Social Media MisunderstandingsNavigating the digital landscape can be challenging. At some point, we’ve all said something that wasn’t received the way it was intended. The digital world seems to magnify these unintentional missteps. Social media, while beneficial, undoubtedly leaves a void as it pertains to authentic relational connections. I’m convinced that it’s nearly impossible to really “get to know” someone on a digital platform. I think most of us would agree that until we can sit down, look a person in the eye, and hear his or her heart, it’s really difficult to say we actually “know” them. Many times someone has said, “I see you’re friends with ‘so and so’ on Facebook, how do you know them?” Then I have to explain that ‘so and so’ and I are only connected on social media, and that I don’t actually know them personally.

Undoubtedly, communication that lacks relational equity will more often be misunderstood than relationships that exist in the “real world.” Developing relational equity happens when we invest in people over a period of time. It is very difficult to cultivate a deep sense of respect in a relationship that lacks intimacy on some level. On social media, I’ve often been misunderstood. I’m certain that many of you know what that’s like. Therefore, this is an attempt to strengthen relationships by offering more insight.

Recently, I shared that I have screenshots saved on my hard-drive and am working on a case study pertaining to the antagonistic spirit that often prevails in various online forums. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had an unusual amount of screenshots sent to me privately. Often the sender solicits my opinion regarding the “topic” captured in the image. This has been a way for me to continue to dialogue privately with people without being heavily involved in the larger group discussions.

At times, I too have captured conversations, but not with the intent of using them against anyone. I have a long history of taking copious notes during meetings and important discussions. As a denominational leader, it is important to be accurate and represent peoples’ words fairly. When something eyebrow raising appears online that is directed toward myself or another elder, I have often captured it just to make sure I do not later misrepresent what was said.

Moreover, some material forwarded to me has been horrible beyond words and I have been advised to retain a record in the event a legal investigation was deemed necessary (every leader should understand the gravity of these situations). Programs like Evernote have become commonplace for keeping track of digital interactions.

As to online disagreements and controversial matters appearing in Nazarene forums, I have never used this information to harm someone, nor have I placed it in the wrong hands. In fact, I’m not that serious about it; I just think it is interesting and I have learned a great deal from those with whom I disagree. With that said, I have checked references for people soliciting ministry engagement on the Kentucky District, especially if I identify suspicious online behavior.

Beyond this, I have filed information to establish a case study library of sorts. Being informed on the issues of our day and keeping my finger on the pulse of the denomination has helped me personally as a leader. Understanding surging theological shifts is something I feel every leader should be aware of. In that respect, names aren’t important; I would conceal a person’s identity if that material were referenced in conversation or writing.

My focus is on the renewal of the Kentucky District where we are having success planting new churches and revitalizing existing ones. I am primarily responsible for the pastors that I serve and their development as leaders. Creating case studies has helped me better lead the Kentucky District by identifying movements within the denomination that are bearing fruit. I have no interest in policing forums and building files against leaders from other Nazarene districts; it just isn’t something I think about, nor is it my responsibility.

I am convinced that we cannot be fruitful for the Kingdom of God and play a game of online “gotcha,” besides I don’t know who has time for that game. Sowing seeds of discord and mistrust will not help us win a single person to Jesus. As such, I am resolved to believe the best and give people the benefit of the doubt. I would ask the same of you. Unless someone becomes overly antagonistic I’m willing to walk together for the sake of advancing the cause of Christ.

I appreciate your taking the time to follow my feed and read my blog. I am a very transparent person, my life is an open book, I know of no other way to live. Thank you for letting me be me, and helping me identify areas of improvement. I really do believe we are better together.

 

 

Static - Dan Bohi

Growing up, on Saturday mornings my brother and I would pour ourselves a gigantic bowl of cereal and lay in the floor in front of the television watching cartoons. We had the rabbit ears antenna on our television set; if they weren’t aimed in the right direction static interfered with the signal. However, we were usually enjoying our cereal too much to actually get up, walk over to the TV, and adjust the antenna. Thus, we grew accustom to watching cartoons with static.

Static distorts our ability to see clearly. It’s the same in our relationships with people.

There’s a name in Nazarene circles that elicits a lot of relational static. People hear the name and typically either respond with endearment and support, or with opposition and skepticism. I’ve heard the conversations, followed the online discussions, and been privy to the criticism that undermines this man’s ministry and defames his reputation. Until recently, I have largely remained silent because for many years I too was a skeptic.

Let’s back up a few years… In February 2011, he was one of the plenary speakers for the Church of the Nazarene’s M11 Conference in Louisville, KY. Up to that point he had been preaching around the country, but the M11 Conference was the first time many of us heard him. The word on the street was that God was using this man in a mighty way. Therefore, the leaders of the denomination asked him to speak at M11.

I was in attendance at the now infamous Tuesday morning service. In fact, I was a presenter at a workshop at the conference. I remember him preaching a bit long that day. His sermon was too “Pentecostal” for some of us well-versed Nazarenes. He talked about baptism of fire, a fresh anointing, miracles and healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual breakthrough. He even had the nerve to say that his sermon would probably interfere with the afternoon workshop schedule. That really got under my skin… Who did this guy think he was?

I remember standing at the back of the auditorium as people went forward to pray after the service had already exceeded the hour and a half mark. I watched high-level leaders, including District and General Superintendents, fall to their knees crying out to God. In fact, the front of the auditorium was filled with people praying for the Holy Spirit to fall fresh on the church.

As for me, I just stood there… and I wasn’t alone.

There I was, in a room full of church leaders praying for revival, yet I was offended because the service was infringing on the workshop schedule that afternoon. I thought to myself, this guy isn’t even a licensed evangelist; he’s just a layman. Who gave him the right to speak with such authority?

There I stood, sorting through my feelings about this “strange occurrence” at a Nazarene conference. Then my attention turned to the back of the room. While the front was filled with people on their knees weeping and crying out to God, the back of the room was filled with skeptics. These folks were sitting in the bleachers with folded arms and disgruntled looks on their faces.

Then something else caught my attention.

One of my closest friends was about thirty feet away from me on his knees with his hands in the air and tears streaming down his face. We had traveled to M11 together. There we were in the same room; I was conflicted and he was worshipping Jesus. The image of my friend worshipping so freely brought tears to my eyes; however, my pride quickly stepped in and dried them up for me. Although I was standing in the aisle, in my spirit, I was sitting with the disgruntled folks sneering from the bleachers.

When the service finally ended, my friend and I walked out of the auditorium together. He was overflowing with joy, saying, “That was so good! This is exactly what we’ve been praying for. Praise the Lord.” While he was rejoicing, I was trying to hide the fact that I was annoyed.

I left M11 confused about the direction of the Church of the Nazarene. I felt like I wanted revival as much as anyone. I’d been reading a lot about the beginning of our movement and praying for the spirit of our forerunners to be unleashed in this generation. In fact, I’d been praying for another Great Awakening for over a decade; I longed for that kind of spiritual revitalization. Nonetheless, I thought I knew what it would look like when it arrived, and I’d determined that what we experienced at M11 wasn’t it.

Fast-forward… In 2013 while sitting in my office I received an interesting phone call. On the other end of the line was none other than the guy who’d caused so much controversy at the M11 Conference. I remember feeling anxious about talking to him. This was the guy that messed up the workshops and irritated a lot of people back in 2011. This was the guy that many were calling a “false prophet.”

As we talked, God began to reveal some things to me that I wasn’t even aware of. In those moments my heart began to soften toward this man. I didn’t realize it, but I was harboring resentment toward him and his ministry. I was still upset over the events that transpired three years prior. While we were on the phone tears began streaming down my face.

This guy shared stories about how the Holy Spirit was moving in churches all over the country. He shared the vision God laid on his heart to wake up the church. As I listened I found myself agreeing with him. I began to realize that I had judged him based on a religious spirit of offense. After that conversation, we spoke on the phone several more times over the course of a year. Each time we talked God revealed more about how I had allowed feelings of resentment to distort my perception of someone that I was beginning to consider a friend.

After the third or forth conversation I fully recognized that I’d sinned against my brother. Although he didn’t know about the negative feelings I’d been concealing, it was weighing heavy on my heart. My ability to see this man for who he really was had been impaired by spiritual “static.”

I judged Dan Bohi without knowing Dan Bohi.

Over the years I’ve taken the time to get to know Dan. Today, I consider him a dear brother. In January 2016, I was at a retreat with about forty other leaders. One evening God provided an opportunity for me to publically confess how I had allowed gossip and offense to influence my perception of Dan. I repented openly in front of the entire room.

Although I had never spoken poorly of Dan, and although he didn’t realize I’d dealt with feelings of offense in the past, God showed me that I needed to take another step and openly admit my resentment. I had allowed religious static to impair my vision, and up until that point I had been unwilling to adjust the antenna. That day, the Lord provided an opportunity for me to move the rabbit ears and clear up the signal.

Since then God has revealed that I hadn’t gone far enough in validating my friend, Dan Bohi. This is a man who has been terribly misrepresented by a lot of people in the Church of the Nazarene. So let me say this, if you don’t know Dan Bohi, you should take the time to get to know him. If you’re not willing to get to know him, you should refrain from ever saying another word about the man.

I’ve heard people slander his name who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I’ve read the threads in the online discussion forums where people literally spend hours, and even days, picking his ministry apart when they’ve never even had a conversation with him. I’ve also seen the people who say, “I’m staying out of it.” These are the one’s who genuinely want revival, but are too afraid of what people might think to actually connect with those on the frontlines.

Listen carefully; if you really want revival, “staying out of it” isn’t an option.

I’ve heard all the excuses: “He’s not a licensed evangelist,” “He has no accountability,” “He’s a charismatic,” “He’s a neo-Pentecostal,” “He makes his living doing revivals, but isn’t ordained.” I could go on and on with the ridiculous commentary that’s based on nothing but conjecture and gossip.

Dan Bohi is more Nazarene than most Nazarenes I know. The man’s father, Rev. Jim Bohi, is an ordained minster in the church. His wife, Debbie Owens Bohi, is the daughter of a former General Superintendent. Dan was a longtime member at College Church in Olathe, Kansas: a church that’s produced more General Superintendents than any other church in recent history. His son, Chad Bohi, is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in Santa Maria, CA, where Dan is now a member. Beyond that, Dan recently received his local minister’s license and started the process of ordination.

Dan has been a committed layman his entire life. He served on the church board, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School, went on mission trips, and a whole lot more. He reads the entire Bible through every two months. He goes wherever the Lord sends him and tells people about Jesus. He has a board that oversees every aspect of his ministry. In fact, Dan has more accountability in his life than most leaders I know. I wish every church I’d ever pastored had ten lay leaders like Dan Bohi.

Did I mention that Dan’s ministry is fully funded? He has a team of ordained Nazarene ministers that travel with him fulltime, including: Craig Wesley Rench, Hal Perkins, Dave Flack, and Jay Jellison. God has provided a way for his team to travel together with a vision to “wake up the church” a no cost to the church. In fact, if you would like to host an Awakening/Revival, Dan’s team will come to your church or district without charging a dime. All they ask for is a love offering. What God is doing through this ministry is absolutely amazing.

You may ask, “How do you know these things, Brian?” I know because I, along with several other leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, currently serve on the board that oversees Dan Bohi Ministries.

For those of you that have interacted in the gossip circles about Dan, maybe God is speaking to you about the need to repent. That doesn’t mean you have to book a meeting with Dan. However, maybe you need to simply call him and have a conversation. Maybe you need to adjust the rabbit ears and clear up the relational static.

We need revival. It isn’t going to happen sitting on the bleachers with our arms crossed. It isn’t going to happen standing in the aisle between the bleachers and the altar, like I did at M11. The only way it’s going to happen is if we fall on our faces, admit when we’re wrong, and cry out, “Come Holy Spirit.”

Dan Bohi.jpg

DanBohiMinistries.com

 

 

 

PC

Political correctness in and of itself is not a bad thing. In the simplest of terms, it’s a way of treating people with respect regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, religion, socio-economic status, and other things that have the potential to divide. According to that definition Jesus was politically correct. He treated everyone with dignity because God’s love does not discriminate; Jesus knew that God loves everybody as much as He loves anybody.

Scripture instructs us to be civil in our conversations: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up… that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). However, what if charitable discourse in Jesus’ day was nothing like what we consider civil today. If we’re being realistic we have to admit that we live in a pampered society. Our sense of entitlement causes us to reject anything uncomfortable.

Yet without discomfort there is no cross. Without pain there is no discipleship. Without offense it’s impossible to live the life Jesus calls us to.

People groups of the world have distinctive understandings of what “civility” really means. I’m not sure overindulgent mainstream Americans should be the ones setting the bar for what’s considered offensive, especially if God is more clearly identified in the margins. Marginalized people want the truth; they need the truth. They long for the only thing that has the power to set them free. I’m thankful to be part of the Church of the Nazarene: a church that has been intentionally taking truth to the margins from the very beginning.

For many cultures passionate disagreement is not only normal, but also expected. There’s a great deal of biblical evidence supporting fervent dialogical disagreement. The Prophets, the Apostles, and Jesus himself spoke harshly at times. Their language wasn’t set-aside only for the religious leaders as some might say. Jesus had heated words for His followers, adversaries, disciples, and general audience. Peter, Paul, and other disciples also expressed themselves very matter-of-factly in many situations.

When Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers it wasn’t a charitable act. The moneychangers were common folk that had set up a spiritual flea market in the temple. They had taken something meant for one thing and turned it into something else. Jesus obviously thought the situation warranted a strong correction. In the Palestinian culture of that day, and in many cultures around the world today, confrontational dialogue wasn’t, and isn’t, considered offensive. In fact, it was, and still is, commonplace.

Postmodern America has an inaccurate understanding of political correctness. It’s become a new form of intolerance disguised as tolerance. The current cultural climate makes absolutes almost nonexistent; any claim to truth disturbs people’s sensibilities. I’m uncertain how we arrived at this place when one of the foundational blocks of American society is freedom of speech. It’s impossible to live in a society of free speech and never be offended by what others are saying.

Remember, “To those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word…” (1 Peter 2:7-8).

The gospel is offensive… period. The gospel confronts people; it makes us uncomfortable. It leaves us with a difficult choice. It forces one to admit that his or her way is the wrong way. Challenging people to completely reorder their life is a radical and evasive concept, particularly in postmodern America.

When a church becomes more concerned with political correctness than the power of the gospel it quickly becomes ineffective.

Let me explain how this has affected me personally. Often I have reservations about saying things in conversations with other Christian leaders, from the pulpit, and on social media. I’ve identified these reservations as a condition imposed on my thinking by the current state of our society. If the Bible speaks to an issue, I believe with grace and truth, I should be able to speak to the issue as well. In fact, as a minister of the gospel, I feel obligated to speak.

The old adage, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean,” has become an increasingly difficult task. People take offense where none is intended, which causes pastors and Christian leaders to be guarded. People presume the act of disagreeing is somehow arrogant and intentionally hurtful; this is especially true in the digital world. Therefore, an insistence on greater civility has emerged. Failure to engage by the arbitrary rules of cultural civility results in charges of ignorance and bigotry.

If there’s ever been a society where no one has the right to live unoffended, it’s the United States of America. In fact, we should expect to hear things that challenge our worldview. Dealing with what others believe is a small price to pay for living in a free country. Yet being easily offended has become fashionable. One can hardly exist on a college campus without being inundated with progressive points of view, and it’s not much different in Christian universities. If you refuse to drink the cool-aid then you’re labeled close-minded and lack critical thinking skills.

The paradoxical outcome of insisting on greater civility often goes beyond frequent offense to the realm of “outrage.” When this happens the PC police come after their opponents with no holds barred. They will shut anyone down at any cost that constantly disagrees with their views. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s exactly what the religious leaders did to Jesus when they put Him on the cross. The rules of political correctness get tossed out the window when the PC crowd becomes convinced that they’re right on any given issue.

The problem with the postmodern understanding of political correctness is that it focuses primarily on people’s feelings, not on being gracious and truthful. And when progressive thinkers assume places of greater influence in the church the focus shifts from what God declares as true to how people feel about what God declares as true. When the church starts focusing on how people feel about truth more than truth itself, God quickly gets extracted from the conversation.

We have arrived at a place where one cannot caringly confront cultural deception without upsetting the applecart. When this happens the spirit of offense protests. Again, they believe their cause is greater than anything anyone else has to say. Their rhetoric causes those who don’t agree with them to back down because they feel intellectually inferior. Of course, if it’s coming from the university it must be intellectually informed, right?

This, my friends, is the influence of postmodernity’s version of political correctness.

Now might be a good time to remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Instead of allowing scriptural truth to speak to modern day concerns, the spirit of political correctness is causing many to impose contemporary cultural issues on scripture. They insert a version of truth and spoon-feed it to the masses until it becomes uncharitable to say anything contrary.

Paul tells his young protégée, Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).

That’s good advice for all of us.

Remember, it’s impossible to speak truth without rocking the boat. Don’t stop speaking. Speak gracefully, but boldly. Don’t cave to the pressure of the current cultural stream of political correctness. When we do the gospel loses its effectiveness. Once that happens, like the builders of old, we reject the “chief cornerstone.” When the foundation is stripped away everything else falls apart and that’s not good for anyone.

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General Assembly is the quadrennial gathering of the global family that is the Church of the Nazarene. Every four years delegates from all over the world come together to celebrate what God has done, discern how the Holy Spirit is leading, and make decisions about how to faithfully advance the mission of Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations in the years ahead.

The Church of the Nazarene has always been theologically and biblically conservative, yet progressive in practice. In other words, we believe the Bible is true and we take the message of holiness seriously. Nonetheless, we’re willing to stop at nothing to reach people with the life-transforming message of the Gospel.

From the beginning the distinctive doctrine of the Nazarene movement has been “entire sanctification,” which teaches that after one becomes a Christian there’s a deeper work to be experienced. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit (entirely sanctified) his or her devotion to Jesus becomes the essence of life. Entire sanctification is the doctrine of “love made perfect,” lived out as the Holy Spirit empowers us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

At General Assembly we make decisions about resolutions that’s been submitted by districts and committees from around the world. These resolutions affect the theology, polity, social positions, and overall governance of the church and are incorporated into the Manual (book of discipline) if passed by the global delegation. I am thankful for the growing delegation from the Africa, South America, and Mesoamerica Regions, as I believe they will keep us on track theologically.

After reading the resolutions for the 2017 General Assembly, I decided to elaborate on a few that are categorized in the “Christian Action” grouping. This category informs our identity more than any other as it pertains to who we are theologically and where we stand biblically.

While administrative matters need to change as we discover better ways to faithfully steward the organizational structures of the church, theological distinctiveness should only be strengthened, never diluted. In a world of pluralism, relativism, moral decline, and social injustice, if our theological distinctiveness is not reinforced the church’s influence in the world will diminish.

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CA-700: Affirmation and Declaration of Human Freedoms – The United Kingdom British Isles South District submitted this resolution. It calls for us to “confess our complicity” as it pertains to the enslavement of human beings. That statement alone makes this resolution a bad idea. With that kind of wording this could become a legal issue in some world areas. It reads as an admission to a crime against humanity. This resolution is not necessary because our involvement in “setting captives free” is a given by nature of the holiness message (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18).

CA-701: Human Sexuality – Resolution 701 was created and submitted by the Board of General Superintendents. It is the best choice of the three submissions on “Human Sexuality.” There is unquestionably a minority looking for loopholes as it pertains to same-sex marriage. While we need to be gracious in our response, we must also remain committed to biblical orthodoxy concerning sexuality. The Board of General Superintendents engages this topic with a deep sense of compassion; yet they also remain clearly grounded in Holy Scripture and Wesleyan-Arminian theology. This resolution lovingly speaks to the various nuances related to the doctrine of human sexuality.

CA-701a/701b: Human Sexuality – The Netherlands, New England, and Kansas City Districts submitted these two resolutions. They remove any language pertaining to homosexual behavior. Without such language being supplemented elsewhere these resolutions weaken the biblical doctrine of sexual purity and potentially opens the door to homosexual behavior becoming acceptable. It’s impossible to remain biblically responsible, yet remove language pertaining to homosexuality from our doctrinal statements.

CA-708: The Christian Life – The Mid-Atlantic and Northwestern Ohio Districts, and the General Assembly Resolutions and Reference Committees collectively submitted this resolution. The new wording offers a much-needed global perspective. Without it, this entire section of the Manual is established on paradigms employed primarily in western culture, especially the U.S., and is not reflective of the fact that we are an international church. This resolution is a great addition for our Manual.

CA-709: The Use of Social MediaWhile I appreciate the efforts of the Mid-Atlantic District and the Reference Committee, to say that all social media activities should be affirming and uplifting to all people is biblically inaccurate (Jer. 1:10). There would be large portions of the Bible that couldn’t be quoted on social media if our activities must continually be uplifting to all people. This would also deny anyone the ability to speak prophetically about the difficult issues facing the church. Beyond that, who decides what qualifies as “respectful” when it comes to social media interaction? Various personalities speak, write, and communicate differently. Interpreting online interaction becomes an impossible task if we attempt to judge one person’s written expressions based on what another person considers respectful and/or offensive. Being gracious and forgiving to one another on social media should be a given.

CA-710: The Use of Intoxicants – The Nebraska and Mid-Atlantic Districts, and the Reference Committee submitted this resolution. While we could certainly work on the wording of this Manual paragraph, this particular submission weakens our position on the use of alcohol to the point that we might as well remove it altogether. I struggle with the missional implications as it pertains to something as addictive as alcohol consumption. We certainly realize the devastating effects it’s had on the poor and marginalized. We should consider rewording these paragraphs our Manual. However, I’m not comfortable with this resolution as it’s presented.

CA-714: Sanctity of Human Life – The Mid-Atlantic District submitted this resolution. I struggled more with this submission than any other. The suggested change weakens our current stance and actually devalues human life beyond what we presently affirm. It’s a slippery slope that we should avoid at all costs. When we arrive at the place in our theology where we view the sanctity of human life as a “political” issue we fail the most innocent human beings among us: those still in the womb. If anything, we should make a stronger statement on the sanctity of human life, especially as it relates to abortion.

CA-717: Covenant of Christian Character – The Netherlands District submitted this resolution. The Covenants of Christian Character and Conduct are designed to give additional direction to members of the Church of the Nazarene concerning what is beneficial to the Christian life. They are not exhaustive, but they are helpful. They serve to strengthen believers in the pursuit of holiness. Eliminating these details deprive us of our distinctiveness. When we lose the things that make us unique we ultimately ignore the distinctive call of God on our movement, and in turn become generic and ineffective.

CA-718: The Christian Life – The New England District submitted this resolution. Rewording this Manual paragraph to include the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount would be extremely helpful. However, removing the reference to the Ten Commandments when Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law…” (Matt. 5:17), only weakens the statement. I agree that focusing exclusively on the Ten Commandments centers primarily on rules and lends itself to legalism. The teachings of Christ should be highlighted in this paragraph. Rewording this resolution slightly would strengthen our theological position.

CA-721: Christian Marriage – The Southwest Indiana District submitted this resolution. This amendment strengthens our theological and legal position on marriage. As society continues to change at a rapid pace there will be more and more groups attempting to redefine marriage in light of cultural shifts based primarily on human reasoning. One recommendation: if we are going to change the word “biblical” to “Christian” in the last sentence, we should also change it in the second-to-last sentence.

CA-724: Gender Identity – The Board of General Superintendents submitted this resolution. In a day and age where gender identity is surrounded with controversy we desperately need a statement that provides direction on an issue that is predominantly driven by culture and politics. This resolution is rooted in biblical doctrine and Christian tradition, and affirms that gender identity reflects God’s divine plan for humanity.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list of the resolutions submitted to the General Assembly. This article only speaks to resolutions that some feel could have a significant impact on the future identity of the Church of the Nazarene. These particular resolutions are what I describe as “identity declarations.” When we amend the Manual paragraphs concerning what we believe and how we practice what we believe we are reinterpreting how to apply biblical doctrine, which cannot be done lightly.

The sentiments expressed in this article are based on conversations with various leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, analysis of the negative impact that secularized culture is having on the church, application of Scripture in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, and personal convictions as it pertains to how the church can best move forward in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

Please feel free to contact me at kynazds@gmail.com with any questions or comments. If you have more insight as to how we can better discuss these issues in the future I’d love to hear from you.

Remember the methodists

The call to pastoral ministry is often depicted with the metaphor of “Shepherd and Sheep.” The shepherd is one who leads, serves, and protects the flock. In every church I’ve pastored I have taken that call very seriously. I stress the word “protect” as it relates to the shepherd’s staff. The staff was used to ward off predators and get the sheep out of precarious situations.

Since coming into the role of District Pastor (Superintendent) there have been times when I’ve been very vocal about what I perceive as “dangers” lurking in the shadows. No differently than I would have confronted those dangers in the local church, I’ve confronted them as they’ve influenced the network of churches that I’ve been called to serve. I suppose it’s my shepherd’s reflex responding to what I identify as threats.

My concerns have largely been informed by recent developments in the United Methodist Church. Many people are heartbroken over the harm caused by the lack of accountability among their clergy. The unfaithfulness of some UMC pastors and bishops has caused damage that will be difficult to ever repair, which is why groups like the Wesleyan Covenant Association have been established. I am encouraged by such alliances. Revival is breaking out in many pockets of the UMC because of the faithfulness of a few. All it takes is a remnant.

In the midst of my efforts to “protect the flock,” God recently reminded me that He doesn’t need me to defend Him. He’s shown me that making a statement and arguing a point are two very different things. So, while I’m not going to stop speaking (I’m a preacher for goodness sake), I am going to stop debating as if there’s a fight to win. This battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this dark world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6).

I’ve been very loud at times over these issues. Not debating is difficult for some of us; it’s how we process and learn. However, in the age of social media we lack the relational equity to have difficult conversations without constant offence. Sometimes volume isn’t nearly as effective as simply handling matters in a way that isn’t seen or heard beyond the boundaries of the people we’ve been called to serve. Nonetheless, in my opinion, a higher level of accountability is needed across the board.

Accountability for ordained ministers has been a topic frequently discussed as it relates to these issues. Ordination has traditionally been understood as a sacrament (i.e. “Holy Orders”). That means the covenants taken by ordained and licensed members of clergy matter greatly. Remaining faithful and striving for unity is a big part of the job for those who’ve been entrusted to serve the church.

When I think of ordained ministry, and especially the call to preach, I’m reminded of the sacred charge that many of us carry. Think about it, preaching is a form of public speaking unlike any other. The preacher is one who has answered a divine call to proclaim eternal truths from God’s Word to a gathered group of listeners. There are serious implications involved with preaching; we are liable for shaping people’s lives with our words. The words we speak foster an ongoing Christian worldview among those we shepherd. This is an amazing honor, but an even greater responsibility.

With unorthodox teachings increasing in popularity they’re becoming more commonplace among pastors and leaders in every denomination. These issues are infiltrating our university classrooms, making their way into our pulpits, and taking center stage in many forums (remember the Methodists). Personally, I think we should put a stop to it. Every member of clergy should be accountable to the covenants they’ve made a promise to support. If they can’t they should surrender their credentials; it’s not difficult.

Some people believe I’m overreacting. Again I say, “Remember the Methodists.” We’d be naïve to think it couldn’t happen to us. Of course I realize that nothing will ever destroy the Church; the gates of hell won’t prevail against Her (Matt 16:18). However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a great price to pay if we’re not faithful with what we’ve been entrusted to steward.

Most of the conversations that I’ve engaged pertaining to biblical unorthodoxy are with faithful pastors who feel extremely misrepresented. These pastors aren’t looking for a fight; they’re just serving faithfully and bearing fruit. Yet many are struggling with spending the rest of their life at odds with the people they’re supposed to be partnering with to advance the cause of Christ. I’ve spent hours explaining “why” the unfaithful among us aren’t held to a higher level of accountability.

The mission of Jesus is something we should be willing to die for; it’s the difference between life and death. Getting sidetracked with negotiating biblical truths in light of cultural shifts does nothing more than taint the mission of making disciples. Maybe I’m too extreme. One thing I’m certain of, however, the Kingdom means too much to forfeit a single minute debating with unfaithful co-laborers.

Bottom-line: we need a higher level of accountability. Actually, I believe it would lead to greater unity, church growth, and denominational revitalization. Yet, I concede from responding out of “protection mode.” While there are many who share my concerns, I also understand the wisdom of not speaking so loudly.

With all due respect, at times it seems like pastoring has become synonymous with “being a nice person” and “not offending anyone.” Interestingly, that’s not the model of Jesus, the disciples, or the prophets. Pastors are called to represent a Kingdom that’s not of this world, not get in bed with the world. It may be more important that we start taking a stand instead of going with the flow. Remember the Methodists.

Repentance & Holiness

Becoming vulnerable is the first step toward freedom. Vulnerability exposes our weakness and enables God to break down strongholds. We cannot function in freedom until we become brave enough to confront the strongholds that hinder the advancement of the Kingdom in our lives.

God is so much better than we give Him credit for. I confess that I’ve done a poor job representing His goodness at times. The older I get the more inadequate I realize I am. The Lord has revealed Himself to me in new ways in recent days. I often find myself laughing and crying at the same as He makes His Presence known. These fresh encounters with God have left me more humble, grateful, and free than I can ever remember. There is so much to discover about following Jesus; it’s a never ending journey. I’ve asked God to help me become a better example of His goodness along the way.

I’m currently living in a place of great paradox. On the one hand, I’ve never felt closer to Jesus and I’ve never been more aware of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet on the other hand, I’ve never felt more burdened; I live with a constant sense of heaviness for the state of the Bride. In the midst of my burdens I’ve discovered the power of weakness and the freedom that exists when we come to the end of ourselves.

At the heart of repentance lies vulnerability. True freedom in Christ requires that I constantly confess my faults, that I lay my inadequacies on the altar. Building an altar in our lives is so important. I’m not saying that we sin everyday as in “willfully transgressing against God.” However, I firmly believe that when we fail to love well that we sin against God and others. That means my attitudes, actions, words, and thoughts matter deeply. It means the things that I should be doing that I neglect to do matter in my relationship with Jesus.

I’m convinced that a lifestyle of repentance is the foundation of holiness. The minute I don’t think I have anything wrong in my life is the moment I set myself up as God. I have so many things to constantly repent of; at the top of the list is busyness and distraction. Beyond that, I often repent for not praying enough. I repent of being impatient. I repent for not always responding to my family the way I should. I repent for making decisions, even small decisions, without adequately seeking Jesus. I repent of developing preconceived notions about other people. These are all things that I need to continually lay on the altar. Again, the altar is so important.

True repentance is the only way to break down strongholds. Being in a relationship with God is important, but being in a right relationship with God is essential, especially if we’re going to live the life He’s called us to live. Indeed, repentance and holiness go hand in hand.

Dying to self and taking up the cross daily is about killing the little hedonist that’s kicking and screaming inside of us all. The flesh is one of our biggest foes; it’s always seeking pleasure that lasts for a season. We’re called to kill the flesh every time it raises its ugly head by nailing it to the cross. And when it reappears, we have to do it again. For holiness to become a lifestyle repentance must become a regular practice.

Have you ever considered the corporate hedonist that often appears among the Body of Christ? When the church begins warring against itself Satan takes the throne. When we refuse to corporately take up our cross we take up our quarrels. The Apostle James tells us that this infighting comes from the desire to please self over the desire to please God (James 4). It’s always rooted in our inability to believe that God can give us everything we need.

Many of you know that I’ve given my life to the Church, and in particular, the Church of the Nazarene. My heritage is grounded in the Church of the Nazarene. I love the people called “Nazarenes” very much. However, at times I’ve loved her too much. I repent of ever making my denomination an idol. I repent for allowing the boundaries of the Church of the Nazarene to limit my perspective of the Kingdom. I repent for the times I’ve allowed my identity to become more wrapped up in the Church of the Nazarene than the Kingdom of Jesus. We’d all do well to remember that God is a lot bigger than our little tribe.

With that said, I am burdened for the church. I’m troubled over the lack of passion for revival and what seems to be protest against it by some. I’m burdened over the unfaithfulness and pettiness. I’m burdened over the toxic environment that exists in some places. I’m burdened over the manifestation of pride. I am praying that God break down these strongholds; and when I say break down, I mean crush.

I’m praying for people to be delivered from rigid fundamentalism because none of us are the judge. I’m praying for people to be delivered from dead religious formalism because God is alive and He needs room to move among His people. I’m praying for people to be delivered from progressive intellectual elitism because it’s opposite of the posture of humility. It saddens me to see so many places negatively affected by legalism, liberalism, antagonism, and a host of other “isms” that no doubt breaks the heart of God.

We need to become a “movement” again: one that’s led by the manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit. God forgive us for allowing the church to become a religious enterprise. Forgive us for turning the church into a business instead of a house of prayer. Forgive us for trying to climb the latter of success. Forgive us for being more concerned about what people think than we are what God thinks. Forgive us for trying to be something we’re not. Forgive us for not living by the principles of corporate prayer and repentance that You’ve prescribed in Scripture:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It’s time to cry out to God corporately. For the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall on us again we must repent of our failed business strategies, hollow philosophies, lack of accountability, and broken theological constructs. The Father won’t settle for being an afterthought. He desires to be intimately involved in everything we do.

I hope you hear my heart. In the midst of my brokenness, my longing to be a better follower of Jesus is increasing. Brokenness is a good place to be. There’s a lot of freedom when we learn to live like there’s nothing to lose. Vulnerability that leads to repentance is the only thing that’ll break down the strongholds preventing us from experiencing the intimate Presence of the Holy Spirit.

God is so good. He’s better than I’ve ever imagined He could be. There are parts of His goodness that’s easily noticeable, yet often overlooked. I want to spend the rest of my life paying closer attention to who He really is and what He’s really like. For that to happen, vulnerability and repentance must become a common way of life.

holy-spirit

In the late 90s on our way home from visiting Washington DC in mid-July, Heather, Jake, and myself were traveling I-95 southbound headed back to North Carolina. Lunchtime had passed and we were all hungry. Jake was around seven years old and he wanted to eat at McDonald’s. However, for some reason I was set on eating at Denny’s. I’m not sure why, maybe it was the “Grand Slam.”

When traveling our nation’s highways one doesn’t have to look far to find a Denny’s; sure enough, a few miles down I-95 and we spotted the big yellow sign. We exited the highway, parked the car, and went inside. When they brought our beverages to the table the first thing I noticed was a long, black, crusty hair hanging out of my drink and flowing down the side of the glass. Then we noticed what appeared to be a couple of eyelashes (we hoped they weren’t nose hairs) floating with the ice cubes in Heather’s beverage. We decided to pay for our drinks and leave. Jake said, “Dad, can we just go to McDonald’s?” “No,” I said, “We will find another Denny’s.”

A few exits down, and sure enough there was another Denny’s. No sooner than we had walked through the door a very loud, brassy, gruff voice yelled out, “We’re short-staffed and out of ice. So, if you want a cold drink you’d better go somewhere else!” Without a word, we walked back to the car. Jake again asked, “Dad, can we please go to McDonald’s?” Most people would’ve given up on Denny’s at this point, however we’re pretty resilient. “No Jake,” I said, “We will find another Denny’s.”

Another ten miles or so and what do you know, there was another Denny’s. The sign in the lobby said “Seat Yourself.” This Denny’s appeared to be abandoned; we didn’t see anyone. We sat at the first booth we came to and within a few minutes I noticed someone walking toward us with a slow swagger and a long, blonde, badly styled wig that was so bright that it glowed in the dimly lit room. It was our waiter.

His fingernails were so long that they curled under a few times; he was actually having trouble holding the pen to write down our order. Finally, we noticed the massive amounts of cat hair matted to his apron, which made me wonder what they were cooking in the back. Beyond that, he smelled and sounded like he’d been chain-smoking stale cigars. I ask him to give us a minute. As soon as he walked away I looked at Jake and said, “Let’s go to McDonald’s.”

I’ve never been to Denny’s again. Whatever it was I was craving, I’ve since forgotten. It was so bad that the memories of this incident will forever be branded in my mind. It wasn’t a food issue; we never made it that far. So what was it? Our problem with Denny’s had everything to do with hospitality. Plain and simple, Denny’s was a bad host. This occasion has caused me to think a lot about the importance of being a “good host.”

Have you ever been to a gathering that wasn’t hosted very well? Ever been in someone’s home who wasn’t very welcoming? Maybe they were rude, or messy, or obnoxious, or a bad cook? One thing is certain: hospitality plays a significant role in our relationship with others.

No doubt, there are many churches that need a lesson in hospitality. Beyond that, as Christians, we should strive to be good hosts in every situation. And while all of that is important I think the most important thing for us to realize is that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be “hosts” of the Holy Spirit. Think about it: the Sovereign Lord, the Most-High King, the Creator and Sustainer of all things dwells in you. Walking in the fullness of God requires living with a sacred awareness that He’s always present.

Inattention to the Holy Spirit is a sure sign of misplaced affection. Without realizing it we tend to compartmentalize our lives. In doing so, we put God in a box and only take Him out when we need Him. Far too many people’s relationship with Jesus remains out of sight and out of mind. They go about their lives never giving a second thought to the fact that God is with them, every second of every day, He is present.

We like our faith to be categorized instead of personalized. We enjoy buying stuff, taking it out of the box, plugging it in, and using it. We like three-point outlines, PowerPoint presentations, and systematic theology. While these things may inform our faith, they lack the power to transform us into His image. Transformation comes in the form of continually encountering a Person.

While Scripture offers a standard for practicing faith, and Christian tradition certainly informs our faith, and reason helps us make sense of our faith, experiencing the Person of the Holy Spirit offers something the above mentioned do not: an intimate encounter with a Person. We would all agree that nothing impacts our lives like our experiences. My experience at Denny’s has forever altered my perspective.

Experiential faith worries some people because of its expressive nature. While I share their concern for the televangelist types that manipulate the masses and stir up emotional frenzies, we must not write off experience as an important part of our spiritual journey. We need to look no further than the Book of Acts to identify how the Holy Spirit came upon people and radically transformed their lives. This happened before the New Testament was complete, before the traditions of the Church had been established, and couldn’t be reasonably explained by those caught up in the movement.

If one examines what’s happening in the southern hemisphere today he or she will identify people encountering God in supernatural ways. There are reports of supernatural healing, intercessory prayer that’s changing entire cities, and revival that’s stirring the hearts of multitudes of people. Beyond the southern hemisphere, there is also a growing unrest among congregations in the United States that are experiencing authentic glimpses of revival. In fact, there is a grassroots remnant that believes the church needs revival more than anything else.

We are a church that believes in the infilling, overflowing, sanctifying power of God at work in and through us for the benefit of the world. He dwells in us for our sake, but He flows through us for the sake of others. When the Holy Spirit rests upon a person, a congregation, or an entire denomination, it’s because He’s been made welcome.

Sadly, it seems fewer and fewer people live consciously aware of their responsibility to be a good host. In fact, today the Holy Spirit seems largely forgotten, which grieves the heart of God and quenches His ability to flow through our lives. I believe the church’s greatest days will come when she rediscovers the power of hosting His Presence. We must realize that there is an experience that goes beyond emotions. It’s the atmosphere that is created by the manifest Presence of God. When He shows up it changes everything.

stench

Well, it’s that time of year again. I’ll never forget my first February in Kentucky; then last February I noticed the same thing, and now this year. Let’s just say some things never change. What am I talking about you ask? The early spring invasion of SKUNKS!

In their efforts to cross the road these poor animals get hit by passing cars and inevitably leave a smell that, as the old southern expression goes, would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon. I actually have a skunk living in my backyard. When I take the trash out at night I’m always fearful that she’s going to be standing by the garbage can cocked and loaded.

The potency of skunk stench travels a great distance. When I ride over their carcasses on the highway the odor oozes into my car and remains for several miles. The power of a skunk’s particular smell has the capacity to linger in your nostrils for an uncanny amount of time.

My friend, Eddie, once had a pet skunk named, “Pierre” (although it was a girl). He tells me that Pierre was one of the best pets he ever owned. He found her when she was 6-8 weeks old and had the scent glands removed. Pierre was housebroken and trained to walk on a leash. He kept her for two years before getting married. However, his wife-to-be put great pressure on him to find Pierre a new home. Pierre spent the rest of her days entertaining children at elementary schools as part of a traveling zoo.

If you’ve ever viewed a skunk up close (preferably in pictures), you’ll likely agree that they’re adorable little animals. I’ve pondered recently why God would create something that appears so sweet yet give it a scent that will scar you for life. A few days ago that familiar smell seeped into my car once again; as the odor lingered God reminded me of a few things.

Scripture speaks a lot about “smells” and “aromas.” When dealing with unfaithfulness among His people God says, “These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away” (Isaiah 65:5, NLT). The Bible suggests a similar idea in 2 Peter chapter two when the Apostle writes about Believers who turn back to sin as “A dog that returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

All of us are wonderfully made in the likeness of a loving Creator. Every one of us is a much-loved child of the most caring Father in the entire universe. Yet many of us are like the prodigal son before he realizes his need to return home: We smell like a pigsty. We are beautiful in God’s eyes, yet all of us have the capacity to stink. When we willfully choose to live in sin we produce an aroma that reeks in the nostrils of God.

For many, the smelly aroma comes from their efforts of self-preservation. We’ve learned to function in ongoing protection mode. Like a skunk, we let off an odor when we try to defend ourselves against what we perceive as a threat. Something presses in on our lives and we lash out, lie, cheat, attack another person, think we deserve something we actually don’t, justify our bad behaviors and habits, and the list goes on. In these moments we produce a scent that not only distances us from the Father, it also separates us from the people we love.

My friends, sin is a serious problem. When it goes unchecked it has the capacity to derail our lives in a way that leaves us dead on the inside. Without God, the aroma of death lingers. We’ve all been affected, which means we’ve all smelled like a dead skunk in God’s nostrils at one time or another.

Like Isaiah, our very best efforts are like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God. In other words, we don’t deserve the goodness and mercy of God because of our stench. We often live in denial of the fact that we have the potential to smell like a skunk carcass lying on the side of the road. Denying the potential to smell like sin means one likely thinks more highly of themselves than they should. This is a dangerous way to live.

At the end of the day we all smell like road kill without Jesus. Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:14-16, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life…”

Wow! In Christ, we are called to manifest His sweet fragrance everywhere we go. That means the Kingdom of God is touching down everywhere we stand. Now, when I smell a dead skunk I think about the fact that I’m dead to myself, yet alive in Christ. Without Jesus we stink in the nostrils of God, but IN HIM we’re a sweet savor unto the Lord. Let people smell the aroma of Christ being manifested through your life everyday.


(Sources: Eddie Estep)

Black Lives Matter

No life is worth more than another. God sent Jesus to die for all because all lives matter to God. If all lives matter to God then all lives should matter to us. However, we also know that some lives are more broken than others. Brokenness is the root of racial tension wherever it may be found. Some people are afraid to admit that because when they admit it they become accountable to respond, especially if they consider themselves a ‘Christian.’

Racism is a real issue. It has been for a long time, particularly in the United States.

All lives indeed matter. However, saying ‘all lives matter’ in an attempt to divert attention away from the brokenness brought on by bigotry is a cheap move. Imagine going to the doctor with a broken bone and the doctor saying, “all bones matter.” You say, “Yea Doc, I know, but this bone is broken and I need you to fix it.” He says, “You’re overreacting, all bones matter.”

Everyone knows that ‘all lives matter.’ It goes without saying. And while we should value every single life, to ignore the brokenness that stems from decades of oppression that the black community has faced is like denying the fact that your leg is broken when the bone is showing through the skin and you can’t walk.

Before you read any further know that this blog post is not an official statement regarding the Black Lives Matter or the All Lives Matter movements. I really don’t know enough about those organizations to have an opinion. However, I do have many black friends and I’ve seen them suffer because of the color of their skin. Their lives matter to me.

I’d like to share a few stories of regret that I’ve lived with for a very long time.

Carlos was my friend in 5th grade. He was black. I’ll never forget how excited I was when his mom said he could come over for my birthday party. We attended a school in a city that had a large black enrollment. My cousins also came to the party. They attended a school in the county where very few, if any, black kids attended. Carlos came home with me from school that Friday. The plan was for everyone to sleep over and go home Saturday.

My cousins arrived within a few hours. They had never met Carlos. Within the first 15 minutes of their arrival they pulled me aside to ask me why I had invited that “N!@$#&” to the party. They were angry and told me that they were not going to spend the night if Carlos stayed. I told them I wasn’t going to ask him to leave. However, during the remainder of the evening they made him so uncomfortable that he called his mom to come and get him. I stood by silently as my cousins bullied my friend simply because of the color of his skin.

My first real job as a married adult I met Michael and Mitch. Even though he was 20 years my elder, Michael and I became good friends. I wanted to learn from him because he was the best salesperson in the company; he was often named salesman of the month. Mitch was a good salesperson too. He was arrogant and not as good as Michael, but good nonetheless. Michael was a true gentleman, gracious and considerate; he was also black. Mitch was a bit egotistical and aggressive; he was also white.

After a few years an upper management position came open. Whispers among employees began to circulate. Most believed Mitch would get the promotion even though Michael had been with the company longer and had an impeccable track record. It was no secret that the owner of the company had never promoted a black man to upper management. The time came, and sure enough, Mitch was promoted. We could all sense the disappointment with Michael. Within the next year, he left the company. My friend, who deserved a promotion, didn’t get it because of the color of his skin.

I could tell many stories of discrimination mixed with southern charm. It happened at school, church, and even in my own family. No one in the south is a stranger to people being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. It bothered me then and it bothers me now. As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ I say unashamedly that I stand against racism in any form.

I’m a white, middle-aged, upper-middle class, southern, conservative, Christian suburbanite and I believe that the racial hostility toward black lives should matter to all of us. I believe the black community has had more than it’s share of brokenness. We cannot turn a blind eye to the systemic oppression that our African-American brothers and sisters face.

Whether or not you are bothered by racial injustice doesn’t change the truth that it’s an ugly reality in our country. We can choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem. If you’re a Christian then you’re called to be part of the solution. If you remain silent you’re part of the problem. Turning a blind eye and keeping a sealed lip is not an option for committed followers of Jesus.

If you say things like, “I don’t owe ‘them’ anything” or “I’ve never wronged ‘those’ people.” Let me assure you that you’re more racist than you realize. Besides that, you’re missing the point. We are talking about fellow human beings: real people who, by and large, have been mistreated for a long time. Our ancestors owned their ancestors. Think about that. If you don’t believe that’s a psychological impairment on an entire race of people, then you need a psychologist yourself.

Have you ever really thought about what it’s like to walk in a black man’s shoes? As a white man, a security guard in a department store has never followed me because they assumed I was a shoplifter. As a white man, I’ve never been pulled over by a police officer for driving through a neighborhood where I didn’t live. As a white man, my grandparents didn’t have to use separate restrooms, go to different schools, drink from a different water fountain, or sit in the back of a public bus.

So, to my friend Carlos, if you ever read this, I’m deeply sorry that I didn’t stand up for you with my cousins. I wish I had sent them home that night instead if letting you leave. If I could go back I would change it. I want you to know I’m deeply sorry for the way you were treated.

To my friend, Michael, you should have got the promotion. You deserved it. You were by far the most qualified. The boss was wrong. If I could go back, I would have resigned with you. I think of you often and pray that your family is doing well.

To my black friends, I love you. And although I’ll never really know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, I stand with you.

Remember, all bones matter, but the one that’s broken get the most attention until it heals. Sometimes the healing takes longer than any of us would like. Nonetheless, we nurture the one that’s broken until it’s whole again. Broken lives matter, they matter to God and they should matter to us. It’s really that simple.

Talking Heads

Recently, when visiting my hometown I got to hang out with an old friend. During our conversation he said, “I don’t have a lot of people in my life that I can talk to about anything significant. People don’t like to think about important issues.” Let that sink in: “People don’t like to think about important issues.”

Note the name of this blog site: “You Are What You Think.” Thinking is imperative to our spiritual journey. God instructs us to use our mind… “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

What we think about God is the most important thing about us. What you think about God affects everything about your life. It affects how you view the world, how you raise your children, how you interact with other people… I could go on and on. With that said, we need to be careful. There are a lot of talking heads, voices in the world, all of which want a platform in your mind. They want to shape the way you think.

The world is full of filters. When we allow the image of God to be sifted, that image quickly becomes distorted. People tend to filter God through many things, including: politics, culture, nationalism, etc. In doing so they develop a false sense of who God really is and it affects their ability to engage him on a deeper level. For example, if you filter God through the lens of American politics you will tend to view God as being on the side of the Republicans or the Democrats. He is not.

If you filter God through patriotism you begin to think that being a good American means being a good Christian, and consequently you begin to view foreigners differently, which leads to discrimination. A pastor recently shared a story with me where someone got up at a funeral and said, “I know uncle Joe is in heaven because the bible says that if you’re an American you go to heaven.” Jesus doesn’t shroud himself in the American flag, or any other flag for that matter. His Kingdom is not of this world.

If you filter God through religious subcultures, you will be tempted to go one of two routes. You might become a fundamentalist who thinks that God is only like the people who share the same views as you, often focusing on non-essentials. Or you may lean toward a Universalist perspective and develop ideas about God revealing himself through various religions.

Some people filter God through media. This ties into my theory on why people don’t like to think about important issues. They’re either afraid or they feel guilty. They’ve been silenced by what I call fear-peddlers and guilt-trippers. You see, your cable news networks are fear-peddlers. They’ve got to keep the ratings up, so they spin every story. The more shocking, the more heated the commentary, the more debate, the more “what ifs”… the better the ratings.

Then you have the guilt-trippers, those who over-empathize with every movement that comes along. These are people who guilt you into being silent. Those who say things like, “Can’t we all just get alone… shame on you for saying anything contrary to another person’s opinion.” These people would rather take the “live and let live” approach than to speak truth and risk offending someone… even so far as calling those things which are evil, good (Isaiah 5:20).

Conservatives tend to be fear-peddlers (i.e. warning, “if you don’t do this”). Liberals have a tendency to be guilt-trippers (i.e. threatening, “how dare you”). When the liberals label me “conservative” and the conservatives label me “liberal” it helps me realize that I must be doing something right. My desire is to be a good citizen of the Kingdom of God and I believe the way of the Kingdom is discovered in-between all the rhetoric and labeling.

Reducing the talking heads is imperative for a healthy spiritual life. Take a break from all the noise. Discover the beauty and majesty of silence. Learn to listen for that small still voice in the midst of all the clamor. Filtering God through our own unique preferences and leanings certainly has the ability to damage how we think about God and realizing that makes a huge difference in our walk with him.

Turn off the news networks. Turn down the volume on the fundies and libs. Refuse to allow your life to be inundated by fear-peddlers and guilt-trippers. Stop allowing negative influences to shape your thinking. Don’t allow God to be filtered. Disconnect. Find the in-between. You don’t need the talking heads of modern culture informing your every thought. Read, pray, open the scripture, and seek the wisdom that only comes from above. It will change everything…guaranteed.