Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Making Scripture fit your Worldly Model

Seems like so many people are trying to make scripture fit into their model or mantra of the month.  There are several, but one of those has to do with Jesus in Luke 15.  If we are to be accurate, Jesus told the parables in Luke 15.  He is not in them.  He makes comparisons between what is lost and found on earth and the measures that we go to in order to find it or him.  He noted the rejoicing in heaven when a sinner comes home.

Elsewhere Jesus does refer to himself as the Good Shepherd, so let’s walk this parable through as proffered by the meme with Jesus as the shepherd.  He leaves the 99 not in the safety of their sheep pen but in the wilderness.  Some recent translations say in the open country.  The meme presumes  that they are not in danger.

What does that mean?  The 99 have some skin in the game (ok, wool in the game) as well.  As per the scripture, the sheep have no speaking parts.  They are not personified in any way, but if we play along with the meme, they say, “But what about us?  Don’t we matter?”

The convoluted answer is of course the 99 still matter, but they are not in danger.  Not in danger? They are not without existential risk.  They risk the danger common to sheep.  Thieves and killers usually top the list.  That is to say, they are involved and have a stake in this rescue mission even though they were not forward deployed. 

Now let’s look at who is this one sheep?  If we keep fidelity with this parable and the other two in chapter 15, this sheep is lost.  In the greater context, the sheep is a sinner or rebellious.  The sheep needs to repent.  Let’s leave it in the original context.  The sheep is lost.

So, as we try to make the parable fit the BLM narrative, are we saying that black lives—black people—are all sinners?  Are they rebellious?  Are they lost?

So, it’s not about white privilege or racial profiling or the one being disenfranchised, but that black people are sinners?  That surely is not the intended meaning, is it?

Is it?

But we all have sinned, right?  Remember the word “all” is what got this controversy started.  Which lives mattered?  It is as if saying all lives matter detracted from saying black lives matter.  So, is the one a sinner or a black sinner, or just a sheep?

That’s the problem with trying to make scripture fit a human narrative.  Scripture is the lens, the paradigm through which we must view the world.  When we try to make scripture fit our thinking, we have succumbed to the tricks and tools of the Father of Lies.

This is nothing new.  Satan tempted Jesus by mixing God’s word with lies but Jesus didn’t fall for it.  We must know God’s word so well that we don’t jump on every bandwagon that glitters.

When people take God’s holy word and try to make it cute or catchy so as to fit their narrative, they mock God.  They want the disciples of the like and share kind that are not interesting in the truth but in going with the flow.  We have been conformed to the patterns of this world long enough.  It’s time for us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and know the truth that sets us free and not the glittery lies that enslave.

Read all of chapter 15, especially the third parable.  It brings home that it is about the love of our Father in heaven and the celebration that takes place when a sinner comes home.  Sheep, coins, and sons help tell the story but the story is about the love of the Father. 

One of the memes along the lines of Luke 15 that is currently at large, inquires if you remember Jesus in Luke 15.  If you do, you will remember that he narrates the parables.  But the meme entices you that if you don’t remember, here’s the summary.

Wrong answer!  If you don’t remember, don’t trust the summary.  Go read the scripture yourself.  Then listen to what is proffered and go back to the scriptures and search them to see if what’s presented has any fidelity to God’s word.  Get Berean.

I use personification frequently in my messages, but I read the scripture to the people first.  I challenge people who hear and ready my messages to search the scriptures.  Take my messages as a challenge to learn more.  Stay hungry for God’s word.

I could go on about trying to fit scripture into human causes or to trying to make what was proffered in parable somehow allegorical.  Instead, I will offer some scripture that might help with this issue of what lives matter.

It’s only fair that if I want you to jump off the fool’s gold bandwagon, I should give you someplace to land if you want biblical counsel as you consider your part in BLM or other worldly constructs.

Consider what is often called the Parable of the Bigger Barns.  It comes just a bit earlier in Luke’s gospel.  We won’t try to match characters with black people or white people.  There is no allegory here, but there is a question.

Are we rich towards God?

The man in the parable was super rich, super blessed, and super privileged.  He had it all and more was on the way, but what was he going to do with it?  He was going to build bigger barns to store it.

The rich man, sometimes referred to as the rich fool, did not know that this would be his last day on earth.  He thought only of himself when he considered his privilege and blessing and bounty, but his life would be judged by whether or not he was rich towards God with what he had.

Most of the time that means are we rich towards others.

The second place to turn is the Parable of the Talents.  Again, we don’t seek allegory.  We ask ourselves a question that is never asked by the master but answered by all three servants.

Instead of insisting that others repeat your mantra, insist that you live your life to the full so as to bring glory to God. 

Instead of insisting on our own way, let love govern and let our lives matter in those whom we reach.

Stop trying to fit God’s word into your model.  Let God show you truth and purpose and next steps. 

Seek him first and his kingdom and his righteousness, then see what he blessing he bestows upon you.  They might be exactly what your heart is calling your to do but the world is enticing you to abandon.

Know the voice of the Good Shepherd so you do not follow those who would lead you astray.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

If I took all the time I spent on Facebook

If I took all the time I spent on Facebook
And used it for something more
Would I lose my online connections
Or open other doors?

Could the world survive without my comments?
So much seems to be at stake
Between presidential politics
And ever vitriolic debate.

If I don’t post which lives matter
Do any matter at all?
If I don’t patrol the ongoing clatter
Through the cracks something will fall.

Can I live apart from the nonstop banter?
Does the absurd comment demand my immediate response?
If it’s not posted does it really matter?
Whose to turn it on or turn it off?

People say things ever so boldly
That in person they don’t embrace.
Some injustice brings bold words of broadcast
That they won’t say with you face-to-face.

Baseball and birthdays now come with video
And can be posted in a flash.
A welcome reprieve from the drama
Where opposing views must clash.

So what to do with this thing called Facebook
It has engulfed most every life.
Take it or leave it or a little of both
Either way there is a price.

Now reflect upon this premise
Not yet spoken in this rhyme
We are truly a blessed people
To have the time to be online.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Whatever you have, put it to work for the glory of God

If you are white and you feel that because of that you are privileged, then put that privilege to work for the glory of God.

If you are white and you believe that gives you advantage, then put that advantage to work at once to produce a return for your Master.

If you are white and you think that gives opportunity, then put that opportunity to work so that you will be known not by the color of your skin but by your love.

If you are white and believe that gives you superiority, you are not seeking God and his kingdom and his righteousness.

If you are white and believe that gives you the high ground automatically, you have ignored Christ’s purpose and example to serve.

If you are white and believe you have exclusive rights, you have entered the realm of the sanctimonious and fully deserve the scorn you evoke.

But if you are white and repent because you are white, you mock God.

If you are white and want to divest yourself of the way God made you, you are running from God.

If you are white and have advantage because of it and do not use that advantage to produce a return for God, you are the one talent servant—wicked and lazy.

If you think that the color of your skin makes your racist, you have been brainwashed.

If you think that the color of your skin makes your right or wrong in a situation, you are a disciple of the devil.  The father of lies has indoctrinated you.

If you think that the color of your skin governs your future, you are deterministic and your thoughts don’t matter.  You believe external factors control everything.

But if you are a child of God, born by the Spirit, your new nature governs.
If you are born anew, the Spirit that lives within you governs.

If you are a disciple of our Lord, Jesus Christ, being known by your love governs.

We don’t see a hungry black man.  We feed a man because we can.

We don’t see a white woman jumped by three black teens.  We step in to stop the violence against the helpless.

We don’t see three persons of color but greet three children of God.

We don’t see a Hispanic woman working three jobs a day, we bless the struggling mother with what we can.

We don’t see a white police officer attacking a subdued black fugitive.  We see authority overstepping its bounds and demand that it stops even at risk to our own safety and standing.

We see the color of each other’s skin, but reveal the condition of our own heart.

You don’t return hate for hate.  Love must govern. 

Until we address the condition of the human heart with the love poured out on the cross, we are just adding window dressing to the depravity of humankind.

Until we take what God has given us—skin color, physical build, money, time, possessions, wisdom, vision, skills, abilities, spiritual gifts, and the gospel—and put them to work at once for our Master, we should not expect progress.

The devil delights when the followers of Christ are deceived by seeking forgiveness for the color of their skin instead of the condition of their heart.

If I seek fairness but don’t’ have love, I am but a heartless rule maker.

If I desire equality but don’t have love, I redistribute for the moment and create inequality for the future.

If I seek to eradicate racism but don’t have love, I become a casualty in a war in which I don’t know who wounded me or you.

The answer is love.  The answer has always been love.  The command is to love one another so much that love becomes our identity.

If anything takes you off your course to love one another, kick it to the curb no matter how appealing its allure or how compelling its motif.

The world and its master seek to divide you so that you will be easy prey for his wiles.  The Lord of all creation desires you to be in one accord in his love. 

Do not be deceived.  Know your Master’s voice. 

Love one another.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Summer Soldiers and Part Time Patriots

The Summer Soldiers and Part Time Patriots have been called to active duty once again.  It’s Facebook duty but that’s where part-time patriots love to gather these days.

Now is the time for these part-time patriots to blame, renounce things over which we have no control, share trending thoughts and images, and make empty calls to action.  In a few months, their motivation will have given way to Forrest Gump memes and college football banter.

But amidst the trending fray of online boasts and battlefields of belittlement, I wish to say a word for the faithful servant.  This is the man or woman who starts and ends the day serving the Lord.  His or her actions often go unnoticed by many, but the Lord sees not only their deeds but their hearts.

My desire is to send them a note of encouragement as their selflessness is overlooked by the grandstanding of many with motivations unknown.  My prayer is that they are not swept up in the movement of the day, but continue the good deeds that God planned for them before the creation of the world.

My encouragement may seem out of step with the times but I offer it nonetheless.  Some will perceive it as working against their cause of the month.  Though the cause may be valid, some have been engaged in loving their neighbors long before the school shooting, public brutality and murder, or turning a blind eye to the lawlessness of many took center stage for a time.

Some pick up their cross daily and seek to serve the Lord by putting his words into practice as his faithful servants.  To them, I say well done in advance of the one Jesus has in store for them, and press on towards the goal.  They are not driven by fear, guilt, or the emotion of the day.

They serve in response to the love, mercy, and grace of our Lord.  Their tasks are always before them and they need not wonder if they have made a difference.  They bring glory to God and seek neither glory nor fame for their actions.

These are people who know their Master’s voice and do not listen to the voices of the world.

These are the people who awaken each day wondering what will they do with what God  gave them?  They see  their blessings and manifest the desire to bless others.

These are people who take the things that God has given them and put them to work at once.

These are people of purpose.  They are living their God-given purpose.

The summer soldier is wondering if anyone liked his post.  I have always loved Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena.  These are people who dive into the fray of the world with God-given purpose knowing they will be ridiculed.  These people see the promised hope and future for those who seek God.  They have battled for the Lord knowing that it is truly God who fights for his people.  These people will bring love-centered change.

They are men and women of purpose not because of what trends in the world but in spite of it.  They are God’s faithful servants.  They are all around you.  Don’t be blind.  See them.  Encourage them. Pray for them.

Join them in bringing glory to God.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

White Privilege and a Simple Question

And so, in the midst of everything BLM, the white privilege narrative surfaces once more.  I welcome the discussion, but it has done more harm than good.  I have experienced the term thrown at me when I asked a black man if he could disagree with the president without name-calling and hatred.  It was a legitimate question proffered to another pastor:  colleague to colleague.  Can you disagree without projecting hate?
His answer:  White privilege.  He avoided the question altogether.  White privilege was the extent of his answer.

So, I researched white privilege and white ‘splainin to the point of exhausting most of the viable resources. I reviewed my comment that prompted the one size fits all white people response.  My comment was not paternalistic.  It did not regard him as less than myself.  It did not cause him disadvantage in the asking.   It was one colleague challenging the thinking of another.  This used to be how discussions of real issues began.  This used to be a good thing.

I know what it is to be paternalistic.  I have been this way with black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and Samoan men and it was a good thing.  Somebody’s blood is boiling after than comment, but it’s because they don’t know the facts.

Marine officers are counseled to establish and maintain a relationship with their subordinates as between a father and a son.  Yes, the Marine Corps Manual was written before this gender-neutral time, but the message was and is that your Marines are more than your subordinates.  Treat them as you would your own children with love, discipline, and shared bonds.

I will admit that when I challenge a contemporary, my language may be a little less tactful than most.  I am not so experienced working with timid men as I am with those of purpose and courage who can get to the real issues without having to be pampered so much as to avoid anything of substance. 

But let’s just say that white privilege exists to the extent portrayed by the broad generalizations of the day.  Let’s take that as our premise and operate as if it is valid.

I say that white privilege in itself is not a bad thing.  Now, I surely have offended those who think we should apologize for the skin tone that God gave us.  The fact that God made me white or you black or some other hue is the point.

God created all of us.  He made us as we are, so here is the real question.

What did you do with what God gave you?

It is the question never asked but answered by all three servants in the parable of the talents.  The master in this parable did not give each servant the same amount of money.  One received five talents, one received two, and the last servant received one talent.  Each was given in accordance with his ability. The master knew what to give each servant.

This endowment was not the end of the story.  It was the catalyst for what we must learn.  The first two servants put their talents to work at once and produced a 100% return for their master.  The third servant buried his talent in the ground and produced nothing.

There is no unfairness here.  The master gave as he thought best.  Two of the servants put what they had to work.  The third was governed by fear.

That’s the short version.  If you want to learn more, follow this link.

Back to white privilege and what we do with it.  For the one who believes in God and professes Christ, we must put this gift to work at once.

The first servant in the parable did not apologize to the others because his master gave him more.  He put what he was given to work and produced a return for his master.  Likewise, the second did the same.  When the day of accounting came, this is what those servants heard from their master.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
So if white privilege is something that makes a big difference in this world in which we live, the proper action is not to apologize but to put the trust given to us to work.  We are to produce a return for our Master.


This is the most clear-cut part of this narrative.  We are to:

To apologize for being white glorifies Satan.  I’ll pass on that.  God made me the color and gender that I am.  That may or may not have influenced some things in my life.  I can say with certainty, it was not the greatest influence.

But if you find that God has given you some status or advantage or other gift, don’t feel guilty.  Put it to work at once.  Put it to work!

Quit condemning God for the trust he has placed in you and what you can do.

What sort of return will I produce?  You will be a light unto the world and bring glory to God as you share his good news and live out a life of love for each other.  If you have gifts or advantages or what we are calling privilege, you can produce an even greater return.

Our nation has been trying to provide the same opportunities for all for over 244 years, the last 150 years with greater focus on race.  We have done a terrible job in many ways but not in all ways.  It’s not the worst job ever, especially if you compare our efforts with the world.  There is still slavery in the world, mostly among those whose skin is brown.  It goes by the name of indentured servitude, but it’s slavery. 

Humankind remains broken when God is not first in our lives.

We try our own equations for justice and fairness and equality while ignoring God.  Instead of reshuffling the deck, we should play the cards that we have been dealt and produce a wonderful return for our Master.  He has equipped us for great things.

In the process, so many things that we think we can accomplish by human law or lawlessness will be surpassed by what we accomplish with love for one another.

Yes, many will bury their talent in the ground or worse, waste it away on self-gratification.  Those have declared in their hearts that there is no God, but it still comes back to what did we do with what God gave us?

We are not to apologize for what God gave us.  That denounces his sovereignty, and there is a lot of that going around.  We should be thankful and even joyful in our trials.  This is where God does some of his best work and we grow in Christian maturity.

Whatever you have—privilege, trials, money, few or many possession, education, physical strength—put it to work at once and produce a return for you Master who is Christ Jesus the Lord.  We will all account at some time.

As we struggle to address our broken world, ask this:

What did I do with what God gave me?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Posts, Tweets, and the Father of Lies

Most of the time when I see things online that are just so far from reason and righteousness, I let it go.  Confronting all of them would be putting my best efforts into things that have little impact.  It’s not always wise to engage.  Some people are not looking for truth.

I do love the discussions that fit into the iron sharpens iron category, but they are few.

Sometimes the deception is so subtle that believers jump on the bandwagon.  I stand in the gap more often in these cases than for the senseless melee of other posts, discussions, and hateful diatribes that only consume my time and resources.

I know that many feathers will be ruffled among those apologizing for being caucasian as if skin color were our choice and not God's, but this examination bears consideration.  I know that many will never make it to the end of this article as it asks us to examine what we endorse and approve and share.

Here is one case-in-point where so many have landed on the bandwagon and don’t know what they signed off on.

Let's examine the post.

“That white people.”  

Had the post started with “That black people” it would have been declared racist and rightly so.  Lumping black people into one group as if there were no individual lives to be considered within that group is not only racist, it is ignorant.

The same is true by casting all white people into a single group.  It’s racist.

So, three words into this post we have a racist premise and are off to a bad start.

Next, we see the words “think [that] the [Civil] Rights [Movement] was exclusively Rosa Parks sitting politely and [MLK Jr.] being ~peaceful~”  as part of what is presented as the premise.  Who among us thinks or believes this?

If we don’t think that the statement is true for us, how can we assign it to others?  Even if we do think the statement applicable to our own lives, who are we to impose our shortcomings upon the greater group?  Are all not entitled to their own thoughts and beliefs?  Anytime that we find ourselves assigning thoughts and beliefs to others, we have indulged ourselves in self-righteousness.  It can feel good in the moment but has no efficacy.

And for those who lived during this time, MLK Jr. was a peaceful presence and influence in a violent time.  Why was he killed?  He was effective, much more so than the violence that surrounded him.  He effectively put God’s words into practice.

Had he not been effective, he would not have been a target for those who opposed him.

And just as a pet peeve here, it’s Reverend Doctor.  MLK reduces a godly man and effective leader to something that fits on a street sign.

We might believe that some people think the way that the author portrayed in the tweet/post.  That’s our opinion.  When we make it a premise for an entire group of people, it’s clever deception.  I say clever because so many intelligent people buy-in to it in spite of its deception.  Too many get on the emotional bandwagon of the day and satisfy an emotional craving to do something so they like and share.

It is easier to presume and promulgate as fact, things that fit the desired narrative than it is to search for facts and truth and let the narrative develop in genuine fashion.

Here’s the kicker.  It resides in the next two words:  “is proof.”  When the premise is false, all that follows can be made to appear true. 

What is proven?  “that our educational system is rooted in white supremacy” according to the author.

Our educational system has faults.  Show me a man-made system that doesn't.  Some faults or defects can be traced to various roots but claiming that white supremacy must be the culprit based on the emotional wave of the week has no merit.  When the premise is false, one can claim that global warming is the culprit.

Our educational system, especially history, has been redacted and sanitized in so many ways.  Could there be a white supremacy element involved?  Quite possibly, either actively or passively or as the default setting.  It should be explored and investigated not given presumed veracity.

Were we to systemically inspect our educational system, we might find many elements that altered what was once presented in a fairly straight-forward manner.  History as taught in the educational system has always been edited to reflect many motivations, not all of them self-evident nor beneficial.

Here is what I note of our educational system from this post and its following.  We no longer teach thinking skills.  We are so vulnerable to red herrings and non-sequiturs that the Father of Lies is having a heyday with social media.  We are governed by our emotions so much more than the sound mind that God gave us.

Hate and guilt have been leveraged as never before and so many have turned off their sound minds.  Fear of contradicting the majority sentiment rules.

Let’s continue with the next words:  “Black history.”  Let’s say for the sake of argument that many white people are ignorant of the struggles of the 1960’s and that white supremacy is among the primary suspects in the short-comings of our educational system, why is it that only black history affected?  If the premise is valid, is not all history damaged?

What small minds we engage when we think that the thoughts and beliefs of one group only impact one other group. 

Had the premise not been false, the last sentence in this quip did have some meat to it for all of us.

Let’s consider the thoughts without the premise.   How often do we receive only that which we like and which fits into our comfort zone?  This has nothing to do with black or white but with our human nature.

We gravitate to the easy path.  We like that which fits our current paradigm.  Today, we like and share and can do it without having to engage our minds.  If it feels good, like and share.

Why pick on this post when many others are based more in emotion than intelligence and truth?  So, why this one? Because so many whom I know and love have succumbed to the editorial wiles of the Father of Lies and seem blissfully unaware of what they have endorsed.

Twice in my lifetime, I was accused of being tactful.  I was acquitted on both counts.  Now is not the time to sugar-coat anything.

That said, let’s see if we can find the sentiment that the author may have hoped to convey.  Perhaps:

Bias exists.
People (many white) don’t know much about the violence and civil rights struggles of years past. Many black people don’t either, but that’s not politically correct to note at this time when emotion must reign.  How can that be?  How could black people not know? Consider the ongoing effort to remove the Holocaust from our history books.  More than this, consider why we would presume that all black people know something because they are black.
Part of this is a failure of our educational system.
White supremacy still exists within some people and philosophies.
Racism still exists.
Defining groups (black and white seem to have the top rankings now) is part of what’s happening.
People want to show cause and effect even if it requires manipulation of the facts.
What I couldn’t find in this post was a legitimate purpose.  Its lack of merit leaves it by default designed to emotionally assign blame and promote hatred disguised as a counterfeit quip of wisdom.  It was designed to get likes and shares and infiltrate the minds of those who want to follow Jesus.  The Father of Lies must have put in some overtime.

There are times to assign blame.  If we must do this, then we should exercise the sound mind that God gave us and not succumb to the deception of the devil. 

I know emotions are running high.  People feel helpless and liking and sharing something proffered as truth is enticing and gratifying.  The problem is that jumping on these bandwagons is like eating candy for three meals a day.  It tastes good in the moment and might even give you a temporary high,  but it offers no real sustenance.

So what do you do with your out of control emotions and continuing dissonance?  Surely, we are called to action, aren’t we?

All of us who profess Jesus as Lord have been called to action for some time.  His command to love one another and be known by our love didn’t just pop up after a school shooting, terrorist attack, or very public murders.

Hate is at work in the world and we might feel helpless.  Why?  There is one word in this perverted tweet or post that hits the target:  comfort.

Christians have grown comfortable in our situations when we should have grown in faith and love demonstrated in our actions.  We got comfortable and things that we should have addressed for years with love and mercy and compassion got away from us, but we maintained our comfort zones.

Many are uncomfortable now from being comfortable for so long.

Ask this.  How much of my life is consumed by work, bills, television, internet, sports, entertainment, and so many distractions when we are called to put God first in our lives?

We already know how to work God in here and there if it’s convenient, but how do I put him first and live as his disciple and truly make a difference in the world.

How do I put him first?

I love God, mostly by talking with him daily and listening more than I talk and by doing what he tells me.  We must know his voice.

I love others, yes even when it’s not convenient or when they don’t love or like me.

I tithe.  What?  This is the only place in the Bible where God tells us to put his promises to the test so that he may provision his people (today that’s his church) to do the good works that he planned for us long ago.  OBTW, there are also direct blessings for us.

I trust.  I believe that God is real, he is love, he loves me, and he loves his creation so much that he took it upon himself to take away our sin in his own blood.  He has reconciled creation to himself.  I trust that he is still at the helm and has good plans for us.

I obey.  Wow!  There’s a whole bunch that God told us to do.  We are blessed that Jesus fulfilled the law and all prophecy about him.  He did what we could never do and in him is our obedience.  Jesus gave us a primary command, that we love one another.  Love fulfills the law. 

I fulfill my commission.  Jesus did not only send us into the world with good news and his love but also with his authority.  Why are we so quick to jump on the cause of the month when we have been charged with God-given purpose and endowed with God’s authority?

Instead of spending our time developing a taxonomy of sin and throwing our phariseutical flags because someone doesn’t hate one sin more than another, why don’t we live by love?  That’s what God told us to do.

You would think if we knew the voice of the Good Shepherd and responded to his commands, love might have picked up some momentum by now.  It seems that is not the case, but that is no reason for us to discount or discard his command to love in favor of pointing out specks in others’ eyes who don’t condemn with sufficient enthusiasm the things that we condemn.

It is a mark of cowardice not courage or compassion to gravitate to the words of the world when we haven’t really poured ourselves into the simple command of God—love one another.

Fulfill your commission.

Understand that God understands the efficacy that resides in his way.

Get off the emotional bandwagons and get on with living by the law of love.