My Thoughts on Syria

Our country is on the verge of a decision concerning Syria. After much thought and prayer, and following the situation as closely as I have time, here are my thoughts. These thoughts are not just on Syria, but war in general and what I believe my attitude should be. Please understand these are my thoughts and how I feel. In this post I am refusing to say things like, “Christians need to…”; “Believers need to…”; etc, etc, etc. I am not speaking for Christians nor for Christianity. This is just simply how I believe at this moment in time. I am a work in progress and so I reserve the right to grow and change. I am going to speak with bullet points because I know my thoughts are somewhat random.

  • In the past, based on my interpretation and application of conservative Christianity and conservative politics, I have been far too quick to rush into war (or armed conflict) because “we are right” and everyone else in the world is “wrong.” I bought into a conservative understanding of “American exceptionalism” and wrapped my Christianity up in Nationalism. I was wrong, and have confessed those attitudes and beliefs as a sin based on a biblical principle found in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
  • I am becoming more and more convinced that my mission on earth is to proclaim the kingdom of God, and that doing so puts me more and more at odds with my government. I felt this way long before the present administration. If you have been following my blog for any length of time then you know I do not support either political party. In fact, I believe, my allegiance to God’s kingdom prohibits me from aligning myself to closely to any political ideology.  Continue reading
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I Just Have to Unload

I can’t stand it anymore. I have to get it off my chest. I have to unload.

I am amazed at how Republicans, who are usually in a hurry to bomb someone (or something) in the Middle East, are now placing hurdles and requirements on Pres. Obama that they would have (and they did) fussed and fumed about if the Democrats would have (and they did) required the same of Pres. Bush.

I am amazed at how Democrats, who are usually satisfied with doing nothing, have now all become war hawks and want to give Pres. Obama power and authority to freely do what they fussed and fumed about Pres. Bush doing.

I am amazed at the level of hypocrisy I see in our government.

It is obvious to me that the goal of politics is not doing what is best for the country but doing whatever it takes to destroy one party so your party can remain in power.

It is deplorable and reprehensible.

And just in case you are wondering, I do not think we need to attack Syria. It is a civil war and we should stay out.

I feel better now.

What do you think?

And in other news, I do not believe Ariel Castro committed suicide. Something tells me that jailhouse justice got its due.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Pastoral Burnout

I recently posted two articles on Facebook about the difficulties of pastoral ministry. The first article was titled Statistics On Pastors. The second was titled, Clergy at Higher Risk of Depression and Anxiety. I meet weekly with a group of pastors and these articles were part of our discussions recently. All of this got me thinking about a chapter I wrote in a book a few years ago. The title of the book was, Nelson’s Church Leader’s Manual. My chapter title was “Dealing with Burnout.” Please take the time to read this and pass it on to all of your pastor friends (and enemies).

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burnout 2One Sunday morning a pastor friend of mine stepped behind the pulpit to delivery his weekly homily. Up to that point it had been a normal Sunday. The choir sang, announcements were made, and an offering was taken. My friend stood poised and opened his Bible to begin his sermon when something happened that shocked the entire congregation. He paused, as if searching for his prepared remarks, and then said, “I have had enough. I can’t take it anymore. I quit.” He then walked down the center aisle and out the building, never to pastor again.

When I first heard about my friend, I felt sad and a little sorry. However, I must admit, there was a part of me that also felt admiration. I small part of me thought, “Wow. I wish I had the courage to do that!” I dare say I am not alone. I bet a lot of church leaders have fantasized about telling the congregation how they really feel and then exiting the building.

I have no doubt that what caused my friend to do what he did, and what caused me to think what I thought, was burnout. Burnout is when you are emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted as a result of prolonged stress from feeling overwhelmed, under-capable, and unappreciated. Burnout is the job hazard of pastoral ministry. Burnout reduces your productivity, saps your energy, and robs you of the joy and motivation that led you into ministry in the first place. Everyone has a bad day now and then; and everyone periodically feels overwhelmed and under-appreciated. But burnout is when you feel that way for a prolonged period of time. Continue reading

Bill Cosby Lied

WARNING: This is another sappy post about taking my son to college.

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1146498_10201781786256280_1402100207_nThe same year I graduated from high school, The Cosby Show debuted (1984). Each week, Dr. Cliff Huxtable and his wife Clair, tackled some of the real life situations of a successful family in the Brooklyn Heights section of New York City. It was a breakthrough show that received both praise and criticism. My family loved the show.

Since I was a young adult at the time, transitioning from high school to college, I found Bill Cosby’s attitude about his kids growing up and moving out of the house entertaining. If you don’t remember, Cobsy, through humor, always made it clear that children were supposed to grow up and move out of the house. Through his character, Dr. Huxtable, Cosby regularly made comments about looking forward to everyone leaving the house and how happy he would be when everyone was gone. It was all in good fun. Somehow you knew Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable loved their kids. Still, he pictured the day his children left the nest as a happy day.

Bill Cosby lied!

My wife and I dropped my son off at college yesterday, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Plenty of tears were shed.

Actually, I don’t think Dr. Cosby lied. I think he was trying to convey that a parent’s job, from day one, was to raise responsible, healthy children who can leave the nest and make a positive contribution to society.  I think he knew how hard it would be and so he used humor to soften the blow.

In spite of the sadness and tears, yesterday was a happy day. As much as it hurts to see your kids go out on their own, it is also exciting to watch them go. Misty and I know that both our adult children are where God wants them to be, walking their unique paths, following their distinct dreams, trying to figure out their place in this world. It is exciting, scary, sad, and happy; all at the same time.

Zach texted his mom this morning. He didn’t have to. We didn’t ask him do. He did it voluntarily. The word he used to describe his first night was “awesome.”

That helps the pain a little.

KatherineKatherine is going out of town today. She sent mom a text last night asking Misty to please tell her bye before mom leaves for work this morning.

That helps the pain a little.

I have a home office. I will get to hug my daughter before she leaves.

That helps the pain a lot.

Last night Misty and I spent a couple of hours together on our deck, talking, reflecting, laughing, and crying. We are blessed people and we thank God every day for those blessings. Especially the blessing of being parents to Katherine and Zachary.

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I promise this is my last sappy post about my kids.

But I could be lying.

An Update

Kat 1WARNING: If you do not like those Christmas letters you get from family where they talk (and brag) about their kids, then DO NOT READ THIS POST.

You have been duly warned.

I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Misty and I are moving into a new stage of our lives. In just a few hours we will be traveling with our son to East Tennessee for Zach to begin college. That’s right, our son, who almost died at birth is now a college student.

But I don’t want to just talk about my son. Misty and I are equally proud of our daughter Katherine. Since she is the oldest, I will begin with her. Continue reading

Two Short Stories

Franklin Community Church is by no means the biggest church around. In fact, we are quite small. But we do, I think, have the most unique church with the most unique calling to reach a particular community. I have been pastoring for over 20 years and I can say that the last 6 years at FCC have been the most excited and effective years of my ministry. To God be the glory. I believe our church has found our niche in the larger body of Christ.

Here are two stories from today’s worship celebration. Continue reading

The End

For the past couple of months I have been teaching through Revelation during our church’s Wednesday night bible study. It’s about the third time I have taught through John’s extraordinary vision. In no do I consider myself an expert on end time prophecies. I have a tendency to teach Revelation with an eye toward it’s historical meaning first and its prophetic meaning secondly. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it to be prophetic, I do. It simply means I try to first understand what the original audience would have understood. I know that sounds confusing, but that has been my approach.

I blame it on my family history.

My great-grandfather Riggs wrote a book about Revelation from an amillennial perspective. My grandfather Riggs had detailed teaching notes from a premillennial perspective. It is in my DNA to be confused. I think the important thing is a belief in a real, literal return of Jesus. The rest is details. Continue reading