, and so plans were put together. On Friday morning, I was contacted again and asked if I could take 2-4 minutes and talk about poverty in our city. I agreed to do so. Below is the statement I made and read about poverty in Franklin, TN. Continue reading

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Easter Blues

My intention is for this post to be encouraging…I promise…but before I get to the encouraging part, I need to let you in on a secret that pastors try to keep quiet. That secret is that many of us dread Easter Sunday.

We don’t dread Easter. We love the resurrection story. We have given our lives proclaiming the resurrection story. We believe, with all our hearts, that every Sunday is Easter. So, we don’t dread Easter. We dread Easter Sunday.

Why? Continue reading

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