It’s just not relative.

What time to be alive. Things change so fast, culture can swing around a hinge point and into something new so fast now. The institutions that people used to count on aren’t guaranteed to exist next year and legacies come crumbling down because of sins long buried. So many things seem fragile, and still people want to subdivide and claim truths and rights apart from those others might claim, railing against traditional values and long-held beliefs. The phrase ‘That’s your truth” has become passé from overuse, but its still a drumbeat that so many move to every single day.

IMG_3E9144B79363-1.jpegI saw an article yesterday that said the CEO of Twitter had to apologize for eating at ChickFilA during Pride month. If a chicken sandwich company can get you outed for offending people, then just about anything is possible. We walk on pins and needles, so many of us unsure about what we can or cannot say. SNL did a skit earlier in the year that hit this nail on the head.

(Warning, this is SNL, there are sensitive topics discussed here with some language, and I don’t endorse the show itself.)

As Christians we just have to understand and accept that what we have to say about Jesus, morality, sexual conduct, lifestyle choices, parenting, fiscal policy and pretty much anything else you can think of, will be at odds with the opinions of people who walk according to other, worldly standards. We will offend people. We shouldn’t seek to be offensive in our presentation, being tactful and sensitive is always good. Building relationships with people so we can have difficult conversations with them is also very important. We have to earn a degree of personal credibility with them. But we cannot apologize or be fearful because of the hope that we have in Jesus.

Listen to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. They were very much a divided culture, and Christians stood apart (or were supposed to, at least) from what society endorsed and expected.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1

Paul goes on to say that our pride must be sourced in God, and not in ourselves anyway. We trust in God for our worth, purpose, identity and voice. We reject the things of this world, and we stick with Jesus. Human beings and our institutions cannot ever serve as a replacement for what we should receive and expect from God. They will never be our voice. They will never represent us. We belong to Christ and His Church. We are children of God, residents of another kingdom. We do not share a common values system, ethical foundation or set of expectations with this world.

Even if we need to be reminded of it every day, and often we do, it is still gloriously true. We find our peace with Him. Truth is not and cannot be relative. If it could be, it would no longer be truth. We must learn to have bold, definitive conversations with people, but take them from the love of God for His wayward children. God’s truth never changes, and because we can be steady in Him, we can be steady in anything. Let’s show that peace, steadiness and faithfulness to the morally ambiguous, shifting and unsteady world around us. May His love compel us to do so.

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Dangerous Personality

There are so many celebrities in our culture. I have never been good at keeping them all straight. As a person who legitimately struggles with names, I have kind of lived under the assumption that they don’t keep track of my life, so I don’t have any need to keep track of theirs. So, don’t come talk to me about celebrity gossip, expecting me to know who is into who, who got married/divorced/had a baby. I simply will not know. If you’re into that stuff, then I will do my best to engage with you but I wanted to warn you ahead of time.
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I also operate under the policy (and living in California, I think this is probably best) that if I see them in public, I ‘m just going to leave them alone. If they’re eating dinner with their friends/family/crew/whatever, I was not invited to that meal. I will happily give them their space.

There have been so many stories of people who take things to the opposite extreme. They stalk celebrities, hang on their every word, know everything about their lives and some even begin doing dangerous/illegal stuff to try to get their attention. They develop an unhealthy obsession with that person. They go beyond fandom and into idolatry, aggressively defending that person, and caring far too much for someone that doesn’t even know they exist.

I also grew up in the ear of the televangelist. These people almost did everything possible to make my generation cynical in regards to fame & ministry. The Robertsons & Swaggarts of the world built up such a cult of personality around themselves that their inevitable human failings made their falling from public grace all the more devastating. We cannot invest ourselves, devoting the whole of our lives, to a single human person like this. People are broken. Celebrities and preachers will let us down. No one is perfect.

Paul recognizes this danger in the church of Corinth. This church had encounters with several powerful leaders within the early church and people were beginning to take sides:

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
1 Corinthians 1

When we follow Jesus, we cannot spend our time espousing the benefits of any human individual. We simply need to focus our efforts on Him. It’s not about Paul, Peter or Apollos. It’s not about Joel, Steven, Judah, Kyle or Francis. It’s all about Jesus, 24/7/365. All of the rest of us are simply His servants, brothers born of His blood, recipients of grace, standard bearers for His kingdom. We don’t need to waste our short time on this earth and in this life to build up a little kingdom of our own. We all belong to Jesus. His Lordship does not get sub-divided, His sovereignty cannot be shared.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Luke 17

Jesus is our concern. He is our solitary celebrity. If we want to devote ourselves to knowing all the details about someone’s life, then may it be His.

Saturday Something – Episode 10 – Know-It-All

It’s always good to be situationally aware as we speak into the hurts and pains of this life. We have been tasked with bringing comfort and the wisdom that God provides, but remember, you and I don’t personally have the corner on being every answer for every person. That honor belongs to Jesus…we just point them to Him.

Day Five – Life Contemplated According to the Second Table of the Law

Day Five – Life Contemplated According to the Second Table of The Law
from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditation on Divine Mercy”

Get your copy here.

We all struggle with what is stirred up inside of us, and with the sins that grab at our hearts from the inside. Thank God for a clear path to His Mercy Seat through Jesus Christ! Read by Benjamin Hedgspeth – All Scripture readings come from the ESV

Day Three – The Daily Lapse into Sin

Come along on the journey as Ben reads from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditations on Divine Mercy.” This is Day Three, “The Daily Lapse into Sin.” In today’s devotion, Johann reminds us how daily struggles result in our daily need for God’s great mercy. All scripture read comes from the ESV.

Let’s turn our hearts toward God together:

Begin Here: Simply Listen

There have been so many times where I have allowed myself to be sidelined by worry. It’s not a point of pride, that’s for certain. As a minister of over 20 years, one who has taught and told and discipled so many people to walk by faith and not by sight, who has repeatedly looked to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 where He expressly tells us not to worry, and where we are reminded that worry is a lack of faith in so many other places where He has these daily interactions with His disciples. I shouldn’t have any doubt in my mind in regards to the struggle that worry creates, and of the handiwork of the enemy that can be found in those faithless places…I should know better. I should be more aware. I should be stronger…right?

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As a pastor, I sometimes put that pedestal underneath of myself and have expectations for myself that can be unfair, ill-advised (seeking my own counsel) and all in all, not God-honoring.
And so I repent, and I repent again later. I’ll likely have to do it again.

So much of worry comes from the lies I tell myself and the lies I listen to from the world and from the enemy. These are all old tricks, old means and they are well worn pathways for so many of us. We let ourselves walk down them without thinking. It’s like navigating our own house in the dark of night. We know where the sofa is, we are aware of the coffee table, and we can walk through without so much as stubbing a toe.

And we fall right back into the pit in the living room floor. We knew it was there. We’ve known it was there. We’ve fallen into it before. And we let it happen again.

Why? Why do we do this? Paul voices this struggle well in Romans 7. It’s something that is deeply familiar to all of us. We know this struggle, and we have the scars from the struggle.

And when we finally look up and open our eyes, our ears begin to listen and we hear the voice of our great God singing over us. An unbroken tune, rich in love, deep with mercy, overwhelming with compassion, rhythmic with grace, peace and a shelter only He can provide. Here we rest. Here we are reminded. Here we begin to listen again, the harsh, broken, sickly-sweet croaking of the enemy is drowned out by the everlasting love of YHWH G_d.

It’s so simple we often forget it, but it’s always there.
Begin here: simply listen.

Passages to help with worry – BibleStudyTools.com 
33 Verses on Anxiety from Debbie McDaniel
Keys to Overcoming Fear – Bible in One Year

Saturday Something – Ep. 5 – Brag on God!

So, you’ve been excited about things that God is doing in your life, your family, your ministry, but you don’t know how to share it with people without sounding like you’re just bragging on yourself? If you’re thinking that way, it’s highly likely you already have God’s glory in mind.

Just let it out! Brag on God!