Thursday, October 13, 2011


I often get the burdensome privilege (yes) to speak to people, young and old, about things they are struggling with.  Temptation to act in a way that they believe to be wrong - which, by definition, means it is wrong... but that's for another day.  I am qualified to speak to people about such things only because I too am tempted constantly; as Paul said, "I'm the biggest sinner of them all"

The most common temptation for males of any age, any weight, any profession, any family life, any ____, any anything, is lust.  It can be severe lust that manifests itself in extramarital or premarital sexual affairs, it can haunt through pornography, it can force eyes to wander, or it can control ones thoughts just inside their own head.
I once was counseling a young man about his troubles with lust while assisted by an older and much wiser gentlemen.  When the young man asked when the temptation would go away, the other gentleman who was with me simply said "it wont."  He went on to add "I am tempted everyday.  Sometimes in a big way, sometimes simply in my own head, but the temptation is always there.  It's a constant battle, a constant struggle"

Our advice to the young man (and our advice to each other and to ourselves) was to avoid, deflect, and be resolved before hand - though being resolved beforehand is essential, it is also rarely enough.

What do you struggle with?  If we're honest, the lists are long.  Thankfully we serve a God who loves unconditionally.  A God who knew us intimately and bought us anyway.  A God who doesn't sit on a throne unsympathetically looking down with judgement, but one who has experienced temptation himself and who knows our struggles and knows our faults, failures, and short comings and calls us "saints" and "holy".  We serve a God who showers grace through the blood of his own son, his son who fully know us.

We must remember a few key things about temptation, of any kind:
Jesus Was tempted.  Not that Jesus scoffed off the absurdity of it, but that he (his human nature) was tempted.  That's number 1.
Number 2 is that Jesus did not act on his temptation - though he was tempted, Jesus did not "follow through", so-to-speak.
3:  Jesus was tempted (see number 1) And Jesus never sinned (I believe this to be 100% literal and emphatically true), ergo temptation, on its own, is not sin (/sigh of relief).
4.  Jesus 'defeated' his temptation and his tempter (the same temptations and same tempter that we have) not by using (even his) his own words, not by rationalization or attempting clever logic, not by asking for clarification on the particulars or classification on the "how bad" scale, no, he responded with Scripture.  God's Holy word, and scripture only.

Temptation is a part of life.  It simply is, and anyone who tells you it's not just gave in to the temptation to lie....

Build one another up.  Support one another.  Pray for one another.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Preacher Perfect"?

This past weekend a group of us went up to VA to camp out for a couple of nights and bike the Virginia Creeper trail.  My great uncle Hunter grew up in Abingdon, and I can always remember this because he would tell everyone that he was born at the place "where Paul was struck blind"... on the road to Damascus.  We humored him ;)

Numbers wise, all agree it was a huge success... weather wise... it depends on who you ask.  It was cold.  Really cold.  On top of the cold, it rained the entire time we were there except for the moments when it would break up the monotony of rain with sleet or snow (breathtakingly beautiful snow at over 6,000 ft - although somewhat diminished when you're riding down hill into it on a bicycle).

Everyone truly did have a great time:  the kids played on God's playground like it was the greatest thing in the world; Emily cried one time the entire trip, and that was when we were packing up to leave and she wanted to stay and camp "for a long time".

There are tons of things that make this a great trip every year:  beautiful scenery, camping out a couple of nights, biking the creeper (I cringe every time I call it "biking" seen as how for 75% of the 17 miles you don't even need pedals just brakes), roasting s'mores over the campfire, and (a personal favorite) zero cell phone coverage for 3 days.  However, none of those things truly "make" the trip.  The trip is made by the people that go.  I found myself surrounded by family every where I looked - true friends, true family, brothers and sisters in Christ who are all there just because we all love spending time together; it really wouldn't matter where or how we were doing it.

And that's what struck me.  See, this whole "preacher" thing is kind of new to me, so I don't always know the 'rules'.  One of the things I was a bit surprised (somewhat sadly understanding) to find out is that many ministers avoid such get togethers, trips, and "non-sanctioned/non-structured" Church activities out of fear of people seeing their humanity.  They have anxiety over people seeing their faults, seeing them "mess up", hearing them speak casually -- finding out they are human.

Though it is sad to think about, and somewhat shocking at first blush, when you really become honest with the reality of the situation, you sadly have to see their point, even if you don't agree (as I do not).  People want their preachers to be perfect, they want their ministers to speak in iambic pentameter, they want them to never say anything they shouldn't, never get frustrated, never have to discipline a child, never be... real.
Too often, people want their ministers to be honest about themselves, but not too honest, and when the first date goggles wear off, there's often trouble in paradise.
To me, I would go on these trips no matter what - I've always gone on them and I love them.  But now, in thinking about it that way, I want to always make a conscientious decision to go so that I guarantee people will get to see me mess up (it doesn't take long, certainly doesn't take a whole trip, in fact, if you have 30 minutes for lunch we could probably settle it there).  Seriously - I don't ever want to become so removed that people forget that I'm human, that I'm a sinner, that I'm a wholly imperfect being created by the only perfect being so knows me, sees my faults, forgave me, forgives me, and graciously loves me unconditionally.

Do you expect Christians to be perfect?
Are you afraid, as a Christina, that people will see you not being perfect?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A couple of Sunday's ago I was fortunate to be able to preach for a very unfortunate Dr. Curtis McClane who had fallen very ill to the Tennessee Fall cocktail of allergies/bronchitis/pneumonia... thing

The sermon came from what many (myself included) would see as an odd source... Malachi.

Malachi is a very short book, but it has a lot of great lessons and its place holds great historical (and spiritual) significance; the last book of the Old Testament.  You see, for years and years (centuries), God had communicated with His people verbally - through the words of His prophets.  Additionally, God had also used dreams, visions, pillars of fire, hands on the wall, a burning bush, etc.

Then, after a long period of silence, in stepped Malachi.  Malachi, right out of the gate, cold turkey, began to call the post-exile Israelites out on all their short comings, misgivings, and blatant misuse of God's temple (that they had finally rebuilt).  Then, with a few moments of hope and reminders of promises made, God goes into a divine silence.  400 years of it.  For 400 years, God leaves us with the words of Malachi and allows them to "sink in" over 400 years of divine silent treatment.  What's the significance of this silence?  Why would God do that?  What were His last words that He left us with?

My sermon focused on Malachi 1:6-2:9, Mostly all focused on what I believe to be the most important lines of Malachi (and what God wanted us to consider during those 400 years):  Malachi 1:8-10

The sermon may be seen below: