My Hiatus and Future Plans

I took a very unintended (but very beneficial) break from blogging over the last half a year. It started with me not updating a post I’d planned to make on the day I planned to make it. I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I was coming up on camp season, revamping how I work with my youth ministry volunteers, and generally trying to do too much all at once. Which I’ve warned against before. Blogging had to take a back seat.

Ironically, while I haven’t been sharing anything here at Real Light, I’ve written more than I ever have before. I have a backlog of material that I plan to draw from on the coming months.

Today is not a hard reset of my blog. I’m still planning to write about my thoughts on life as a servant of Christ, faith from the perspective of someone in ministry, fatherhood, and how all of these things interrelate for me personally. I’m just planning on doing so more thoughtfully. With more intention.

Stop It

My senior year of college was crazy! I was preaching full time, directing theatre and teaching for a small christian school, traveling with the college’s drama ministry, and serving as chapel coordinator. Oh, yeah, I was also married and we were expecting our first child! Life was good, but I felt like I was always rushing to get to the next thing. I put on a lot of weight, and felt my health starting to deteriorate. I was a wreck.

The thing is, there wasn’t a single one of these things I didn’t love (well aside from the health and weight thing). They were all good things. I’d chosen the mess I was in. But something had to drop. I came to the realization that I was trying to accomplish all of my life goals at one time.

Sometimes, in ministry I think we do this. We go to a conference and absorb all sorts of great ideas, then we try to implement them all at once. Or maybe it’s a slow-burn buildup: agreeing to do this thing here, take that suggestion there, become involved in that ministry we’ve seen from a distance… And while we have great intentions for all of these things, and they’re all admirable, we can’t possibly hope to do them all well and still stay healthy. Something has to give. When we become over committed we can often find ourselves struggling physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you (and remind myself) to evaluate what is on your plate. How many ongoing activities are you involved in? When was the last time you had two consecutive day’s off? ONE day off? How much time are you spending with your family? How much time do the activities you’re involved in allow for you to spend alone with God?

Now, are you comfortable with your answers?

If not, it may be time to cut some of the cruft out, or to delegate responsibility for a few things to someone else. One of my biggest struggles as a minister has been putting a ministry I’ve nurtured into someone else’s hands, but it’s important to realize that we don’t need to carry every program, Bible study, or ministry on our own.

Make sure you’re taking days off; taking your vacation. Jesus said that “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” While we aren’t required by the New Covenant to take a day of rest, clearly God thought it was beneficial for man to do so. 

Of course, all of this can apply to anyone, you don’t have to be a minister to be overcommitted, but: “Write what you know.”

Tech In Ministry: Accountability (aka: The Porn Talk)

Tech in Ministry is a series about putting digital tools to use in the Church. 

The Problem

According to statistics from CovenantEyes.com, one out of two boys under the age of 13 have been exposed to pornography; 30% of 17-year-olds admit to having watched pornography “too often to count”; 62% of girls says that they have been exposed to pornography before the age of 17. If pornography were the flu, these numbers would be considered epidemic level. Continue reading

Tech In Ministry: Twitter

A few weeks back, I started a series on Tech In Ministry. This is the second blog in that series.

Some Background

When Twitter came out back in 2006 I was one of the scoffers. “Great, now I can read about what people had for lunch on Facebook and Twitter!” Most often this statement was accompanied with a huge rolling of the eyes or gagging sound. I’d been through several social networks already, and I wasn’t so interested in investing time in a new one.

Then it happened. Continue reading

To Be Loved and To Love In Return

Video

Like many, I have seen this video a number of times. It’s heartbreaking, triumphant, and beautiful. What a beautiful story that is being told. Imagine the empathy these children will learn, and the change they might make in the world because they have known the love of a father.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that there is a marked difference in the qualities of a worldly person and a Christian person, but in Epeshians 5 he makes it clear why this difference exists:

Therefore, let us be imitators of our God, as children who are dearly loved

-Ephesians 5:1

Christians don’t do good because we are inherently better. We were just like the world. We are guilty of the same greed, selfishness, and hardness as anyone else. The only difference is that we’ve been given an example of what real love looks like, and in our reciprocation of that, we live like the Father.

Tech In Ministry: Presenting On A Budget

One of my goals as a blogger is to share the things I’ve discovered and am discovering in my ministry. Something that I’ve become particularly passionate about is utilizing technology in ministry. We all know that technology can occasionally be a hinderance rather than a help, but when it’s used well and put in the right hands, technology can be a tremendous blessing. Tech In Ministry will explore how.

Continue reading

The Bible Is A Really Big Book!

Good people don’t suffer. Having a lot of money is wrong. Poor people are only ever poor because of their bad choices. Consuming anything with alcohol in it is a sin. If you don’t go to Church when the doors are open, you’re forsaking the assembly. If you don’t have enough faith to leave your job and preach the Gospel when you become a Christian, you aren’t really a Christian.

I’ve heard each of these statements before. If you’ve been in a community of Christians for any length of time, you’ve probably heard at least a few of them, too, or at least statements like them. They’re what I like to call wrong. No, I don’t have a fancy term for them. I’m sure there is one, and I just haven’t encountered it, or it isn’t springing to mind, but these beliefs are wrong. Not only that, they are dangerous.

Lets think about just one of these statements for a moment.

“Good People Don’t Suffer” most likely stems from a poor reading of the book of Proverbs.   Chapter 11 is just full of pithy sayings like:

The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.

11:3

The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.

11:8

He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.

11:19

Clearly, the message of this passage is that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, right! Taken on their own, it’s easy to see how someone might think these verses are saying that all suffering, trouble, and pain are the direct result of one’s own personal unrighteousness or “badness”. Anyone who thinks this clearly hasn’t read the book of Job which begins by saying:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.

1:1

The book goes on to describe how Job loses his wealth, his children, and his own health. Not because he did something unrighteous, but because Satan is allowed to do this to him. Good, upright, God fearing people can suffer.

Many arguments about what the Bible does or does not say are predicated on an idea that may be found in the Bible that is then stated as an absolute truth. Like the one above, a reasonable assessment of the eleventh chapter of Proverbs is that “bad” people suffer, and that “good” people don’t. Trouble and pain comes to those who are foolish, lazy, and unrighteous. These are all ideas that are supported in scripture. They’re all found in many places. Paul says that “If a man will not work, he will not eat.” That’s the New Testament, even! But the problem is, no individual verse can stand on it’s own.

Genesis tells us that people who drink wine are abused or make bad choices. Leviticus says that certain people shouldn’t drink wine or strong drink at certain times. Same with the book of Numbers. Romans 14:21 says not only that we shouldn’t drink wine, but we also shouldn’t eat meat!!! Again, taken alone, these verses paint a picture of alcohol that isn’t at all pretty. People who drink wine are incestuous nudists who can’t worship God and detractors from the faith. Drinking is bad, and clearly a sin.

Of course, we read other passages that tell us otherwise. The Old Testament prescribes wine as a part of rituals and feasts that the Israelites were to observe. Numbers 6 actually talks about a very specific circumstance under which someone is not allowed to drink wine, but when that person might be allowed to once more.

Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to theLord,  he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin.

6:1-4

Of course, the prescribed abstinence of a Nazirite came to an end when their vow came to an end. They would offer a special sacrifice, and then they would be released from abstaining from grape products, and specifically from wine.

Paul tells Timothy that he should use some wine medicinally for stomach problems. And Jesus made wine for a wedding feast as his first miracle. Communion, which Jesus instituted and most every Christian agrees is something we should participate in, came from the passover feast. The Cup which we were commanded to take contained wine.

Clearly a balanced reading of scripture would suggest that appropriate use of wine is just fine. The verses discussing not partaking are in specific circumstances and in excess.

See, here’s the thing: the Bible is a really big book. There’s a lot of discussion throughout scripture about a lot of topics. Taking any one passage on it’s own is dangerous because it assumes that all statements in the Bible are comprehensive and universal. They aren’t. Now, some statements are. Those statement are made clear by language that says they are absolutes. “No one comes to the Father but through me” is a pretty good example of this kind of absolute statement. Who can come to the father by any way besides Jesus? Nobody.

Why does any of this matter? Why am I almost a thousand words into a post on poor arguments people make from the Bible? Because it’s important. As I said before, statements like this are dangerous. And while I was kind enough to say that we’ve all heard them, I think a slightly less kind but just as true statement is that we’ve all made them.

When we misrepresent the teachings of the Bible and sweep the bits we don’t like under the rug while trotting out the bits we do like, we undermine any truth we may teach. As a youth minister, I tell my teens to read their Bible all the time. Constantly. Probably to the point where it’s a bit annoying. If they do (and I really hope they do), I want what I’ve taught to be found there. All of it.

I told my elders when I interviewed for my current position that there were certain things I would never teach. I won’t teach that dancing is a sin. I won’t teach that consuming alcohol is a sin. I won’t teach that you need to be in a church building every time the doors are open. I won’t teach that doing the right thing always lands you on top. Because when my teens encounter the truth in life, either through reading it in the word, or experiencing it first hand (especially that last one), it will call into question any truth I’ve ever taught them.

Teach modesty. Teach moderation. Teach the importance of being involved in the fellowship of believers. Teach that the righteous prevail in eternity. Don’t teach half truths, and don’t teach lies. Abusing the Bible to champion pet topics hurts your credibility and undermines the message of scripture.