The Passion to Fight

On Sandy Rios in the Morning the other day, Sandy made the comment that a culture of niceness in the church has destroyed the passion to fight. There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

I don’t think she was saying that we shouldn’t be loving or kind. After all, Ephesians 4:32 tells us:

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 16:14:

“Let all that you do be done with love.”

So clearly we are to be kind and loving towards one another. However, our society has taken these admonitions to the wrong extreme so that people view speaking the truth as hateful or unloving. In fact, speaking the truth is one of the most loving things you can do. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:6 that love:

“…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul says that those who do not love the truth will believe lies and delusions in the end times as judgment from God. It is a love for the truth that makes us courageous enough to fight for it. We must love the truth more than other things. We must choose orthodoxy over fraternity.

But many don’t want to do that. They would just like to get along with everyone and not rock the boat. There’s not much love for the truth or fight in them.

There is a direct correlation between our love for the truth and our willingness to fight. If the truth means little to us, then we will think the cost of standing for it (losing friends, popularity, money, etc.) to be too much. But if we value the truth, we will be willing to fight for it.

“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23

A Ship is Safe in the Harbor….

The World History teacher I had in my junior year of high school had quotes posted all over his classroom wall. One in particular caught my attention:

A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for. —John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

I can’t tell you the impact that statement had upon me. It stuck with me long after high school. I was a shy kid who found it hard to meet new people and fit in socially. But after thinking upon that maxim, I decided I would have to learn to take risks.

I don’t think you’ve really lived until you know the full range of the human experience. It gives you a perspective that helps you see beyond the immediate situation. It grounds you.

I’ve loved and lost, and loved again. I’ve known rejection, but I’ve also known the thrill of romance. I’ve known triumph as well as defeat. I’ve been on mountaintops, but I’ve also suffered in deep valleys.

You will be rewarded for your risks and failures if you persist in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t expect to stand on the heights if you aren’t willing to fall down many times. It reminds me of another quote from Teddy Roosevelt that had a big impact upon me as well:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”—Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

That last line about the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat resonated with me. I saw myself going down that path. But I decided to step out in faith and take small risks one at a time. Those efforts built upon one another until gradually I felt my courage grow.

Sometimes I still take the safe path and listen to my fear instead of faith. But as I look back I can honestly say I’ve know both victory and defeat. I’ve taken chances. Sometimes I failed, and sometimes I’ve succeeded. I have sweet memories of adventure and romance that I would not have experienced had I stayed in the harbor.

Yes, it’s dangerous and scary out on the high seas. But consider the alternative. Picture a boat sitting there in the harbor day after day failing to fulfill the purpose for which it was built. That’s a sad picture, indeed.

Singles: The Movie that Defined a Generation

If there is one movie that defines Generation X, it would have to be the 1992 grunge classic Singles (its 1994 counterpart, Reality Bites, was a much inferior film in my opinion). Directed by Cameron Crowe, Singles is a quirky, romantic comedy, which stars Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, and Matt Dillion. The film is set in Seattle and features well-known grunge bands and musicians like Soundgarden and members of Pearl Jam. The plot centers around two couples who are trying to navigate the dating world of Seattle in the nineties.

I remember seeing it with my brother and cousin in Tulsa. I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, and it definitely facilitated my journey into the world of Seattle grunge bands and alternative music.

If you are unfamiliar with this movie and the Seattle music scene in the nineties, it might help you to understand that the Singles soundtrack, which was released three months prior to the film, became as much of a sensation as the movie, maybe more so. It was a kind of who’s who of popular Seattle bands at the time.

Whenever I see the iconic pictures from the movie poster or soundtrack, or hear the Chris Cornell song, “Seasons,” I get nostalgic for the grunge era. I still remember the youthful excitement surrounding the movie and its music. It brings back sweet memories of friends, adolescence, and simpler times.

I actually got to go to Seattle a few years ago (well before CHAZ) with my wife to visit her cousin and family. She took us by one of the locations from the film (Linda’s apartment). It was kind of surreal seeing something in person from a film that made such a profound impact on me in my youth. I loved visiting Seattle. The Pacific Northwest was stunningly beautiful. I’m also a Frasier fan, so that was another draw to Seattle for me.

It’s been 29 years since Singles came out. It was much more than just a movie. It was a cultural phenomenon. One could argue that it helped nationalize the Seattle music scene and spur the grunge movement. It seems like a moment frozen in time. Things are much different now. That was before we had cell phones and the internet. So maybe part of my nostalgia for the movie stems from the fact that in our free time back then, instead of getting on our cell phones or streaming a movie on our smart TV’s, we’d simply pop in our favorite CD, like Pearl Jam’s Ten, and listen to some good music.

Two More Minutes—Introspective 1995

Here’s a video from my old band days in August of 1995. We played a couple of shows in the living room of the house we lived in during college. Our friends from high school and work came to watch us. Our band was called Introspective. That’s Steve on vocals, Chris on drums, and me on guitar. The good ol’ days.

Ten Problems in Churches

Whenever I find myself lamenting a problem in church, I try to ask myself if I’m being too critical. I don’t want to overlook the positive aspects of things. But lately I have noticed some real problems in churches that hinder the ministry and often go unaddressed.

Below is a list of ten problems that I have noticed in modern-day churches that leadership often overlooks. This list is not exhaustive, but I do think it begins to address the problem of the anemic state of many churches. My intent is not to simply point out the problem but also to help find the solution. If I could summarize the solution to the problems below in one statement, it would probably be: Get back to the basics. We must return to the Word of God.

1) We Are Too Busy

I don’t know about you, but I feel exhausted. Race here. Race there. Get this done. Get that done. Then start the cycle all over again. I find that I’m a much happier and peaceful person when I can slow down, recharge, and reset. It can be so refreshing to have some time to read, rest, and reflect. I’m convinced that we are so busy sometimes that we miss what life is really about.

We must learn to say “no” to some things. We can’t do it all. We need to say “no” to things that will take us out of church on Sunday mornings. That likely means sports. I’ve been very frustrated with all of the youth sports that are scheduled on the Lord’s day. I find that my week goes better when I start it in the house of the Lord.

It’s possible, though, to be too busy at church. We can get run down when we spend nearly every night at the church and leave no time for family, rest, or recreation. I guess you could call it too much of a good thing. If we are to serve others, we have to make sure our cup is filled or we will find ourselves with little to offer them.

If we want the Lord to speak to us, we have to be quiet and still and open our Bibles. This requires slowing down by necessity. I think we would see a lot of our stress and anxiety melt away if we would take this simple, but sometimes challenging step.

2) False Doctrine

There are many false doctrines out there, and I cannot list them all here. But I do want to address some of the bad ideas that are currently sneaking under the radar of many churches.

Wokeism, social justice, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and cultural marxism are probably more popular in churches than you realize. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has largely surrendered to these horrible ideas with the passage of Resolution 9 and the appointment of woke leadership. Other denominations like the Methodists and Lutherans have been struggling with them as well.

The best resource I’ve seen on this topic is Jon Harris’ book, Christianity and Social Justice: Religions in Conflict. He gives the historical background of these dangerous ideas and calls out current leaders who have succumbed to them. Harris also does a good job of showing how CRT and social justice contradict the Gospel and seek to establish an entirely different religion.

The best way to combat error is to know the truth. It is imperative that church members know their Bibles or they will find themselves unequipped to fight false doctrine. The Bible speaks of a falling away or apostasy in the last days. We must be vigilant against teaching that does not line up with the Word of God.

3) The LGBT Agenda

Nothing has shocked me more about the state of the church than its acceptance of the LGBT agenda. There are still a few faithful churches who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but they seem to be getting fewer with each passing day.

Even if a church doesn’t accept the LGBT agenda, its silence on the matter is nearly just as bad. Preachers need to be bold in addressing this issue in a Biblical manner. The first duty of a pastor is fidelity to the Word of God.

The Revoice conferences have wreaked havoc in the Presbyterian Church in America as they have sought to normalize the Same-Sex Attracted agenda. In the SBC, former President, J.D. Greear, preached a sermon on Romans 1 in which he said God whispers about sexual sin. Greear also said in his podcast that he would use someone’s preferred pronouns if a transgender person visited his church.

The church needs bold clarity on this issue. Too often the church leaves doubt in people’s minds about what the Bible says about homosexuality. We must seek to please God, not man, and speak the truth in love.

4) Entertainment Instead of Worship

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that many churches these days have brought in worldly entertainment to their services in order to appear hip and cool and attract more people. In some churches, it’s hard to distinguish between a concert and a worship service. Hymns have been jettisoned for watered down, modern worship songs which repeat the same words throughout the song.

We need to make sure we are honoring the Lord in our worship services. We are not there to please unbelievers, but God. How can we foster a worshipful environment when we import worldly music and videos into the services? If we have loud music blasting over the speakers before the services, that does not not set an appropriate tone for worship.

One of the great things about hymns is that they encourage everyone to participate since they are all contained in a hymnal. Even if someone is unfamiliar with them, it won’t take them long to learn it. The music is right there on the page. And the lyrics of hymns often teach doctrines and theological truths as opposed to the shallow emotionalism of modern-day praise music.

5) Watching and Listening to Impure Things

I remember years ago pastors would preach against ungodly entertainment like inappropriate movies, TV shows, and music. Now it’s considered legalistic, and rarely do I hear sermons on the topic. But few things, in my opinion, are harming the vitality of churches than the impure things that members are putting before their eyes and ears. And with the internet, it has become even more serious than ever before.

Remember that old song, “Be careful little eyes what you see?” It’s a simple message, but it’s very true. A verse in Philippians comes to mind:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

6) Chasing Money Instead of God

Jesus told us we can’t serve both God and mammon (wealth). Yet many churches and Christians are seeking to do just that. It is rare to hear a sermon against the love of money these days. The reason why this is so serious is because money, like few other things, has a way of stealing our hearts and loyalties. It prevents us from being fully devoted to the Lord and makes us worldly minded.

The Apostle Paul, like Jesus, also spoke about the dangers of chasing after riches:

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭6:6-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

One of my favorite Bible characters is King David. He had many flaws and personal sins, but one thing he did not seem to struggle with was the love of riches. Charles Swindoll points this out in his excellent biography entitled, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny. David’s heart was devoted to the Lord. After all, the Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart.

7) Following a Denomination Instead of Christ

The SBC is currently embroiled in all kinds of scandals and corruption within its national leadership. What has been very frustrating to me is to watch people’s loyalties to the denomination trump loyalty to Christ. No matter how bad things get in the SBC, leaders seem determined to stay in the denomination.

We must be willing to exit a denomination that no longer follows Christ. It is clear that the SBC has imported worldly ideologies like feminism, CRT, and the LGBT agenda. Its leaders seem unwilling to correct the problem. There comes a point when we must decide whom we will serve.

8) Out-of-Touch Leaders Who Lack Courage

We desperately need preachers who will boldly and unapologetically proclaim the Word of God. President Ronald Reagan talked about “raising a banner of bold colors, no pastels.” He was talking about the Republican party, but I think the illustration fits this discussion as well. A lot of pastors are using pale pastels. They deliberately keep things vague and murky so as not to upset any members, especially big tithers.

The moral morass that we find ourselves in calls for a clear proclamation of truth and righteousness. If our Christian leaders do not sound notes of clarity and distinctness, then how will the culture know the difference between right and wrong?

Our society has become so wicked that now kids are endangered by these radical ideologies of the Left. Places that used to be safe for kids like schools and libraries are no longer safe. Yet many preachers will not speak out on issues like drag queen story hour or inappropriate books in school libraries. If we won’t even protect the children, then our country is indeed lost.

Leaders are not just timid, but they are also out-of-touch with the saints in the pews. When people in the pews are concerned about moral issues of the day, they often get ignored by leaders. Russell Moore, former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, spent his time in that position mocking conservatives for being concerned about the state of America while he was making videos about aliens and robots. Few things are more frustrating to lay people than being treated disrespectfully by those who are supposed to be fighting for them and with them, instead of against them.

9) A Corrupt Seminary System

We need to rethink the way we do seminary. We have preachers coming out of these institutions with advanced degrees who are more liberal and less bold for the truth than when they went in. The focus is often wrongly placed upon academic accolades and prestige instead of faithfulness to the Lord.

Churches seemed to be in much better shape when we had less educated preachers. They were less proud and out-of-touch, more willing to take bold stands for the Lord, and more likely to preach against sin. Few things hurt a church more than a preacher who lacks boldness. If he is more concerned with pleasing those in academia than the Lord, then the whole counsel of God will not be preached. Sermons will be soft and lack vitality.

No where in the qualifications for elders or pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 does it mention a formal seminary degree. Those passages speak about character, family, the ability to teach, and sound doctrine, but not about worldly credentials.

When churches require their leaders to have advanced seminary degrees, it also prevents those who may have the gift to preach but don’t have a formal degree from using that gift. Peter was a fisherman, but he was also a bold preacher for the Lord because he knew Jesus and walked with Him. When you read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, you discover that he boldly preached the Word. You don’t find the politically correct wishy-washiness in sermons that you hear now.

Perhaps it is also a good idea to tie seminaries to the local church instead of to a denomination so that they will be more accountable in matters of policy and doctrine. In the SBC, seminaries like Southeastern have embraced CRT and social justice. It’s hard for a person in the pew to do much about it, though, when the seminary presidents are accountable to a board on which sit members no one even knows.

I’m all for future pastors and preachers receiving the training they need. Seminaries are helpful when it comes to teaching subjects like Hebrew and Greek. But I wonder if more time needs to be spent in mentorships out in the field. Young preachers will probably learn a lot more from following a pastor around for a few months than he will in the years he spends at seminary.

10) Snobbishness

It is painful to feel snubbed or not accepted in church. When we think of someone being rejected at church, we usually think of the person with a sinful past that is judged unfairly. That is indeed wrong, but it doesn’t have to be that. Oftentimes, the problem can be cliques in the church. If you don’t fit in with a certain group, you may feel left out.

James talks about showing partiality to people in church because of their wealth or the clothes that they wear. So, obviously snobbishness is nothing new. But when you are on the receiving end of it, it can be very disheartening.

What I find usually happens is that church members get into the habit of hanging out with certain people in church. They have their friends and their routines. When someone new comes in, often the effort is not made to reach out and include him. It doesn’t have to be a matter of malice, just one of neglect and carelessness.

Few things will harm a church’s effectiveness and witness like a smug, snobby attitude. People will not come to a church where they feel unwelcome. We must display the love and compassion of Christ to the lowly and outcasts in these matters.

Conclusion

My intention in presenting this list is not to just point out the problems. My hope is that by identifying these issues, we can do something to address these problems and correct them. I want to see the church have its vitality restored and be an effective witness for Christ. Let us all pray Psalm 85:6:

Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?

Don’t Use the Left’s Language

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, Newspeak was the language of Oceania created by the Party to limit people’s ability to think and communicate subversive thoughts. It was basically a dumbed down version of English, or Oldspeak. Such nonsensical words like doubleplusgood were created to replace words like excellent. Goodthink meant politically correct ideas that were approved of by the Party. And words like joycamp (forced-labor camp) meant the exact opposite of the reality behind the word. Some modern-day examples of newspeak include the words inclusive, homophobic, and winter break.

Inclusive is the big buzzword these days. Everyone wants to be welcoming and kind to people. But that’s not really what the Left means by the word. They mean that you must approve of agendas that you don’t agree with—that you can no longer hold to Christian values. If you espouse anything that doesn’t line up with the Left’s pet causes, then you are a bigot, and thus not inclusive.

Being inclusive is also the reasoning behind the use of the next word, Winter Break. When I was a kid, we called the two-weeks we got out of school in December and January, Christmas Break. But I’ve noticed in recent years, Winter Break is used even by Christian teachers (largely out of habit or being forced to, I suppose). This is a clear attempt to deChristianize our schools, though liberals will claim that they are only trying to be inclusive. Everyone knows the reason why kids are out of school during this season—Christmas. People often travel to be with their families during this time. Yet the Left wants to pretend that it’s just another break from school that happens to occur during winter.

Homophobic has also been a liberal buzzword for years. The Left uses this one to beat anyone into submission who dares to challenge the LGBT agenda, which makes it difficult to hold to Biblical views on sexuality. If you say you are for marriage between a man and a woman, then you are tagged and labeled with this word. No one wants to appear to be afraid of something, so they get defensive, and in so doing, unwittingly distance themselves from the very values which they espouse. This is all a very insidious strategy by the Left.

All of this probably sounds way too familiar. A recent online meme joked about the need to move 1984 from the fiction section to the current events section. The sad fact is that people these days voluntarily change their language; they don’t even have to be forced to do so. This is largely due to the deconstruction of truth and language found in postmodern academia over the last century. No longer is 2 + 2 = 4 such a simple and obvious concept.

So, as Christians and conservatives we must not fall into the trap of using the Left’s language— because if we do use their language, we will play right into their hands. We will limit our ability to discover and communicate truth and to defend our cherished values. Like in the novel 1984, we will get to a point where we just accept whatever lies the Party pushes on us. Then freedom of speech and freedom of thought will be things of the past. The Left will control everything in society. You have to realize that is the goal—control. And the Left often uses language to achieve it.

My First Time to Ski

Little Blue bunny slope, Youth Center, and Main Chalet at Red River Ski Resort

My family and I recently went skiing at Red River, New Mexico. It was my first ski trip. The town of Red River offered beautiful scenery, tasty food, and a quaint atmosphere.

Our first task when we arrived in town was to go to a local sports shop to rent skis, poles, and boots. The staff at All Seasons was very helpful in getting our sizes and providing the gear that we needed.

View of the Tubing house and the Gold Rush slope

After the ski shop, we went to the chalet to sign up for lessons. It was very crowded, and we had to wait in line. They were sold out of lessons, but we were able to buy lift passes (which were expensive) so that we could ski the next day.

Since we didn’t get lessons, I watched YouTube videos that night at the condo on how to ski. The videos were helpful. They talked about the importance of using the wedge technique. Even after watching the videos, though, I still found it hard to slow down or turn.

There are three different kinds of slopes, which are color-coded. The Green slopes are for beginners, the blue for intermediate skiers, and the black for experts. For the first day, I stayed on the green bunny slope called Little Blue (confusing, I know), which was challenging enough. It had a long, moving treadmill to transport skiers back to the top of the slope.

On the second day of skiing, I got bolder and took the ski lift up to a steeper, green slope called the Gold Rush. Let me just say that the ski lift requires a bit of skill to ride as well. When I exited the ski lift, I had a wipeout. It was pretty humiliating.

At top of the slope, I was quite intimidated by the steepness of the slope before me. Keep in mind this was still a green slope. The resort also had a black slope called “The Face” that went almost straight down. I have no idea how people skied on that one. I started down the Gold Rush slope and my speed quickly got out of hand. I tried the wedge, but it didn’t seem to slow me down. I fell, and I had trouble getting my skis back on. I managed to try again, though. I didn’t want to give up so easily. I went a little further down, and I had an even bigger wipeout. One thing I learned is that if you fall on the higher-up slopes, no one seems to care to help. They just zoom right pass you. I felt like I came close to injuring my leg, so I decided that was enough. It wasn’t worth getting hurt over. So I walked down the rest of the way (which wasn’t easy in ski boots while also carrying my skis and poles).

Carrying the gear and wearing the boots were my least favorite part of the ski experience. The boots are hard to get on and off and even harder to walk in. With long walks in the cold from the car to the slopes, I felt worn out before I even began to ski. My shins and legs were also sore from walking in the boots.

My wife had skied multiple times before, so she was already an experienced skier. She made it look easy. She traversed the Gold Rush with ease. My older son loved skiing. Even though it was his first time, he picked it up rather quickly. My younger one was more like me. Skiing was not really his thing.

I would say that some people are going to enjoy skiing more than others. I found it very challenging, and even slightly dangerous. It probably didn’t help that I’m not really a cold weather person.

The view behind our condo

Our condo at The Woodlands on the River had a beautiful view (see the picture above). It felt very cozy to go back there in the evenings and light the fire and look out the windows. And with a kitchen, we were able to have meals there as well.

There are only a few restaurants in town, but the two that we ate at were delicious—Sundance Mexican Restaurant and Texas Reds Steak House. Sundance had huge sopapillas, and Texas Reds had a delicious T-Bone steak. Sundance had a long wait time. They took reservations, but we didn’t realize that so we put our name in and went back to the condo. We came back an hour or two later. Texas Reds didn’t take reservations so we got there early, even before they were officially opened. We were the first ones to be seated.

Small pond near the Flyer House

As far as recommendations to new skiers, I would say that you definitely need to have a plan. It may be crowded, and things can quickly sell out. So call ahead or go online to see if you can reserve a spot for lessons and lift tickets. Figure out where you are going to rent your skis from. Also, it might be a good idea to take sandwiches for lunch in the chalet. They have a small cafe and snack bar, but the lines were long and seating was hard to find. Expect things to be expensive. Parking is difficult as well unless you get there early or late in the day.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I enjoyed the scenery, food, and time with family more than the skiing. Yet I’m glad I got to experience it so at least I know what it is like. Before I went, I didn’t really understand the appeal of ski trips. Now I know that they have a charm all of their own.

The Sad, Sinful, Silence of the Church

I know pastors and seminary professors who should be speaking out on the false doctrine, marxism, and corruption within churches and our society, but sadly they are not. So I ask myself, “Why do I go through the trouble of warning others about these things if our leaders don’t seem to care or are unwilling to do anything about it?” The answer is that I don’t want to be like them. I actually care about the truth more than being popular. And just as Ezekiel was called to be a watchman on the wall and warn others, so too do we have a responsibility to do likewise.

Our society is crumbling all around us, so it seems rather strange and a little unnerving to attend church and hear little about such things. Nothing about the dangers of marxism, CRT, or social justice. Nothing about the threat of the LGBT movement. Very little about sin or repentance.

We’ve been through two of the most tumultuous and eventful years in American history, and I’ve heard little to nothing about the race riots, January 6, or tyrannical government overreach. At what point does the church become out of touch if it refuses to address such huge events? If there is no position taken or instruction given in some of the most consequential events in American history, people begin to look elsewhere for answers.

This timidity in addressing contemporary events, sin, and societal dangers is one of the major problems in the church. We need preachers who will guide their flock on what position to take on such matters. A man of God must be willing to declare, “Thus says the Lord,” and preach the Word of God boldly without apology. But sadly, too many pastors seem to be more concerned about advancing their careers.

There is much emphasis put on the academic side of things in churches. But I would rather sit under a preacher with no advanced degrees who just boldly and faithfully preaches the Word than to listen to a Ph.D. who is afraid to take a stand or say anything controversial. It seems to me that what often happens is that the more academic credentials a preacher has, the less courageous his preaching becomes. His focus becomes more about impressing or pleasing his friends in academia rather than pleasing the Lord.

And it is difficult to respect your leaders when they don’t have courage. I find often that the people in the pew are more willing to speak out and to fight in the trenches, than those in the pulpit. In fact there seems to be a real gap between the pew and the pulpit. Many leaders seem completely out of touch with their congregations.

One of the jobs of the shepherd is to fend off the wolves and protect the sheep, but these days it seems that the wolves are let in the door to devour the sheep. Ezekiel rebuked the sinful shepherds of his day who fed themselves instead of feeding and taking care of the sheep:

“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭34:7-10‬ ‭KJV‬‬

In John 10, Jesus talked about hirelings who failed to protect the sheep from the wolves:

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. John 10:12

So little has changed. We still have hirelings in pulpits who refuse to protect the sheep from the wolves. We still have sinful shepherds who feed themselves instead of feeding the flock. What has changed is that the dangers have increased, and the lies have become more subtle. In a time when the sheep need bold and vocal shepherds more than ever, we have many weak and selfish shepherds who are more concerned with their career or social standing than with preaching the unadulterated truth. It is indeed sad that the church is silent in such a dangerous day.

American Idols

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21

In the Old Testament, idolatry consisted of worshipping other gods, usually statues made of wood, stone, or gold. Israel struggled throughout its history with worshipping the false gods of the nations around them, right up until the time of the Babylonian Captivity, at which time they finally seemed to learn the lesson (perhaps they even overcorrected and became too legalistic).

In the New Testament, Paul mentions idolatry in Romans and 1 Corinthians, but he seems to expand the concept to other forms in Colossians 3:5, where he declares that greed, or covetousness, is idolatry.

In churches today, you’ll often hear a definition of idolatry as anything that people value or love more than God. The Bible is clear that we are to keep God preeminent in our lives. After all, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. —Matt 22:37

America has many such idols that prevent us from loving God with all our heart. Let’s focus our discussion on two of the most popular ones—money and sports. These two often go together, but let’s begin with money.

There’s nothing wrong with money in and of itself; it’s the love of money that is a sin. We need money to pay the bills, to eat, and even to help others. Money is a necessary evil in a fallen world.

Our currency displays our national motto, “In God We Trust.” It is a wonderful motto. Sadly, though, in practice our nation often seems to trust in the dollar instead of the Deity.

Idolatry often masks itself in practical ways as corporations and individuals excuse unethical behavior in order to increase the bottom line. At other times it’s more obvious such as when a professional athlete or coach who is already making millions of dollars will leave his team for a better deal.

Paul warns us about chasing after riches in 1 Timothy 6:9:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

The idol of money, like all idols, will not satisfy. No amount is enough. Those who seek happiness or security in wealth will never be fulfilled.

Sports is another American idol. Again, there’s nothing wrong with sports in and of themselves. I’ve enjoyed playing and watching sports myself. But our society has taken athletics to the extreme. We’re all familiar with the exorbitant salaries of professional athletes. We also are aware of people who won’t miss a game of their favorite team, but they can’t seem to find anytime for serving God or attending church.

Little league baseball teams play tournaments almost every weekend in the spring, summer, and fall, making it almost impossible for the players and parents to attend church on Sunday mornings. Fans will go all out for their favorite sports team, but they often show little enthusiasm for the things of the Lord. Families get together for holidays and spend nearly the whole time watching and talking about football.

To make matters worse, there are seemingly few sermons about repentance of idolatry in American churches. We need preachers who will tell it like it is. Instead, preachers calculate what is safe to say and filter their sermons through a politically correct lens. If we’re going to correct the sin of idolatry, we must first confront it from the pulpit.

The bottom line is that we need to repent of leaving our first love and get back to putting Christ first in our lives. Anything less will leave us feeling unsatisfied and miserable. Only God can fill our hearts with joy and offer us the forgiveness and healing that our nation so desperately needs.

James Carville Blames Virginia Losses on “Stupid Wokeness”

Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s governor’s race Tuesday night. Many attributed McAuliffe’s loss to parental anger at his tone deaf statement, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Parents in Virginia were already upset with the Loudoun County school board over sexual assaults, CRT, and transgender issues. Others cite Biden’s unpopularity as the reason for McAuliffe’s loss.

But Democratic strategist and political consultant, James Carville, may have given the most eye-opening and candid explanation for the Democrats’ defeat in Virginia.

Carville appeared on PBS News Hour Wednesday night, and host Judy Woodruff asked him about the reason why Democrats lost. He summed it up in two words, “Stupid wokeness.” The rest of his answer did not disappoint:

“Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center. They’re expressing a language people just don’t use and there’s a backlash and a frustration at that.

Carville went on to say that the Democrats need to be about changing laws instead of dictionaries. He lambasted “these faculty lounge people that sit around mulling about I don’t know what.” And he even commented on Seattle’s CHAZ from last year, saying, “autonomous zone–who could even think of something that stupid?”

Wow! It’s an interview worth listening to, and it’s an indication that all of this wokeness is so out of control that even the Democrats are starting to wake up to its negative effects. The question is, “Will other Democrats wake up to the dangers of wokeness like Carville?”