Church Stages that Look like a TV Game Show

A couple months ago, I was a contestant on the stage version of "The Price is Right."  It was something of a childhood dream come true. I won the opening bid on contestants row after successfully outbidding three other women on a pair of designer high heels (don't question my manliness), but was unable to sink a putt on the famous game, "Hole in One."  Even so, it was a pretty cool experience.

Recently, I was watching an online video of certain preacher that I've followed a little bit over the years.  I noticed that he was speaking at a church I wasn't directly familiar with.  But as he was speaking, I became somewhat bothered about the platform he was standing on.  In my mind, I couldn't help but feel that the super trendy church that he was speaking at had a stage that looked like something you might see on a TV game show.

As I sat there and wondered about the stage of this particular church, something in my heart just felt a bit unsettled.  I couldn't help but wonder, "To what degree does the architecture and aesthetic design of a church building and sanctuary have on a local congregation?"   Of course, questions like this are things that get fleshed out primarily in places like seminary. It is something you've probably never considered, and have little concern about.

Most people just shrug at such questions as these.  "Architecture and building designs are completely neutral!" you probably say.  "All that matters is that God is there when we show up!"

And part of me would be inclined to agree with you.

Except for the fact that no architect or designer worth their salt would ever say that the design of a structure is a completely benign and neutral thing.  Such would be like an author saying books in themselves have no meaning and are completely neutral things.  Both notions are equally absurd on face value.

Whether we like it or not, the design of a church building and the stage of a church is one that is full of great meaning and purpose.  They are not theologically neutral buildings or rooms, and I believe that the design that goes into a sanctuary says a lot about what that church thinks about its relationship to God, and to each other.

And if you think that the design of a church is still a completely neutral thing, then ask yourself a simple question: Why is it that churches often go out of their way to design a sanctuary in a certain manner?  Why is so much money spent on jumbo screen monitors, giant crosses, stained-glass windows, pulpits, multi-colored stage lights, fog machines, scented air (and yes... you read that right, some churches pump in their own scented air), back-drops, and a host of other bells and whistles?  If it's all the same, why not just make churches giant concrete cement blocks with four walls and no windows?  It would save churches a ton of money.

No matter what mental gymnastics you might use to shrug off stage designs, at the end of the day remains the fact that how you build a church building conveys a subtle message about what is happening on and off stage.

And if the stage looks like a TV game show or American Idol, what's that say about the people on the platform?  And equally important, what's that say about the people who are not on the platform?

I fear that our increasingly flashy platforms at church are changing the dynamic of what the church has been.

Increasingly, "the congregation" is becoming nothing more than a mere "audience," compossed of nothing but mere "attendees."  And if you have ever had the opportunity to stand up on such stages (I have), then you'll understand that those on stage are practically overwhelmed by the brightness of the stage lights, and in most cases, can seldom see anybody in the congregation beyond the first couple of rows.

Imagine the impact that such a thing has on a preacher and his relationship to his congregation.

Increasingly, the preacher on such a stage becomes further and further removed from his congregation.  As a result, he may be tempted to look at his congregation as mere pawns to be used to further his own agenda, and exploited for his own personal gain.  And to the congregation, the preacher will become something of a celebrity.  After all, he is on an awfully big stage surrounded by a lot of lights. And due to the multi-site church phenomenon today, many don't even get to see their pastor in person.  He's just a guy on a jumbo sized monitor.  He becomes something of a TV game show host.

We should find that troubling.

Especially in light of the fact that when we open up the Scriptures, we see that ministry was a very intimate and personal thing.  Even when Jesus was surrounded by the crowds, he was still able to single out one person to minister to.  And when the apostles established the churches that they planted, the primary meeting place that the church would gather would be in the living room of other members of the church.

We've come a long way from those days. And instead of continuing down the road of new trends, I believe we need to seek out the ancient paths of those who came before us, and walk the roads they walked. And we need to increasingly think about the way we do church, and what impact that has on the life and ministry of our churches, as we seek to be faithful to calling placed on us.


Running Your Mouth

For those of you who don't know me very well, one thing you should know about me is that I have this awful tendency to speak without thinking.

Perhaps you can identify?

It's like my mouth is connected to this strange stream of consciousness in which thoughts exit my mouth before they are processed in my brain, and I don't hear what I am thinking until I actually hear myself thinking it out loud in a room full of people.

Sometimes this is a good thing.  I can be somewhat funny, so such a thing will get often make other people laugh, and it helps for making conversation.  Or, should I be speaking in public or giving a presentation, I seldom suffer from awkward pauses, nor do I find myself without words.

Sometimes this is a bad thing.  Sometimes I find myself caught up in the heat of the moment, and say something rash, harsh, unloving, unkind, and unfiltered.  Sometimes I don't know when or how to stop, and I'll find myself ripping somebody a new one.

I don't think I'm alone in such an experience.  Regardless of how fluid your tongue is, controlling what rolls off it is something we all seem to suffer from, no matter how smart or important we are.  Just look at the people that appear on Jerry Springer, and compare them to political leaders appearing on the evening news.  There isn't much difference.  The inability we have to control our mouths runs deep.

This problem doesn't cease once we become Christians either.

Churches and Facebook pages alike are often torn to shreds by otherwise good appearing church people.  We find it necessary to speak up first, to take a hard stand for the truth, and to lambaste everybody that doesn't understand every nuanced iota of Scripture or political theory in the exact same way we do.  At a moments notice, we stand prepared to wrestle every last person to the ground, as we scornfully dismiss them as haters, the unsaved, or even regard them as wolves in sheep's clothing.

And we will do it all in the mighty name of Jesus of course.

Don't get me wrong, I among the guilty in this arena.  Sometimes I fear the terrible things I've said over the years will echo throughout the world for a lot longer than the wonderful things I've said.  And deep down inside, I think we all fear that because we know it is true.  We could say a thousand wonderful things, only to find that it is the one terrible thing we said that ends up becoming the very thing that others remember about us forever.  The legacy we leave will be paved by our own words.

Jesus taught us that we will stand in judgment for every idle word that we've ever spoken.  "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."  That thought alone should shut us up for the next few years.  We should speak more cautiously and carefully.  Our words should be refined, calculated, and precise.  Instead of being the first idiot in the room to spout off our idea whenever we get the chance, we should do as the apostle James taught, and be "quick to listen and slow to speak."  

The fact that we are so quick to fill the silence of a room with the noise of our speaking shows that the weight of eternity hasn't quite set into our hearts yet.  Instead of fearing the silence, we should embrace it.  For in quietness and rest we will find our salvation.

We speak as if we are atheists.  We speak without any sense that God in heaven is keeping track of every idle word we say.  Therefore, if we are to give an account for every idle word we say, then when we speak, we should make sure every word counts for something.  And if we take on such an attitude, I believe we will discover that we never needed to say half the amount of words that we use on any given day.

I am reminded of a time when I was in Bible college.  There was an old Coptic priest who was attending our classes.  He seldom said very much, even in the midst of some pretty intense debates.  Yet the few times he ever decided to interject his opinion on a topic, he would gently raise his hand, and softly speak his peace.  And when he spoke, silence would always fall over the room, and everybody would lean forward to hear what this man had to say. Everybody would always give him their uttermost attention.

I was not that guy.  I spoke so much that one of my friends made a small sign that said "Shut Up Jimmy!"  Anytime they thought I was running my mouth far too long, they would simply flash their sign.  I said so much, but in the process, I ended up saying very little. I should've picked up on the wisdom of that priest.  He accomplished more with his few words than I did with my many.

There is no wisdom in running your mouth.  Sometimes the wisest thing you can say is nothing.


No Guns in Church!

Smith and Wesson may soon be joining your local church.

Locally in Charlotte, NC, the local NBC news affiliate has covered a story in which the pastor of New Outreach Christian Center, has announced their decision carry a firearm in church as a result of the deadly church shooting that recently happened in Charleston, SC.

Pastor Brenda Stevenson said from the pulpit:

"We need protection... I want them to know 'Have no fear. God is here,' but we got two more members. Smith, and Wesson."

As a patriotic American who supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms, there is a part of me that wants to say "Amen!"  But, I am troubled by such a feeling, as I know it conflicts with the Holy Spirit, who tells me that pastor Brenda Stevenson and what she is thinking is wrong.

It's wrong because it's fundamentally out of step with the teachings of Jesus.  Such a thought might be fully American, but it is not exactly Christian.

Jesus taught us not to be afraid, for He is with us.  Jesus taught us that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.   Jesus taught us that instead of taking up our right to bear arms, we need to take up our cross.  Jesus taught us that though we die, we will yet live again.

As a people who believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and rose again, I simply don't see how in good conscience we can even think about arming ourselves for the purpose of self-defense.

The idea of being shot to death is a terrifying one.  It actually happens, and we see it play out in the news every day.  But as a people who believe that death doesn't have the final answer, and that though we die, Jesus Christ will come again and raise us back to life one day, we should accept the real possibility that somebody might actually violently kill us one day.  And, instead of seeking to preserve our lives, we need to be a people who are always ready to give our lives.  Even if that means falling prey to a world full of madmen.

The late Art Katz used to frequently say, "You are far too American" in his preaching. And in instances such as these, I cannot help but think time and time again how right he was.

We would rather be American than Christian.  And the idea of packing heat in a church service betrays everything I know about being a Christian and shows where our heart and our thinking really is.  It is fundamentally wrong, and grounded in the thinking that rules this world.

But sadly, many of us can't see it, because our values more align with the stars and stripes than it does the cross of Jesus Christ.  And in the process, we lose the opportunity to be a powerful prophetic voice to our generation, and be like those saints who gave their lives in the church shooting in Charleston, SC.

Let us refuse to take up arms.  Let us be willing to give our lives as a people who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, knowing that as He lives, so too shall we one day.


Prophets Can No Longer Afford to Profit

If you ever plan on speaking for God one day, and feel called to do so, don't ever plan on making a dime for your troubles.

Rather, plan on being like the apostle Paul and many of his companions, who seldom took so much as a dime to cover even their personal expenses.  Prefer to pursue your holy calling while you work as a janitor, mechanic, nurse, office worker, manager, accountant, banker, or some other profession.

There is no shortage of men and women who feel "called" to "full-time vocational ministry."  And while I have no problem whatsoever with men and women doing such, I feel it in my bones that such a calling should be exceptionally rare.  We should seek to persuade as many people as possible, as often as possible, away from such a pursuit.  Especially young ministers, who so easily glamorize the idea, and make it a personal goal.

Prophets can no longer afford to profit from their ministries.

There is too much at stake.  Hard times are coming, and difficult decisions will have to be made.  The decision to do the easy thing, and accept money as compensation for your labors, that will cost you more than you think.

A paycheck will cost you your reputation, and your loss of reputation will cost you influence, and your loss of influence will choke whatever words that issue out of your mouth, and cause them to fall on deaf ears.  And in the process, you'll make a liar out of God who said His Word would not return unto Him void.

Don't do that.  I've myself have made stupid choices myself over the years that have cost me such.  I've seen God's Word die because of my destructive actions.  And I don't want to see the same thing happen with you.

Instead of seeking vocational ministry, prefer to seek "bi-vocational ministry."  Consider it the new normal.

Learn about as much of the Word as you can from godly men and women.  Be a scholar.  Be active in the life of your church.  Pound the street as well as the pulpit.  And don't look at your career outside the church as "secular" employment, but rather, see your career as part of your "holy" calling.

And whenever possible, prophesy.


Submit to Your Pastor... Or go to Hell?

Has a pastor ever confronted you about submitting to their authority?

Or has one ever told you that you were in rebellion to them?

Have you been told that you (or somebody else) has a Jezebel spirit?

Have you ever been asked to leave a church because you did not fully support a particular vision or mission of that particular church?

Is the teaching and behavior of your pastor considered unquestionable?

Is questioning met with defensive behavior?

Is access to the pastor only possible by going through one of many delegates?

Over the past few decades, there has been a growing and disturbing trend within the church in regard to issues surrounding submission.  This is especially true in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, where this issue tends to be magnified 100 fold.

In some churches the issue, when it is present, is rather subtle.  It'll result in a few people being banned from leadership positions because they don't act as the pastor's cheerleaders.  In other churches, it is more extreme, resulting in pastors limiting marriage opportunities to those only within your particular church, and deciding who your next spouse can or cannot be.  And in a lot of cases, those who are viewed as being "in rebellion" are subject to being socially marginalized inside and outside of the church.  Some might even get threatened with damnation.

A lot of this teaching and behavior heavily relies on distorted teachings surrounding Bible passage such as Romans 13:1-7, Hebrews 13:7-17, and other such verses.  However, ALL of it is based on blatantly ignoring the actual clear teaching and example of Christ on the issue, such as in Matthew 20:24-28, Matthew 23:8-12, Luke 22:24-27, and many other passages.  Please look at these passages and study them in detail as time permits, as I don't have the time or space to dissect them at the present moment.

In the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles never looked at leadership in the church as existing in a vertical, top-down, military styled chain of command.  The early church had one Chief, one Pope, one King, one Senior Pastor, and one CEO, and that is Jesus Christ, both locally and universally.  It knew nothing of men holding a hierarchy of differing levels of delegated authority over other believers.  According to Jesus, such a concept was entirely pagan, and foreign to the kingdom of God.  It may be that way out in the world, "but it's not to be this way among you."  (Matthew 20:26)

All "authority" that existed between believers was horizontal, mutual, relational, and predicated on Jesus Christ being viewed as the head over all by all.  Nobody but Jesus Christ is ultimately in charge of the church.

A good pastor who is rightly related to God and properly understands his calling and purpose within the body of Christ will openly encourage you to question their teaching.  And why not?  Jesus Christ welcomed such questioning of Him in His earthly ministry.  The Pharisees questioned Him.  His disciples questioned Him.  Heck, even John the Baptist questioned Him.  And even after miraculously raising from the dead and standing before the apostles, they continued to question Jesus.  And Jesus was always patiently willing to take the time to explain whatever was asked of Him.

Even after the cross, though Jesus had already been crucified and resurrected from the dead, Jesus still took time to sit down with the Bible and prove to His disciples that this event was no accident, and that such had to happen to Him according to the teachings of the Law of Moses and the Prophets... never mind the fact that He was standing before them alive in front of their very eyes!.

And the last I checked, Jesus Christ still welcomes you asking questions regarding His teachings today, as He carries out His heavenly ministry.

So is there a place in the Bible for submission?  Yes!

Don't get me wrong, there is a godly form of submission taught in the Bible.  But even as there is a godly form of submission, there is also an ungodly form.  The godly form involves seeing ministers who live such godly lives that mimic Jesus, that you allow them to come alongside you and to speak into your life and to minister to you in order to help you become like them, which is ultimately to help you become like Jesus.

In the church, you should only submit to another believer to the degree that they submit themselves to the following and expounding the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Anything outside of that... like deciding who you are to specifically marry, such things have nothing to do with godly and Biblical submission.

Those, however, who demand you "submit" to their "authority" as "the man of God," who is "over" you as your "leader"... don't conform to the desires of such men.  Such would require ungodly levels of submission from you to men that have no business being in charge over you.  Indeed, Jesus said don't even greet such men as "Rabbi."  Far from being able to school others, such men need to be schooled themselves.  I would dare say that the next time such a person tells you to submit to them, gently question them, and ask them if it shouldn't be the other way around.

There is an alarming number of pastors who would strongly disagree with what I just said. And that's because they are full of an abusive and religious spirit, that has inflated their ego, and makes them think they are a king or CEO like figure, who must remain unquestioned at all times. They have yet to see Jesus as the head over anything.

Make no mistake, such a teaching is not from Jesus.

It's a teaching from insecure men and women who have little to no actual authority from God in their lives or ministries.  It's the teaching of bullies, who having no idea of how to actually encourage you to come along with them and to follow their example.  Instead, they prefer to thump you like a drill Sargent that is telling you to drop and give them fifty. Don't question their teaching. Don't question their vision. Just do what they say, and go along with the program, otherwise, you'll go to hell... or at least, be encouraged to go to another church.


Such is the theology of lite-weights.  It's of men who don't know the Lord nor the Bible very well.

Sadly, many such people who practice this form of leadership and submission learned it from those who taught it to them.  They may have good intentions and mean well. But ultimately they are victims of spiritual abuse themselves. And sadly, as so often happens in this world, victims often make more victims.  The abused end up abusing, and a vicious cycle is created.


Dear Christian Clerks: Please Issue Gay Marriage Licenses

Dear Christian Clerks:

As you are well aware, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that homosexuals have the constitutional right to get married in the United States.  Like you, I believe this is clearly contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures and of our faith on the nature of marriage, and that gay marriage is sin.

But in spite of such feelings, I want to encourage you to do something that seems almost contrary to what our actions should be.  I would appeal to you, as your fellow Christian and brother in Christ:

Please issue gay marriage licenses if and when a homosexual couple requests to get married.  Don't protest these proceedings under the flag of civil disobedience, taking a stand for religious liberty, or in the name of Jesus Christ.

Please, hear me out.

I believe you should issue same sex marriage licenses to whoever requests one, even though our faith is clearly against such behavior, and that you can do so in good conscience without having sinned against the Lord.  My reasoning behind this is pretty simple.

In issuing a marriage license to a gay couple, you are not personally endorsing their "marriage" anymore than you are personally endorsing the marriage of anybody else.  You are simply acting as a representative of the state, and issuing a certificate that simply gives the couple legal standing in this country as a married couple.  That legal standing is not the same as you personally endorsing their decision to get married.

Think about it for a second, do you know a straight couple in your life that are getting married, but have no business whatsoever getting married, because they simply are incompatible with one another?  Let's say your Christian daughter wanted to marry a devout Muslim.  Such a marriage arrangement is clearly contrary to the teachings of our faith, and would clearly be a sin according to the Scriptures.  Without a doubt, the marriage would be a complete disaster.

Yet if they came into your county clerk's office to request a marriage certificate, even though you are personally opposed to your Christian daughter wanting to get married to a devout Muslim, would you not issue them a marriage certificate just the same?  Or if for whatever reason you don't, should not the state issue them one just the same?

Remember, just because you oppose the marriage to begin with, even on sincerely held religious grounds, does not mean you should refuse to issue the couple a marriage certificate to begin with.  Your issuing them a marriage certificate is not the same as you giving them your personal blessing, or endorsing their decision to get married.  Such is simply you carrying out a function of our government, and acting as an agent of the state who recognizes the right of any couple to get married.  And even in that capacity, the government is not in anyway endorsing the wisdom of that couple getting married.  It's simply saying they have the right to do so, no matter how sinful or stupid such a decision might ultimately be.

I don't believe you would be sinning against the Lord in issuing a gay couple a marriage certificate.  I understand your reluctance.  But I would encourage you to do so in good faith and clear conscience before the Lord.

For further reflection, I would encourage you to consider the likes of Joseph and other great men of God we read about in the Bible, who served as government officials in nations that were steeped in great pagan and idolatrous practices.  They carried out duties on behalf of their idolatrous governments, yet maintained a pure faith before the Lord.  Consider their example, and apply it the best you can to your situation.

Many blessings,



Tiny Houses Are Cool... But Kinda Stupid

Tiny Houses are super cool. 

To me, they reflect outside the box thinking, and are full of highly creative, thoughtful, and intentional design, as their builders attempt to solve the problem of making the most use of a small living space.  If you've not seen the documentary on Netflix called "Tiny," or the HGTV show called "Tiny House Hunters," I would highly encourage you to do so. 

In reaction to the "McMansion" craze of the housing market in the past couple of decades, a counter-cultural phenomenon has arisen in recent years consisting of people who yearn for a more simplified and less cluttered lifestyle. Instead of building and living in homes that are 3,000+ square feet, more and more people are attempting to live in homes that are 1/10th the size.  Tiny Houses are often custom made to order from a few builders who specialize in manufacturing them.  But, because of the small scale nature of the project, many do-it-yourself types often build their own Tiny House.  Tiny Houses are often built on large trailer hitches, as they are designed to be portable homes capable of moving with you.

But for all my admiration for Tiny Houses, I think Tiny Houses are also kinda stupid.  Here are 6 reasons I think Tiny Houses are stupid:

  1. They are attempting to solve a problem we don't have.  If your desire is to live a simplified lifestyle by means of downsizing the square footage of your living space, there are already tons of homes across America under 1,000 square foot range.  If such is still too big for you, you can always live out of an RV or a single-wide mobile home.
  2. Tiny Houses are basically nothing more than glorified trailers.  And, I suspect that one of the primary reasons that people build Tiny Houses instead of living in single-wide trailers is because those who live in Tiny Houses have upper middle-class tastes, and don't want to be caught dead living in a trailer park.  So think of them as "Middle-Class Trailers."  Most Tiny Houses end up costing about $100-$200 per square foot to build, and consist of higher-end materials and amenities.  Tiny House prices often range in the $30,000-$60,000 range to make, and are designed to look like a home in the burbs, just at the micro level. Which brings me to my next point.
  3. As a glorified trailer, a Tiny House is looked at as a depreciating asset.  It's not like a real home. It's more like your car.  That is, they don't gain value, instead they lose value over time. Which means that if you ever desire to live in another home, you will be forced to sell your Tiny House for less than it cost to buy.  And, given the highly personalized and customized nature of most Tiny Houses, you are going to attempt to sell something that nobody likely wants to buy.  Which means you will likely be forced to abandon your Tiny House, or keep it is a glorified tree house in your back yard, so your kids have something to play with.  Either way, you are throwing away tens of thousands of dollars, and the last I checked, such is contrary to a spirit of simplicity.
  4. Tiny Houses are technically "illegal" to live in. Most building codes across America require your dwelling to be more than 500-600 square feet. (Darn our communist government officials for imposing "living standards" on its people!) Even in remote places like Montana, you aren't just allowed to throw up a shack on a piece of land and live out of it.  There are minimum building (and plumbing) standards that everybody must adhere too. Unfortunately for Tiny Houses, they often fail to live up to such standards.  So what people living in Tiny Houses often do?  To some extent, they live "off the grid" illegally... or as very often happens, they end up parking their Tiny Houses in the back yards of family and friends.  Such is not a long-term housing solution, and thus non-sustainable (which is contrary to the purpose of Tiny Houses).
  5. Tiny Houses are easy to steal.  Since Tiny Houses weigh no more than a couple thousand pounds, and are mounted on a trailer hitch as their base, anybody with a heavy duty pickup with towing ability could simply come by and drive off with your home.  And yes... it has happened.  I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to risk becoming homeless simply because a thief thought they would try to steal something a little more unique.  I mean, why steal a TV when they can not only steal your TV,  but the entire structure that the TV is connected to?  After all, they may want a cool tree house for their kids to play out of, while watching Sponge Bob on their new TV.
  6. Tiny Houses make practicing hospitality difficult, if not impossible.  Their physical limitations make it almost impossible to have your own family, let alone have family and friends over for dinner, or to provide lodging to overnight guests.  Raising a family in one is down right impossible. Tiny Houses seldom have more than one bed.  Not to mention the unattractive fact that your indoor toilet is within a couple feet from where you are eating at or hanging out. Let that one stink (ahem... sink) in to your head for a minute.  And because Tiny Houses make it almost impossible to practice hospitality, I think there is something almost un-Christian about them.

So, while there are many things I admire about Tiny Houses, such as the building principles and concepts that go into them, and how it might provoke us to better incorporate such things into our own dwellings, ultimately, I think Tiny Houses are a short-term fad.  A cool fad mind you. But a fad, that at the end of the day, reminds me of the famous Saturday Night Live skit featuring Chris Farley, where in a crazy and wild fashion, he reminds the audience that he "lives in a van... down by the river."

But instead of admitting to such a thing, those who live in a Tiny House get a few more cool points for saying they have a living arrangement that is a bit more hip.


Franklin Graham: What if Lightning doesn't strike Obama?

Dear Mr. Franklin Graham:

In a recent post on Facebook, I noticed you got pretty upset over the White House being lit up like a gay rainbow flag.  I feel you on that, as it kinda turned my stomach too.

Like you, I object to gay marriage on Biblical grounds.  I definitely don't see gay marriage as something I care to celebrate, and like you, it grieves me that our society has embraced this particular sin.  I'm especially grieved that the White House chose to celebrate this historical mile marker in the fashion that they did.

However, as concerned as I am about these things, I am even more concerned about the public "attitude" you are displaying over this matter.  I mean seriously, what do you hope to accomplish by making a rant about the need for president Obama to invest in lightning rods?

Who does such a comment appeal to?  What good can come from it?  And most importantly, who do you hope to reach with such a comment, and what do you hope to win them to?  Do you imagine somebody is saying "Gee... Franklin Graham is really making a compelling point... I never thought about this issue like that before?"

Such a comment as you made was totally irresponsible, and does nothing whatsoever to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God.

In Luke 9, we read a story about how the Samaritans wouldn't have anything to do with Jesus and the apostles' ministry.  The apostles, feeling a bit scorned over the entire issue, thought it might be wise to ask the Lord if it was ok if they called fire down from heaven in response to their rejection.  Jesus instantly rebuked the apostles, telling them that they were out of their mind and didn't know what Spirit they were of.  For Jesus said to them that the Son of Man did not come to destroy men, but to save them instead.  In other words Mr. Graham... we shouldn't expect any lightning bolts to hit the White House anytime soon.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know... Sodom and Gomorrah.  Fire and brimstone.  The book of Revelation.  All that fun stuff.

Such things have had their time and place, and we will see them yet again.  They are Biblical.  But I can't help but prophetically intuit that such comments as you have recently made are a bit off.  And if I were a gambling man, I would confidently bet that president Obama will live out the rest of his days without being struck by lightning from heaven.

And if God doesn't in fact smite president Obama over all the evils our nation has embraced, what will you do?  Will you apologize for such comments?  Will you acknowledge on Facebook and elsewhere that you don't quite know the heart and mind of God as well as you thought?  And perhaps, just perhaps, you will see that God is a bit more merciful than you ever imagined?

After all, if God was able to put up with you in the days of your rebellion, don't you think He is also willing to practice a little kindness and mercy, and forbear the sins of  a blinded nation that doesn't quite know what it is doing.

Many blessings,



Our Hopes for Revival Are Dead: And I'm ok with that...

As we celebrate this Fourth of July, many Christians will do so out of a awakened sense that America is not exactly a "Christian nation" anymore.

The Supreme Court decision affirming gay marriage has caused many to realize that we are living in what many have labeled a "post-Christian" nation.  "Traditional values" have long gone out the window.  More than ever, Evangelicals are beginning to realize we are a minority group.

Cliched slogans about "turning America back to God" are losing their former prophetic fervor.  What was once our war cry has now started to become a distant echo.  Hopes for city and nation wide sized revivals are starting to die.  A few foolish "prophets" will still announce the next great move of God that is going to shake everything up from time to time.  And such will land such people a spot on a stage somewhere, or on the Elijah List.  But there they will go to see their hopes and dreams die, and their words having an origin from somewhere other than God.

But, slowly, over time, we will eventually wise up to the silliness of prophecies.  Such prophecies are often grounded in the desire for self-glorification that a so-called prophet has for themselves, coupled with a really bad theological foundation.

Indeed, I think our eyes will be opened to the truth that the primary reason that past "revivals" in America and Europe were ever able to exist in the first place is because there existed a nominal Christian culture that made such revivals possible.  That's not to say such revivals were purely a sociological phenomenon.  God was definitely at work.  But they were a miraculous sociological phenomenon, unique to their own time and place in history.  At the end of the day, these revivals were born in places where the name of Jesus was at least welcomed and familiar.  People still thought of themselves as being somewhat Christian.

Those days are quickly moving past us.

As recent studies have shown, an increasing number of Americans don't have any sense of religious identity.  Any possible outbreaks of "revival" that happen in America going forward will be very limited and regionally based.  But, as our nation as a people moves away from the places that Puritans and Jesus used to haunt, "revival" will be something we read about mostly in a few church history books.

And in spite of the many years of my life where I have studied, hoped for, prayed for, preached on, and had fellowship with other like minded individuals that yearned for revival, I have come to accept that our hopes for revival are ultimately dying and will soon be dead.  And I am ok with that.  I'm ready to move on.

I'm ready to move on to the not so glamorous Christian life.  I am ready to do the painful and difficult work of being a minister in the midst of trials and persecutions of a culture that is hostile to Jesus.  I am ready to embrace the grace I need for daily bread, and to share that bread with others who realize they are hungry for something other than what this world has to offer.  I am ready to speak to those who have ears to hear, and to show Jesus to those with eyes that can see.

Any "revival" we as a Church experience in America going forward will be a revival that sifts and refines us.  The next "great move of God" will involve God preparing a bride for Himself.  It will involve us asking hard questions about hard things, learning to accept difficult answers, growing in our understanding of grace, as we as the church earnestly seek the face of God in how to direct us into the next stage of history, so we can effectively carry out the work of His kingdom, and to be the people He has called us to be.