Most Often Abused Bible Verses #3

October 29, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

It’s one of the most coveted cards in the Monopoly game.  The “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  It’s very annoying to get stuck in jail, although if you are losing, it’s a nice break from having to deal with your opponents row of hotels.

getoutofjailNo such card exists in real life.  There is no card that you can show that can get you out of jail, certainly not literally.  There also is no metaphorical “get out of jail free” card either.  By that, I mean ways to get out of trouble for the stupid things we do or say.  We try to invent them.  Most of the cards that we create start with the phrase, “I was just…”  “I was just tired,”  “I was just hungry,”  etc.

However, the biggest, most often used “get out of jail free” card that we try to use is found in the Bible.

The Verse:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

What we think that it means:

There are a lot of different ways to describe what we mean when we quote this verse. You’re not the boss of me.  You can’t tell me what to do.  How dare you? Who do you think you are?

Basically, what we think this verse means is that no one can tell us what we are doing is wrong.  If someone tells you that what you are doing is sinful or wrong, then that is judging.  Bible says don’t judge.  Again, we play it like a “get out of jail free” card.  You do something wrong, someone calls you on it, play this card and you are out of trouble.

Why that is a bad interpretation:

First, there are multiple verses that say this it is our responsibility to confront or rebuke people’s sin.  I Timothy 5:20, James 5:19-20, Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15.  That’s just a few.  God is calling us to be involved in each other’s lives and help and confront each other when in sin.  It can’t mean that we can’t tell someone that what they are doing is wrong.

This leads to the second issue.  What does the word judge mean?  As always, words have a lot of different meanings.  The context determines the meaning.  Judge can mean determine right from wrong or it can mean determine someone’s value or it could mean to determine the consequence or punishment.  Just because something feels judgmental to you doesn’t mean that it falls into the category of this prohibition against judgment.  It depends on what judging means, and you have to look at the context.

Finally, it is self-refuting.  You are judging someone when you say they are judging you.

What this verse means:

When Jesus says don’t judge, what he says next is that the measure by which you judge someone will be used against you.  The word “measure” almost certainly is a reference to a scale that you would use to determine the value and weight of something that you were going to buy.  So what Jesus is prohibiting is determining someone’s value.  That’s not your role.  He says that if you do that, you will judged by that same measure.   This is by no means a prohibition against determining whether or not an action is sinful or telling us that we are not to be involved in correcting people or being corrected.

However, even though Matthew 7:1 is not a “get out of jail free card,” there also are no licenses in the Bible for you to be a jerk to somebody.

If you see someone in sin and determine because of that sin, that they are less valuable to God or are going to Hell, you should be careful, because you do not want that same measure applied to you.  Not only that, but this passage makes it clear that when you do that, you are a hypocrite.  He uses an outrageous and hilarious metaphor.  Someone is walking around with a log in their eye.  Then even though they are blinded by the log, they believe that they have the vision to point out a speck of dust in someone else’s eye.  That makes you both an idiot and hypocrite.

This is especially important to the church today in the way that we treat people with what I will call “unusual” sins.  Most guys struggle with porn, so that’s normal and understandable.  You get grace.  Being gay is unusual and therefore worse and worthy of condemnation.  Most Americans are greedy and terrible with money, that’s OK.  Homeless people though are lazy and unworthy of compassion.

We compartmentalize sin and determine some sins are worse than others because they are foreign to us or repulsive in some way.  Therefore, even though I am a sinner, those sinners deserve condemnation.  That is not a measure by which you want to be judged, so don’t judge.  In fact arrogant condemnation might be the log that you are carrying around with you that makes it where you can’t see the specks in another’s eye.

What we all need is someone who loves us to come to us gently and tell us what we are doing is hurting us and others.  We need those people to then help us get better.  I’ll do that for you and you can do it for me.  That is a measure of judgment that I will gladly live by.

Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar: When Christians Fall

August 25, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Allow me to be the next person to weigh in on Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar. In the early days of the original controversy, there were 3 types of thoughts.  1. Grace and forgiveness 2. Judgment and condemnation 3. Some kind of innovative 3rd way position.  In part 2 (hopefully of 2) of the controversy, all we have is #2.  People are taking this opportunity of his public failing of his wife to criticize and condemn a lifestyle that they always thought was a little weird but made good television.  We stand on a high horse and declare that he deserved it.  We “other” the discussion and distance ourselves from it and make ourselves feel better.  We make a conscious decision to do what we almost always do, which is to believe that we have nothing to learn from this.  “They” have these problems.  I don’t.

As always, we choose to not learn the right lessons.  We choose to speak loudly about the lessons that other people should learn.  We fail to do the hard but necessary work to ask what I need to learn from this.

(Disclaimers: It’s difficult to talk about this when they are local.  I’ve met them. I know people that legitimately know them.  They are real people where I live. Second, I believe that my condemnation of molestation and adultery are a matter of the public record. Nothing I say here should be considered “giving him a pass” or “normalizing” his sin.  However, I have no stone to throw, certainly not publicly. It’s not my place. Why I don’t is one of the points of this post.)

There are two things that have been on my heart as I have been processing all of the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar (3 if you count the sheer lack of compassion and understanding given to his wife and kids, but that’s a blog post for someone else.)  These issues have more to do with me and us than him.  The first issue that has been on my heart is that your sin will find you out.  You may believe that you are keeping it hidden, and you may be for a little while.  However, your sin will find you.  Maybe not today or tomorrow or even this year, but it always catches up with you.  This pattern has been repeated way too many times over the years.  Consider how many public Christians have fallen in tremendously awful ways over the years.  Someone rises to prominence but the whole time they are hiding some sin.  The pressure of their fame increases the pressure which makes the sin worse, which makes them try to hide it even more.  Then the light shines on it.  They are exposed and they fall.

For every “famous” Christian that this happens to, there are thousands of regular people following the same pattern.  It doesn’t show up in your Facebook feed, but it shows up in family courts all over the world, families being destroyed because of a secret sin.  We are no different.  If you have a sin that you are hiding, the light will find you.  God loves you too much to allow you to continue to destroy yourself in private.  He wants you to be free from sin.

So if this is you, make the decision to let someone know.  Ask someone for help.  Put a little light on it, before it happens to you.  Surround yourself with help.  Your sin will either find you or you can humbly take it to people.  Either way, when it comes to light, you are going to need people to come around you and help you and restore you.

This leads to the second thought. Be careful how you talk and act toward others.  When you see the sin of others, how do you respond? Do you respond with compassion and hope or anger and judgment?  In the often misunderstood and misused passage about judgment, Jesus says this:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

So, the way that you judge is how you will be judged.  If I see someone in sin and I say, “That’s not good.  You should stop. How can I help you?” I can expect that is how someone will judge me when it is my turn.  If I angrily condemn people, I should expect to be angrily condemned when it is my turn.  Again, don’t be fooled.  Your turn is coming. When your sin is discovered, people will respond to you the way that you have responded to people.

Why has the response to Josh Duggar not been compassionate? It seems pretty clear that he has some deep rooted sexual issues that messed him up as a kid and continue to this day.  Why is there not a call for helping him deal with whatever these deep issues are?  The reason is that he never seemed to show the same compassion.  In his role with the Family Research Council, he said and behaved in ways that made many people feel strongly condemned.  He didn’t show compassion and grace.  When it was his turn, he put out public statements asking for compassion and grace, and very little was to be found.  He is reaping what he sowed.

When my time comes (and no I don’t have an Ashley Madison account and I have never cheated on my wife) and some sin of mine is exposed (I do sin though.  Both publicly and privately), I want the people who know me to love me and help restore me.  How can I be sure that will happen? By doing the same for people now.  Sin is real and destructive.  I do no one any favors by not calling sin what it is.  However, I also do no one a favor, including me, by raining down condemnation either.

So that is why I have no stone to throw.  It is why when stories like this (and worse) come into my office, I offer love, prayers and help. I don’t tell them what they did is ok, but I also don’t literally or figuratively throw stones.  Instead I try to offer the same compassion of Jesus who said “sin no more” and offered the love and help to people to make that command a reality.

Good News, Bad News and Good Friday

From Luke 7

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

There are some people out there that think that we offend people by talking about sin.  “We need to talk about the Good News of the gospel.  When you talk about sin, it’s bad news.”  I confess I have fallen into this trap before.  However, consider this.  Good news is often made significantly better when we understand how bad the news was.

A friend has a cold and is healed is good news.  A friend has cancer and is healed is GOOD news.

A billionaire winning $1000 is good news.  Someone about to have their house foreclosed winning the same is GOOD news.

Jesus dying for the sins of someone who thinks, “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person.  I need to be more religious,” I suppose is good news.  Jesus dying for someone whose heart is often very dark and does bad things to hurt people on purpose, who feels isolated and lonely and dying, whose conscious is overwhelmed, who is desperate and hopeless is GOOD news.

When we take time to truly reflect on the fact that we didn’t simply need a boost, but because of our sin we were hopeless, desperate enemies of God, the good news of the gospel and the message of Good Friday become GOOD news on GOOD Friday.  Take some today and reflect on the bad news, not for its own sake, but so that then we can celebrate all the more, the GOOD news of GOOD Friday.

Trust God, Dream Big and Stop Sinning (Nehemiah Wrap-up)

March 28, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We just finished 2.5 months of Nehemiah.  Thanks for all the good feedback on the series.  Nehemiah is an incredible book that tells a powerful story of an incredible leader and a nation trying to restore its relationship with God and break the cycle of sin.

I just wanted to take a moment and review all the different pieces of the story and what we learned from Nehemiah.

We first meet Nehemiah and we see an influential leader in Persia being called by God to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.  The plight of his people broke his heart and he had to take action.  Follow the passions that God put on your heart and believe that God will do incredible things through your life. Way too often we settle for ordinary with God, and don’t believe that God even wants to do great things in our lives.

In Nehemiah, we see a man who was devoted to prayer.  He knew that the only way anything significant was going to happen was if God moved.  God moves through prayer.  However, he was also a very deliberate planner.  He wasn’t just one or the other.  He prayed and planned.  I’ve often heard it said that we should pray like it depends only on God, and work like it depends completely on us.  I don’t know that I like that, because even in our planning there should be a built-in dependence on God. So, we should pray like it depends only on God, and plan like the God of the universe is calling you to do it.

In the actual building of the wall, we see a lot of different people playing a role.  The job could never depend on one person.  People were focused on building their one section of the wall.  No one did anything spectacular on their own, but together they did something incredible.  When we each believe that God wants to use us and we all work together, we see God do amazing things.

However, in the middle of all of this we see a ton of opposition from the outside and struggles within.  Anything worth doing for God will find opposition and skeptics. Our success will depend on who we listen to.  We need to listen to God’s call on our life more than we listen to critics. We also need to take care to not be divisive.  What God has called us to is too important and significant for us to fight over little things. How big the things are that divide us depends on what we compare them to.  If God has called us to reach the world, just about everything else becomes fairly small.

After they rebuilt the wall, we see the greater work of rebuilding the people begin.  It begins with Ezra reading the Law to the people.  They respond with great sadness for their sins.  However, first the leadership wants the people to take time to celebrate.  They have been reconciled and brought back. They must rejoice.  We have to take time to celebrate the fact that we have a relationship with the God of the universe. It is a very serious thing to walk with God, but serious doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate.  We must celebrate.

Next comes the time to repent.  Sin is a big deal, and the Israelites realize that it is their sin that has separated them from God and they rightly respond with repentance.  Although God is gracious to us, we must realize that sin hurts us and offends God, and we must repent. Saying “sorry” is one thing, being sorry and changing is another.

After the time of repentance we see the Israelites desiring to make commitments to try and break the cycle of sin.  Sin-sorry-forgiveness…sin-sorry-forgiveness…and on and on it went.  They wanted to break that cycle, and so they pledge to not intermarry, to honor the Sabbath and to give sacrificially.  It takes great sacrifice on our part to see God do incredible things among us in the long-term.

In Nehemiah, we have a great leader, and as he is wrapping up this task, we see his leadership skills and those of the leaders he is leaving behind.  We see leaders taking initiative, doing what others won’t. The leaders are the ones to move to the new rebuilt city.  We also see a great party to celebrate and dedicate the wall.  The people are inspired, because that’s what leaders do.  Leaders inspire people.

You really do wish that the story could have ended there, but it doesn’t.  Despite their desire to not fall back into the cycle of sin, they quickly do and Nehemiah has to rebuke and correct them when he comes back to check on the people.  Regret and feelings last a little while.  We need to be people that desire long-term repentance.  This doesn’t happen quickly.  This comes when in our hearts we commit to doing what it takes to be the men and women God has called us to be.  We become a part of a community.  We are committed to God’s word and prayer.  We often reflect on the power and love of God demonstrated in the Gospel.

There is much to be learned in Nehemiah.  I’d encourage you to read the book (again, I hope).  Listen again to some of the sermons on the chapters that you most need to apply.  Let’s allow this time in Nehemiah to impact us not just for now, but for years to come.

Digging Deeper

Last summer I did 8 miserable weeks with a workout called Insanity.  It was awful.  It was the best shape I’ve been in for at least 20 years.  Was it worth it?  Yeah.  Should I go back?  Yeah, I guess.  Leave me alone.  Why are you nagging me?  I know I’m not working out like I need to be.  Get off my back.  It’s been quite a transition, ok?  I’ll get into some good routines when we get out of this apartment.  What do you mean, “no excuses?”  I’m starting to not like you.  And by “you,” I of course mean the voices in my head.  Yes, I’ll get on with it.  Stupid voices.

The guy that was leading these workout DVDs had an inspirational catch phrase (Don’t they all?).  It was “dig deeper.”  He didn’t say it every time I wanted to quit, because that would fill each DVD, but he did use it at strategic times to inspire us.

I have heard many times in my years in ministry from people that they wanted to go deep, dig deep into the Bible, that they wish the study, sermon, etc. would be deeper.  I have often been a little put off by that, because often I wonder what they really mean and what they are really looking for.  What do we/they mean when we say we want to go deeper into the Bible or we wish sermons were deeper?

Now what I’m going to say next has been deemed controversial by some.  I don’t know that it is, but some consider it so.  In fact, I was once accused of being a heretic that didn’t believe in the Bible.  I’ve got your attention now, don’t I?  It was during a small group leaders meeting, one of my first at this particular church (if you are trying to guess, you have a 1 in 5 chance, I suppose).  We had done a pretty basic study on what community is and how to build it in your group.  Some from the groups and some of the leaders said they wanted something “deeper” next.  Here is what I said (paraphrased).  “When we think of going deeper, I don’t want us to think of going deeper in knowledge and trying to learn more facts.  I would like for us to think of our groups going deeper in how we apply God’s word in our lives.”  The words of a heretic apparently.  I bring this up now, because I brought it up yesterday a little bit at the Grove as we kicked off our series on the parables.

Honestly, I didn’t think it was that controversial at the time, but I have come to realize that for a lot of people it is.  There is a culture out there in some Christian circles and churches that the sign of depth is knowledge of relatively obscure Bible facts and Greek verb tenses.  My overwhelming concern is not that we learn new facts as much as that we deeply and fully apply the truths that many of us consider “basic.”  “Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  “Let no unwholesome word pass from your mouth.”  “Be anxious for nothing.” “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  “Let you light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Most “basically,” “Love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Before you petition to reinstitute heresy panels, let me say this.  We need to know the Bible well.  Too many of us don’t know the basic chronology/story of the Bible.  We don’t deeply understand the depth of the Gospel and why Jesus died for us.  We can’t even begin to explain the complexity of  the dual truths that God loves you unconditionally and God expects holiness from you or similarly, God is sovereign and we must choose to follow after God.

However, if we constantly appeal to the mind and fail to drill deeply into our hearts, our walks with God become an intellectual exercise, where the person who can win Bible Trivia is deemed the most spiritual.  It is easier, much easier, to learn a new fact than it is to ask how “Love my neighbor” applies to my boss whom I don’t like and don’t trust or how forgiveness applies to that person that wounded me so deeply so many years ago.

When we gain new knowledge, let’s just be on guard to let our hearts also learn new patterns of feeling and our lives new ways of behaving.  When we think of going deep, let’s think about giving God deep access into our hearts, minds, souls and lives.  Let him drill deeply into those parts of our lives where if I were honest, I wish he wouldn’t meddle.

Let’s dig deeper.

Mowing Into the Empty Lot Next Door (A Metaphor for Growth)

June 2, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

On one side of our house there are three empty lots.  We have lived here for four years and there hasn’t been any change.  To some degree it feels like the lot backs (I guess sides) to a small woodland area.  It’s been nice.  You want to buy our house?

Also, for the last four years, just about every time that I mow, I have mowed about 2 inches into that empty lot.  For a little while it was grass.  Then it became small bushes and giant weeds.  Most recently it has been stuff that a reasonable person would not run over with his cheap push mower.  (Un)fortunately, I am not that reasonable.  Why would I do this, especially since I hate mowing?  Well, it makes our side yard look bigger.  (For the record, I have not moved the property stakes.)

What difference can a couple of inches make in the way your yard looks?  Well, not much really.  Except that I have been doing this for 4 years now.  We now, no exaggeration have about 8 feet of additional yard.  We have seeded grass over there, treated weeds, filled in dirt.  (Pretty silly for property we don’t own, I know)  But it looks great and we love it. 

What does this have to do with anything?  Great question.  Two inches is not that much, but over time makes a huge difference in the appearance of our yard.  So often, this is also how we grow in our relationship with God and in our character–two inches at a time.  Sometimes we wonder if we really are becoming more like Jesus, becoming the men and women that he has called us to be.  We don’t see it.  Perhaps you’re an anxious person and have been for some time, and it frustrates you that you still struggle with anxiety.  Maybe you get angry.  Maybe you have a judgmental spirit.

When we struggle with sin like this, often we just want it to go away, and it doesn’t seem to.  We can wonder if God is really working in our lives.  We grow impatient that we don’t see radical change in our lives, immediately.  If I can pop popcorn in the microwave in two minutes, shouldn’t God be able to root out my worst sins in less time than that?  Sure, he could, but how God often deals with us is one day at a time, one circumstance at a time, “two inches” at a time. 

Look back six months, a year, four years.  How has God grown you, changed you, matured you?  Are you the same person you were or are you slowly becoming more and more like His Son.  How much has God taught you in the journey?  He is not simply and suddenly removing all sin from your life, but buidling a relationship with you every day and you are building more trust in him every day.

Sometimes we will experience radical overnight change, but that is rarely the norm.  Also, there are some of us that aren’t walking with God at all, who are still the same person, if not worse, that we were 4 years ago.  (There may be a harsher blog post in your future).  However, I want this to be encouragement to the bulk of us who daily are trying to walk with God, please him, be genuine Christ followers, and experience the ups and downs and life.  God is working in your life.

Know that day by day God is reclaiming the yard of the empty lot of sin in your life two inches at a time.  (Cheesy and took the metaphor one step too far.  Success!!)

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #9

March 3, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

You know sometimes there is a huge gap between the production of sequels.  It seems that for a while they are popping out with wreckless abandon every 12-18 months and then they stop.  Why is that?  One reason is that the last one was so terrible that you want people to get the bad taste out of their mouth (Rocky V).  Sometimes it’s because the actor gets too big for his britches (arrogant for those of you who live outside the southern U.S.) and thinks he has become “too big” for the role then the actor needs to cash a check for some reason and after waiting on the “perfect script” they make one and lay a giant rotten egg (Indiana Jones).

Sometimes the author just gets really busy and distracted.

Set up: You or someone you know is going through some tough times.  It seems to be overwhelming.

Response: Well, you know, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Sometimes people will go even further than that.  People begin to take pride in the trials that they are going through.  “God must think a lot of me, otherwise he wouldn’t put all of this on me.  He thinks I can handle a lot.”

“Now wait a minute, Cloften.  I have bared with this series for most of my adult life, or a month I can’t remember which.  I haven’t always agreed with you, but this is too far.  I know that is in the Bible.”

Ok, here is your verse:

I Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

What does this passage say?  First of all, it is talking about temptation.  If you are tempted to sin, you will not be tempted in such a way that you will only be left with the option of sin.    If it speaks to anything, it speaks against a false view of “lesser of two evils” that says that we are put into situations where all we can do is sin.  There is no temptation to sin that is so great that you must choose sin.

Secondly, where does the way out come from?  The way out comes from God.  If the only ways you can overcome sin came from you, the verse wouldn’t make sense. I am tempted to sin beyond what I can handle all the time, noted by the fact of my persistent sin problem.  However, God always provides a way out.  Again, God always provides a way out.  Some face temptation in their lives and read this verse and believe that they can have confidence in themselves alone to overcome.  If that is true of you, then 1, you misunderstand your own personal history with overcoming sin and B, you haven’t read the rest of the verse.  We can have confidence in God, not us.

Even if you want to extend this passage beyond the temptation to sin (which is what Paul is talking about) and include the overwheming circumstances of life, it is only in God that we can find the way out.  Never have I met someone who took on a heavy burden and walked through it, that came out on the other side and said, “Wow I didn’t know that I could do that.”  They will tell a story about how God met them in their pain and how God brought others into their lives.

Overcoming the temptations and trials in your life is not about your perceived capacity to stand up against “what you can handle.”  It is about God filling, strengthening and leading humble broken people well beyond what they could handle on their own without God.

Pastors, Tiger Woods and “Privacy”

February 19, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I have been rooting against Tiger Woods for about 13 years now.  I actively watch golf, especially the major championships.  I remember him winning his first Masters and many more tournaments since then.  Why would I root against him?  At some point I will blog about my philosophy about whom I root for and why.  For now, here are two of the top principles on the list.  I do not root for the person or team that wins all the time.  I do not root for whom the media tells me I should be.  Suffice to say, if you are over-hyped and win a lot, you can imagine that I will root against you and your team.   I say all of that, because most of my friends know this and will think that this post comes from that.  It does not.

I am struck by the calls from Tiger’s defenders and Tiger himself for his desire and right for privacy.  Even listening to the radio this morning, Bob Steele on KARN was getting lambasted for even talking about it.  “This is a private matter.”  “This is between him and his wife.”  “This isn’t even news.” 

I understand some of that, I suppose.  But I look at this from a completely different angle.  I know what it is like to be a public figure.  Nowhere near to the degree that Tiger Woods does, of course.  But on a much smaller scale, I do know.  All pastors know what I am talking about.  People always recognize you.  People recognize you and you don’t know who they are.  Those same people are always watching everything.  “What is he doing over there, sitting at McDonalds on his computer?”

Do I deserve privacy?  Do I deserve to be able to walk around Wal-Mart anonymously?  Do I deserve the right to have a life that is private?  What right do people have to know what is going on in my life?   With my wife, Heidi?  With my daughters, Maylee and Lauren who are 12 and 9 and are prominently pictured on the front page of my website?  Do people have the right to critique my parenting skills about which I blog on a regular basis and use to encourage other people?  (Hopefully, you by now, see the ridiculous way this is going)

I gave up the right to anonymity when I made the choice to enter a profession that put me in the public view.  I give it up even more when I talk about my life in a sermon.  I give it up further when I publish parts of my life and then post links encouraging people to read what I have written.  My livelihood depends on my reputation.

So what happens when a celebrity, sports figure, or pastor fails?  Do we get to invoke the privacy card?  The very same reputation that I need to have to do what I do is now gone.  Is it unfair that people would judge me?  Celebrities, sports figures, and yes pastors don’t seem to mind as long as they hear the cheers and cash the checks, but when it turns…?

Are we a celebrity-obsessed culture?  Yes.  Do we have too high of expectations of the sports figures we love?  Yes.  Do most pastors live in an unhealthy fishbowl also with unreasonable expectations?  Yes.  However, the time to complain about it is not when it starts working against us.  If this is not what we want, get out.  Better yet, don’t fail.  Be in your private life who you say you are in your public life. 

(That’s good advice, even if you are not a celebrity, sports figure or pastor)

****addendum, post Tiger’s prepared statement

There was a lot in that statement.  As a public speaker, I analyze things very differently.  He is not a great public speaker, so it would be unfair to read too much into his inflection, tone, body language, etc.  I am tempted to say a lot here, but I want to keep it on the topic addressed in the post. 

He did not make a desperate appeal for his own privacy, which is good.  He did make a passionate appeal for the privacy of his family.  Again, not reading too much into his tone, his appeal was angry.  Humble would have been better.  “I have failed, they don’t deserve this.  Please, leave them alone.  Harass me, but please give them some space.  They need that.”  He is right in saying that he has protected them from the public eye, mostly.  They are a part of his image, and he did bring them out.  He is their protector and defender.  He brought them into the spotlight, and it his responsibility to protect them.  Every paparazzi picture and salacious article is his fault, fair or not.  Now, humbly ask for help and support from the media.  Then we will turn against the media, and this can die slowly.

  I give the whole thing a C+,kinda what I expected.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #6

February 17, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So you’ve got a franchise and it has a running joke.  At what point does the running joke lose its luster?  When is it just annoying?  Is it only for the writer and producer?  Do the die hard fans really care?  Do the casual fans even notice?  Would Star Wars be the same if no one said “I have a bad feeling about this”?  How many people would notice?  What about Indiana Jones’s hat?  If there were no jokes about that, would there be something missing?  What about unbelievable death defying escapes to start off Bond movies?  Wouldn’t you be disappointed without them? Or are you just thinking, get on with it already?

Set-up:  Someone has committed a sin that for one reason or another is personally offensive or bothersome to you.  You are struggling with how you should respond and forgive.

Response:  Love the sinner, hate the sin.

I did a sermon last fall out of I John that dedicated a lot of time to ranting about the excuses that we make to justify anger, animosity and sometimes hatred of people that have hurt or offended us.  If you are interested in watching that, you may click here

Let’s break this down into two parts.  First, if someone has hurt us, we should love them.  God has called us to love everyone, not just the people that love us back, but our enemies as well.  We need to make sure that as Christians that we love sinners because otherwise we would love nobody (and consequently, no one would love us.)

What about hating sin?  Is it OK to hate other people’s sin?  I suppose it is hard to argue that a hatred for sin is bad.  The problem comes when we put those two phrases together and apply them to a particular person in a particular situation, it feels mean spirited and, well, hateful.  I theoretically love you, I just hate what you do.  I am not sure what person can separate their emotions in such a way.  God can, I know I can’t, and I’m pretty sure you can’t either.

Here has always been my bigger picture question.  If I love you, why does your sin make me angry and feel hate?  If I love you and you are in sin, my heart should break for you.  You are hurting yourself, damaging your relationship with God and relationships with others.  I hurt for you.  I want you to have victory over an issue that is crippling you. 

“Duh, cloften.  That’s why I hate the sin.”  No, listen.  Sin is not an inanimate object that can be hated.  It is an action caused by a person based on deliberate disobedience on the part of the person.  Sin is a product of who they are in that moment.  It is what they are doing, not what is being done to them.  We can no more love the sinner, hate the sin, then we could love the restaurant, hate the food. 

How about this?  Love the sinner, grieve the sin.  I love you and because of that my heart breaks when I see you sin.  I want better for you.  Or how about this?  It’s even simpler:  love the sinner. 

I’ve got a bad feeling about anything else.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #5

What are the reasons that you would make a fifth installment to your franchise?  There seem to be only a handful of reasons:

1) You are such a pop culture phenomenon that you could keep making movies until the end of time and your people will come see them–Star Wars (7), Harry Potter (6 and counting), and Star Trek (11).

2) You have an amazing character and can consistently rework the franchise–Batman (7 live action and multiple animated), Superman (5 live action), James Bond (20+)

3) You have no pride and will crank out cheap movies like crazy–Horror Movies (Jason, Freddy, Saw), Stupid teen movies (Not Another, Scary Movie, etc.), Mediocre kid movies (Beethoven, Barbie, etc.)

Anyone thinking I have pride and won’t crank out cheap product is sadly mistaken.

Set-up: Someone goes through some sort of financial difficulty that results in some sort of sin, like greed or theft.

Response: It’s like the Bible says, “money is the root of all evil.”

Let us all be clear.  First of all, that is not what the Bible says.  Repeat, that is not what the Bible says, unless you put in some well-placed ellipses.  What the verse says is:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

My question is do we intentionally misquote this verse?  Why would we do that?  Well, if money is the root and not the love of money then I get off the hook.  It’s not my fault; it’s “money’s” fault.  This makes money some entity that has some power and control, like the googly-eyed money from the Geico commercials. 

I always feel like...Somebody's watching me.

I always feel like...Somebody's watching me.

It is not money that causes evil, but our love of money.

Furthermore, it is not the root of all evil.  It is a root of all kinds of evil.  We tend to exaggerate things that we don’t like or understand.  The more ridiculous we can make something sound, the more that we can discount it.  If we say money is the root of all evil, we know that’s not true, so then we can discount the truth that is there.  Money, or even the love of money, is not why I am impatient with my kids or I am lazy.  Even when the love of money is a root, it is not always the root.  The financial arguments we have with our spouse are rooted both in the love of money and selfishness.

However, if we look at what that verse says, we rightly should be convicted.  Our love of money, the fact that we give our pursuit of money top priority in our lives over significantly more important areas, causes a lot of problems.  It divides husbands and wives.  It leads to neglect of children and family.  It leads to dishonesty, coveting, stealing.  It pushes God out of the leadership of our lives.  I typed “it” to describe the love of money.  However, the love of money comes from within. Change “it” to “I” and then we have something (you will also have to change some verb tenses.  Shut up, grammar nerd).

Dude! Why bring this up?  Well, first I wanted to show you that pastors can talk about money and not bring up tithing (whoops.  FAIL).  Second, it breaks my heart to see the love of money tear families apart and pull people away from God.  Enjoy what God has given you, use it to glorify him and strengthen your family, but don’t let your love and pursuit consume you.

Money is just an inanimate thing, meant to be controlled by you and surrendered to God’s authority.  Don’t let the googly-eyed money wad control you.

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