Formal ministry training and theological education for many is a dream that seems out of reach. Who wants to go into decades of debt in order to get a degree in vocational ministry? Especially when you consider that pay scales for people in ministry are notoriously low paying.
So in order to serve God must you become a slave to Sallie Mae? No...a thousand times, no. Let me share just one unique opportunity with you. It is called CLI, "Christian Leaders Institute." They are an on-line institute that offers training and local Christian mentoring to help grow the church in North America and around the world. They offer free on-line training because they are supported by people who feel called to support free Christian training.
I would like to suggest a local website for those of you who are interested in learning more about CLI and the degrees they offer. Here is a link that will provide more information to help you get started:
You can check out the website www.fremontcli.com. The Church Leadership Resources page would be the preferred highlight.
Aaron Frick, a CLI mentor, has this to say about the incredible opportunities that are available to you through CLI, "Through CLI, the Mentor Center is the local resource and CLI is the global reach (150 countries). The Getting Started Class teaches a similar "circle of influence" model for ministering: self, marriage, family, small group, church, CHURCH, world."
Are you called to serve Christ vocationally? You never know unless you take the first step.
And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
I am a weather junkie, so naturally I woke up early this morning to follow all the updates on the approaching winter ice storm that is coming our way. I opened up my iPad to check the local news and the first headline that popped up on my screen was, "11 dead from deadly twisters in Texas." Traumatic pictures of tornado damage, storm debris and interviews with devastated people who lost loved ones accompanied the article. I glimpsed at it for a few seconds and then I decided to move on to the more pressing issue at hand. I had to check my local weather radar: "Boy, I hope the ice doesn't affect my son's basketball practice?"
And then it hit me, "Chris, you don't you even care about those poor people? Aren't you going to even pray for them?" I am ashamed to admit it, but a momentary thought flashed in my cerebral cortex, like a quick-shot of ice water in my veins, "Nah, I am just glad it wasn't me."
Oh boy, I think my heart is growing cold? To be honest, it feels like my compassion tank has been running dry for quite some time now. As a Christian pastor, how can this be? Why do I seem to be growing so callous? I think that the same dark look of indifference is affecting us all. Just look around - - people are too busy to care these days.
I have been chewing on this vexing problem a lot lately, especially when it comes to my personal prayer life. When I open up the scriptures Paul tells us to "Pray without ceasing...be devoted to the the word of God and prayer...pray always." But if you are like me, you know this does not really describe what is really happening in most Christian's lives.
I think the primary cause of a lack of prayer is from "our love growing cold": Lack of compassion, major shortfalls in mercy and a dearth of real pity across the cultural landscape. When you really care, you pray; it is indifference that breeds spiritual laziness, And Americans are indifferent.
So the deeper issue at stake is to stop indifference. But how do we do that? I offer one suggestion:
Providential Proximity ________________________
I first heard of this teaching while I was attending a lecture on Kantian Ethics at Calvin College's January Series. The instructor was discussing an ethical dilemma that he was confronted with the previous week. While sitting in church, a missionary from Zaire was recounting how one dollar in American money would feed a family for a week. One little dollar, a meal for a family of six. The man said it was a very sobering presentation.
Immediately after church ended, the man took a walk with his grandson to the local park. As they were walking down the sidewalk, an ice-cream vendor was selling various delicious frozen treats. As he went to buy an orange pop-sickle, the vendor said, "That will be one dollar." One dollar for a pop-sickle? Or should I take that one dollar to feed a family of six?
What should a godly, caring, compassionate, and of course a righteous Christian steward do? Guilt screams at you, "Don't buy the pop-sickle you rich American snob!" But it is your grandson? Can't you treat him to a simple Sunday summer treat? In fact, if you take this question to the full extent, how could any decent American even feel comfortable living in a house with central air when most people in Zaire live in cardboard shacks? Should we not all sell our savings, stocks and investments and send it to those poor hurting people?
And then the professor remembered "Providential Proximity": an ethical mental grid that he learned from Immanuel Kant. It is a way to evaluate personal responsibility and need. Here it is in a rather rough form...
Two words explain it all: Providence & Proximity. Providence teaches that a Sovereign God controls the world in supreme love and goodness for all people. He sets up events and people to bring the most blessing for all. And according to Acts 17:26-27 he placed you right where he wants you; that's proximity. If you notice, the target of your compassion and emotional equity should be directed more fully to the center: You start with your immediate family, those who live under the same four walls that you do, and then move out from there.
After you have adequately cared for those closest to you, than your care moves to those in the Church (including the missionaries you feel called to support), friends, neighbors, co-workers, and then to the community you live in. And finally, then and only then, are you ready to take on the larger, less personal issues.
I think America and our media saturated culture in general has turned this model upside down. Instead of first caring for those you can directly impact, we spend all of our emotion to argue about things that really don't effect us much at all. We argue, tweet and post articles in Facebook that really will never effect the price of eggs. We think we are doing something because we can cut and paste articles that support a liberal or conservative agenda. And then, after all our arguing is over, we have nothing left for the people that really matter.
Tell me, how can you really emotionally process all of the huge issues of the day? How can you adequately care about and fight for the lady whose son got shot in Chicago, and then care about the Syrian refugees and then give all you got to debate gun control with the common political trolls online all in the same afternoon? Sure, those are important issues - - but are they more important than your own teenage son who is quietly living in a closeted world of media loneliness? And trying to figure out issues on a grand scale sooner or later will start sapping life from your soul. You can't deal with it, and your caring quotient will start to shut down if you are not careful. Media saturation contaminates our heart and it will begin to ice up with a hard, cold edge.
The terrible result of not respecting "Providential Proximity" is complete and utter indifference.
What can you really do about Donald Trump or Hilary? Yes, you can vote, but that is about it. All those articles you read about them will get you no where. So instead, take that hour you have just wasted surfing on the internet and spend it with someone God has sitting right next to you. Like your wife for instance.
If God is truly Sovereign, than he must have put them there for a purpose? And that purpose is to be loved by you!
Politics is a nasty business, I get it. But must we all go swimming in the sewer just so our side wins? Our current election cycle reminds me of Michael Scott in an "Office" episode. One of the main characters, Dwight, has a concussion and must go to the hospital to get treatment. Jim and Micheal volunteer to take him. So while Jim drives, Micheal and Dwight must sit in the passenger seats. As they are heading to the car, Michael runs to the car yelling "shotgun" disregarding Dwight's head injury. Here is his explanation on why he is so insensitive to Dwight's concussion:
"The rules of shotgun are very simple and very clear. The first person to shout "shotgun" when you're within the sight of the car gets the front seat. That's how the game's played. There are no exceptions for someone with a concussion."
In other words, in order to gain the best seat in the car "anything goes" even if your behavior is childish and utterly insensitive. Apparently, this behavior is also standard fare in American politics. If my candidate utters the most banal and foolish statements in a large political rally I must disregard them if it moves their popularity and ratings up another notch. That's how the game is played. No questions asked.
Meanwhile, say goodbye to civility, serious argument and a leader who you can honestly trust when he or she has to decide between popularity or what is best for the people. I know we can't change the way we elect our candidates, but we can stop making excuses for candidates when they totally "stick their foot in their mouth."
I am a conservative, I have traditionally voted Republican, but I can't stomach Donald Trump's theatrics. The way he continues to lambaste his opponents with vitriol is just embarrassing and reprehensible for the Republican party. Why do people give him a pass? Because he is winning?
This willingness to defend non-sense says more about the average voter than it does about Donald Trump. He is playing the audience like a fiddle - he is using rudeness and crudeness to gain applause. If your political leanings are on the left, you don't have much to write home about either. Hilary Clinton is not running to serve, but to be served. How else can so many serious infractions against the law and lack of simple human decency on her part just be ignored by the majority of Democratic supporters?
My question is, when will we quit applauding and making excuses for creeps?
It reminds me of the age old question: "Do the people of a nation resemble their leader, or does the leader resemble the people?" Zechariah 11:8-16 argues for the later. It states "because the people are foolish and don't want righteousness, God will raise up a foolish leader who will abuse them for his own purposes." That is why our country has such a lack of leadership on both aisles. The leaders simply spout what the people want to hear. And apparently people want to laugh and mock their opponents these days?
So what is the suggestion? I only have two (1) Stop thinking politics has the answers for society's ills. (2) Think before you speak, laugh or applaud. Don't give a person a pass just because they are helping your side to win. Ask yourself, "Would you let that person kiss your mother with that mouth?" If the answer is no, don't keep making excuses for them.
I have decided to place a write in vote this next year, "Mike Cheyne for President." Will you join me?
Is Jesus Allowed to have an Opinion about who he is and why he came - - or does the Pope & Pop-Culture know more than he?
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Have you heard the hot religious news?
Over the thanksgiving holiday Pope Francis declared that "Christians and Muslims are Brothers." Following his teaching, a Wheaton College Professor, Larycia Hawkins, decided to don a hijab to show support with all Muslims. Here are her exact words:
“I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity,” she wrote in the Dec. 10 post, alongside photos of herself wearing the veil. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."
The school acted swiftly, and immediately put the professor on administrative leave. Some student groups and even various Wheaton alumni protested the dismissal. The school held their ground. In a statement released Tuesday night, Wheaton College said it has “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of what Ms. Hawkins wrote about Christianity and Islam. The Daily Herald reported, “While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer." Way to stand strong Wheaton; I say, "Here, here!"
But such a strait forward answer did not play well in the popular media. In discussing this story, "The Atlantic", an online news source, opened an editorial article by asking this silly question:
"Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? It’s a question that has bedeviled theologians and everyday believers for centuries. And this week it may have cost a tenured professor her job."
Really? This question has bedeviled theologians for centuries? Which theologians? And the Dali Lama, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Rob Bell don't count. Luther, Calvin, Baxter, Stott, and even the last Pope, Benedict the XVI (better known and Joseph Ratzinger), all viewed Islam and Christianity as two completely different faiths promoting two completely different Gods. There has been no real question on this by honest thinking scholars.
Maybe the Crusaders and Ottoman Turks were simply confused as they sent out thousands and thousands of soldiers to die in battle for their faith?
But we are swimming in a culture of tolerant ooze where religious people of all stripes are no longer allowed to think critically. Jesus has just become another name for Allah, Shiva, the Cosmic Mind and visa-versa. Steve Turner, an English journalist was right as he described our current culture's mindset: "We believe that all religions are basically the same-at least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation."
I guess what frustrates me most about our society is that no one cares about what Jesus has to say. Especially when it comes to his opinion concerning himself. He makes some very bold claims about who he is, but current scholars and regular religious folk breeze right by them acting as if he doesn't know what he is talking about. "Oh, when Jesus says in John 14:6 that he is the only way to the Father...well he doesn't mean anything by that. It is just symbolism, metaphor, allegory, religious speak to sound good. Jesus also didn't intend anything by saying in Matthew 26:64 that he is seated at the right hand of the Father and is coming to destroy the earth in the clouds of heaven. Jesus is a sweet guy, not an earth pounding tyrant. How could he say such things when he is the same guy who let the children sit on his lap?"
Could you imagine if someone asked you what you were like, and your friend spoke on your behalf and described you as a completely different person than the person you really are? You would smack them in the chops. "Oh Chris Weeks, I know him well, First of all, he is a great Michigan fan, he loves to eat liver and onions and listens to opera music while reading Harlequin romance." That's not me! And my good friend would never falsely characterize me like that.
True friends of Jesus are very careful and precise when they speak about him, In fact, they should tremble (Psalm 2:11) when considering the majestic character of their Lord. And I can assure you, they would never equate the Holy God of heaven with the disgusting Islamic monster named Allah. Yes, I said monster.
Allah is a beast. He only sees his followers as slaves, he treats women as objects, and he has no problem changing his mind when the mood feels right. Read up on Allah and you will find a god who doesn't mind it, and even encourages it, when his followers lie to gain an upper hand over their enemies. Nor does he object when men beat their disobedient wives upon their couches (See Surah 4:34 in the Koran). Why don't feminists speak out about the horrible track record of woman's rights in Islamic countries? Why doesn't this caring and compassionate professor make a public protest about that?
And to top it all off, did you also know the Koran in Surah 9:30 clearly states that those who believe God had a Son should be destroyed? How can you even say this is anything like the Christian message? Jesus words and the Koran are so far apart you have to be a theological ignoramus not to see it!
Where is the true hate speech? Where is the real intolerance? Just ask Salman Rushdie, visit Iran, and try to sing a Christmas song in the streets of Kandahar. You will be imprisoned in many Muslim cities around the world just for being a Christian.
One last thing, did you know if you live in the Sudan and you name your Teddy Bear Muhammad you will be sent to prison and even threatened with death? Go and read** about it and you tell me who has tolerance problems?
Nothing and no one compares to Jesus - - he is AMAZING!
I ruined a perfectly good evening with my family.
My kids finished their homework, we went out to get some pizza, had lively conversation, snacked on a few nachos with hot salsa, and Christmas caroled a house on the way home. Everything was great, and then when we got back home someone persuaded me to go against my better angels and I turned on the Republican Debate that was airing live on CNN -- thanks Pedro!
So there we sat, watching and listening to the wacky world of political horse racing. The number one thought that kept running through my mind while these bombastic and opinionated men and a woman dressed in business attire argued was, "How did this cast of characters end up becoming our final choices for the presidency?" (And don't try to convince me the candidate across the isle on the Democratic side is any better; she may be the biggest charlatan of them all?)
As I was listening to all of the political mud slinging and posturing, another thought came to my mind, "Would I even trust any of them with running the affairs of our small town church?" I don't think so. But no worries, crazy season is upon us and I have decided to not let it pull me in, so I remained relatively calm. I use to care a lot more, but I have grown a little older and wiser, and I realize what is being said is driven by the desire to win votes - - not really lead a country.
So just when I was patting myself on the back for not getting emotionally involved, Wolf Blitzer, the CNN host, directed a question from a viewer to the candidates that really fired me up. It was the straw that broke the camel's back and it made me angry as I watched the rest of the debate. Carla Hernandez of Eagle Pass, Texas challenged the Republican candidates' moral integrity because they are not in favor of allowing Syrian refugees into the country. Here is what she asked,
"If the Bible clearly states that we need to embrace those in need and not fear, how can we justify not accepting refugees?"
As a pastor, it drives me crazy when people reference the bible in their line of questioning. Seriously, no one in Washington really cares about what the bible says. But then when someone has a pet issue that makes them seem more compassionate and caring than all the candidates up on stage, it has become perfectly appropriate to appeal to scriptures. C'mon, this nothing more than rotten political theater.
What if people really did care about what the Bible states? What if making an appeal to what God has clearly declared through the prophets and apostles of old really mattered to people? I think a lot tougher and serious questions would be asked. Let me show you what I mean by asking the same sort of questions as Carla asked:
"If the Bible clearly states that 'if any man who does not like to work should not eat,' does that mean we should completely overhaul our benefit programs and cut people off who have quit looking for work or refuse to work?"
"If the Bible clearly states that sex outside of marriage is sin, should we stop allowing people in adulterous relationships to vote?"
"If the Bible clearly states that lying before God and people in a public forum is a serious crime, should we not fire our current President, and refuse any candidate from running for office who has publicly lied?" Who would be left to run?
I could go on and on, but it would lead us nowhere. If we are going to use the Bible, let's understand the real ramifications and correct context on how to use it. When it comes to letting in refugees the argument becomes much more complex than simply saying we need to "embrace and not fear." How many of you have invited a homeless man on the corner to come to your house to live with you? Probably not many, and for good reasons.
Instead of rhetoric we need solid answers from reasonable leaders. My frustration is that we as a country are not interested in reason anymore. We are addicted to soundbites and the entertainment value found in political theater. Ratings, reaction and laughter has become our goal; they are the new idols of a consumer culture who has been "amusing itself to death."
No wonder we don't get the best, brightest and most moral to lead our country - - they don't want to play the blood-sport of politics. Now one wants to have their life destroyed by a callous world shooting in the shadows of social media, or being relentlessly attacked on 24 hours news and cable networks.
God help us!
Where are you Christmas? Why can't I find you? Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter you used to bring me? Why can't I hear music play?
"Where are you Christmas?" by Faith Hill
When it comes to the holidays, especially Christmas, I am a sentimental sap. A cry-baby in secret. People would never know it, but I want Christmas to always be just right. The way I want it: red and white candy canes on the tree, snow ball fights with the neighborhood midgets, and of course having all the people I love gathered together on Christmas morning opening up their boat-load of expensive gifts.
For me, hands down, the voice of Christmas is none other than the wonderful Johnny Mathis. Not only was he my dad's favorite, but our family made it a yearly tradition to play his Christmas album while we would decorate Christmas cookies. The single song that epitomized his music is the happy toe-tapper, "We Need a Little Christmas." It is such a fun and light song, especially with Johnny's unique high tenor singing voice with it's rich effervescent tones.
It always lifted my spirits and prepared my heart for Christmas fun; that is until I read some of the lyrics. Just listen to them:
Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
It hasn't snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we're in a hurry
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough
For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, grown a little older
But Santa, dear, we're in a hurry
So climb down the chimney
It's been a long time since I felt good, neighborly
Do you see it? The poor guy is depressed: A fallen spirit, desperate for snow, starving, cold-hearted, sad and old. And the only cure in his mind is Santa climbing down the chimny. Fat chance that's happening...
Have you ever felt like this during Christmas? Sad, desperate and old? Boy, the last few years I have.
I recently read an article in Psychology Today that said, "Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression during the Christmas season. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season." Think about that, 45%, that is a lot of sad and old people. If it was a crayon color it would be Ultramarine Blue.
The article listed a number of reasons for this high potential of seasonal dread: "For some people, they get depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on "perfect" social activities. Other get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a "victim" mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more. Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they'd rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of ones or their jobs."
Wow, just thinking about all those things can cause you to tear your heart right out of your chest. And this list doesn't even include all the new things that can depress you in our modern world: like the fact that the NSA is keeping a record of the new iPhone your son is getting, drones are circling your neighborhood at night to make sure Santa isn't delivering fire arms to terrorists, and you are not sure if your daughter is going to get the new Bruce Jenner Barbie doll mailed to them from their great Aunt Kevin who lives in San Francisco?
It is one crazy sad world. There really are so many reasons to be blue this Christmas.
So I was thinking long and hard about how to fix this? As a pastor who believes this should be a time of rejoicing and celebration, I have come up with some practical ways to fight the Christmas blues. So get out your red pad of paper, and take out your green pen, and write down some of these helpful notes to beat the blues.
(1) Stop listening to television commercials, reading the Facebook feed on how to make the perfect fruitcake or decorate your house to look like Ginger Bread, and ignore all mall employees who are trying to make you believe the perfect Christmas can be yours! It can't. So instead, grab a sledge hammer and get ready to smash your TV when 'Miracle on 34th Street'", "The Christmas Shoes", or "The Polar Express" comes on. I guarantee it will make you feel a whole lot better.
(2) Take your family and drive over the border to Tijuana, Mexico and spend your Christmas break with any one of the one-armed kids who sit on the side of the street singing "La Bamba" to the American tourists. You will love the weather in Mexico this time of year, but "La Bamba" might drive you crazy. And most of you reading this have two arms so count your blessings!
(3) Follow Elf's example on how to have fun in the big city: eat the free bubble gum off the subway hand rails, run around a swinging glass-door for five minutes until you barf, and then go get yourself a cup of the 'world's best cup of coffee' at the nearest greasy spoon. You will surely come to love Christmas like the elves do.
(4) When you tuck your kids in bed at night, describe to them what it is like to work in a Chinese sweatshop. If they don't like the presents you got them, just remind them they can earn a few more bucks after you move to Shanghai. Or threaten to send them back on the time machine you built in the basement to the early 17th century so they can hang out with Tiny Tim for an afternoon. They are sure to come back saying, "God bless us, everyone."
(5) Look in the mirror while reading this article: http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/amazing-face-transplants-graphic-images/
And I think we all need to remember Jesus' first Christmas spent on earth as a human being. It really wasn't all that great. He had to sleep in a cow feeder filled with dirty straw - - it probably had flies and smelly animals sleeping nearby. One of the main gifts he received Christmas morning was funeral spices to wrap a dead body in. What is a baby supposed to do with that? He was also being hunted by the maniacal King Herod who wanted him dead. And to top it all off he couldn't really get a good nights sleep because that darn drummer boy kept rumma-tum-tumming!
Let's face it, we have got it made in America. And not only that, Jesus came to bring us hope, not bring us down to depths of despair on Christmas day. So honestly, examine your heart, and ask yourself why do you allow the blues to carry you away when grace is always available?
And please, never, ever, listen to that stupid song "Where are you Christmas?" by Faith Hill! You will be sure to want to kill yourself after hearing it once on the radio. Be Merry this Christmas!
(Warning...this is not intended to be politically correct, just objective observations from daily living)
5 days ago, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that women in the U.S. military — including the Army and Marines — can now serve in combat posts. "There will be no exceptions," Carter said. The military playing field has been leveled and men no longer are to be given the advantage over women when it comes to career opportunities in the armed services; no longer will men hoard all the glory of war just for themselves. Even if tests and findings may prove that women are not physically built like men, (see: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2015/09/10/mixed-gender-teams-come-up-short-marines-infantry-experiment/71979146/) the American consensus is clear - - women should have the same right to fight and lead combat units as men do. Because really, we are not that different after all. For many women in the military this is a huge victory; because to them, combat is seen as the highest honor for the trained soldier and they too should be afforded the same opportunity as men to wage war.
(It is funny how combat use to be seen as a necessary evil, something that was to be avoided at all costs; killing another human being was not something to be glorified nor desired. My grandfather insisted he only fought out of duty not glory. Now combat is considered to be the noblest of vocations, a grand opportunity that women should be allowed to participate in as well. Men of the past wanted to protect women and children out of sincere love and an honest understanding of how ugly, dirty and dark combat really is. Now women want equal rights to be in on the blood, carnage, and dying as well.)
So even though the arguments continue to be waged, women have won. They have earned the right to fight alongside men. Not only is this true in the military, but women are being liberated on all fronts. You can find women in every sport and competitive venue that was once only dominated by testosterone driven males. Look around, we now have the WNBA, Women's Football, Rugby and Hockey, women dominating in Hot Dog Eating Contests, a woman completing the America Ninja Warrior course and now women are the big event when it comes to MMA coverage. Who hasn't heard of Rhonda Rousey?
Maybe women and men are the same after all?
The culture at large is persuasive, and they almost had me convinced that the sexes are growing more equal and alike every day. You can't help but admit that we are not that much different, especially after Bruce Jenner has crossed the gender gap with virtually no problem. Hilary will probably break the glass ceiling and win the presidency. And maybe, just maybe, God didn't make men and women that different after all? I mean who needs both a mom and dad now that gay marriage has been legalized?
Just when I was ready to give in and admit complete equality of abilities, interests and desires with women; I entered into a bookstore and found something that snapped me back to reality. My belief systems may seem traditional and outdated, but what I found, undeniably proves men and women really are different after all. I never really noticed it before, but there it was, the evidence was staring me square in the face: Amish Romance books! Who in their right mind would ever buy Amish Romance books? Women, that's who.
This is the sort of evidence that is subtle - - but it is irrefutable proof that women really are different than men. I have never once met a man who wants anything to do with Amish Romance. I decided to do some more extensive research on this genre, and here are some reasons why women read these books...
"Let me say, this is my absolute favorite genre in the Christian fiction area! I just love the simplicity of their lifestyle. When I first started being an avid reader again, Amish was the only genre that I would read because I felt pretty confident in knowing they were clean reads. Not only that but I love the idea of having a relationship without the noise and confusion of the modern world."
Listen to this dialogue:
"Okay, so I have never read any Amish fiction before. What is a good author or book to start with? Any suggestions on that?"
Oh goodness, that's my favorite genre!! I enjoy Wanda Brunstetter, but a lot of people feel she is too simplistic. If you like a good mystery mixed in with romance, perhaps Marta Perry or Barbara Cameron. I just love to imagine living in such an uncomplicated world!"
Men just don't think like this, and never will. First of all, men like machines, technology, toys and making things work better with gas and oil. While the Amish work their land and make sturdy furniture, they don't get to use any of the fun stuff to do it with. Like tractors, chain saws and drill presses. The Amish don't even get to own their own Ford F-150 pickup truck. Where is the fun in that?
Secondly, men are more honest about the lack of romance in the Amish world. Women like to fantasize about strapping men with beards - - but have you really ever taken a good look at real Amish beards? Creepy, there is no romance in them what-so-ever. Have you ever really tried to talk with an Amish man? Romance is the last thing on their mind. And remember Amish women don't wear any makeup like the covers of romance novels depict. Men love it when a good coating of paint is applied to the barn!
I still am haunted by the times I had to watch "Little House on the Prairie" with my sisters. I think those shows are what drove me to watch sports; who cares what color bonnet Nellie Olson is wearing to church? Makes me gag just thinking about it. Secretly, I often wonder if some moms home school so they can have their very own Laura Engels dreams come true?
Let's face it, we can force ourselves to try to believe there are no differences between men and women, but then all of a sudden something odd like Amish Romance books reveals the lie for what it is. Men and women are different, they always will be, and sometimes it is nice to admit it.
"God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10)
"So you like movies? You're an expert you say? A cinema connoisseur?
Most Americans like to claim that they have extraordinary grasp and unusual affinity when it comes to discussing actors, cinematic genre's and eating vast quantities of salted popcorn. I have heard countless people tell me they have over their years of watching movies on the giant silver screen acquired a sophisticated understanding when it comes knowing the craft of story-telling,
Well, honestly, we all should. Heck, the average Joe you see walking down the street watches at least 4 hours of television, cable or Netflix every night. We are story obsessed! Even without knowing it we are constantly bombarded by narratives. Every commercial you see is a story that manipulative advertisers have devised with great deceitfulness to get you to buy their products. And we watch thousands of these little stories a year. "Where's the Beef?"...."Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" These stories are forever stuck in our collective consciousness.
So naturally, with such extensive experience in the art of story-telling we should be masters at picking out plot lines, themes, character development and of course figuring out the moral of the story. But when it comes to the actual story we currently find ourselves in, most of us can't even see the forest from the trees. To our shame, we don't even recognize the brilliant writer of history's script.
In our blind ignorance we have completely missed the plot line. We foolishly think we are the main character of our own Broadway hit. But we are not. There is so much more going on around us that we miss; and this grand story of humanity has been playing out for thousands of years before we arrived on the scene. And when it comes to our part in the story, we have been given a momentary appearance with only a few lines.
Christmas is the climax of this grand story. Most people miss Christmas' importance because they view the season romantically. I am using "romantic" in the philosophical sense: a time to feel things, it is the season of year to get caught up in the moment. "Lets go sledding, shopping, dance around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party house, and bake warm cookies with Grandma." Christmas has become for us a time to capture that "Christmas spirit." Whatever that means?
This view of Christmas places "me, myself and I" in the center, I become the star of the show. Chapter One begins with my birth. Chapter Two has me believing that Santa exists to serve me by delivering to my house silver-papered presents with pretty red bows. Chapter Three includes those innocent years of throwing snowballs and eating cookies with my brother and sisters. Chapter Four is growing up learning that Santa really was meant to be only a harmless metaphor leading me to trust in God's greatest Christmas gift meant for me, Sweet Baby Jesus. Chapter Six is the adult years when we feel the need to wear a tie for midnight mass as we sing about this baby while holding a lighted candle during "Silent Night.". And of course, the Final Chapter ends when I am able to pass on this same script to my kids and grand-kids where they once again believe in Santa and Baby Jesus. "Awww, doesn't that warm your heart?"
But this is not the real Christmas story. Oh sure we have rightly acknowledged the importance of Jesus in Christmas - but somehow we have turned genuine faith in a real God into dead religious ritual and sentimental feeling. I know people who actually cry when the cartooned Linus from "Peanuts" reads from the gospel of Luke thinking they had a real spiritual experience. But reality is much more serious and dangerous. We must not allow the story's plot line to be buried under the sweet tones of Bing Crosby and Josh Grobin any longer. We can't afford to.
The truth is, from the moment we have been born, we have entered a violent war torn world. Psalm 2 paints the picture clearly when it opens up by saying, "Why do the nations rage? And the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 'Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us."
The world is on fire, and this fury rages in each man's heart. This is the true story of Christmas. This is why people are being shot in San Bernardino and Baltimore. This is why people hate. Collectively mankind wants nothing to do with righteousness; the moral and relational bonds that were set up by God to live a life of peace. No, instead, his will for us is daily spurned and mocked. We don't want his opinion, we shrug off his rule, we all are a bunch of petulant fools. People addicted to sin.
This is not a nice story. That is why you will not hear it during Christmas. It spoils all the fun.
So we drown out our collective guilt with sentimental nonsense, and try to ignore the eternal indictment that has been declared against us from the courts of heaven: "Dead in trespasses and sins." Meanwhile, God the judge of mankind sits patiently on his throne (Psalm 2:4). It is time for us to realize he is an enormously dangerous God in his majestic holiness. Psalm 2 says he is angry, actually furious with our rebellion.
But God is also love. Incredibly, instead of damning this world, he made a declaration, it is called his decree, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you," (Psalm 2:7) He decided to send his Son to clean up the mess on earth. He came to be King; but first things first, he had to die for our sin. Yes, it is true he came as a baby, but he didn't stay there. He grew up. He needed to become a grown man so he could be led to a cross to die and have his blood spilled for you and me.
This is the only thing that brings peace to the earth.
This is the story. The real story. So many people greet this story with nice smiles, warm glasses of champagne by the fire, and focus on sweet lies about Santa so they don't have to deal with their sin. We think exchanging diamond rings from Kay Jewelers will distract us from the truth that Jesus is no longer a baby, he is the King, the one who not only deserves our allegiance but will have no other gods before him.
"We KNOW that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him to be true." 1 John 5:20
Yesterday, a very good friend sent me an article about another mega-church pastor who is leaving the ministry. In the town of Grand Rapids, Michigan, this pastor is very well known in the Christian community. Not only has he been the pastor of Mars Hill Church for the last three years, but his dad is Ed Dobson, the former pastor of Calvary Church - - another huge church in the Grand Rapids area.
The pastor I am referring to is Kent Dobson. (the article I was sent is listed at the bottom of the page*). The article on Kent Dobson was meant to be a hit piece, I didn't like it at all. Even though there was a lot I agreed with, I really disliked the tone of the article. The writer seemed to relish in the downfall of another Christian leader and even joked about the spiritual quandary he now finds himself in.
It bothered me so much I decided to watch Kent's farewell sermon on my own; and I have to say my heart broke for him. I like Kent Dobson, he is a very genuine guy, and the sermons he preaches are the true product of what he really believes. He isn't putting on a show. But Kent is definitely struggling. Throughout his very vulnerable and humble conversation/sermon, he kept admitting to the deep state of confusion and bewilderment he was in. At one point in his message he said he is about to "step out into the unknown." He feels called to a greater mystery. He's restless, and he no longer wants to be a pastor.
Throughout his message he kept admitting he was a guy that was always drawn to the edge, not to the center, and he was choosing this new path in life not knowing where it may lead. Since he really doesn't know where he is headed, he realized that it was wrong to be a teaching pastor who was taking other people with him. I have to commend him on his honesty. But this admission is terribly sad -- he has been pastoring one of the biggest churches in Grand Rapids for the last three years and he is not even sure "if he knows what we mean when we say the word God?"
He really has no answers, mostly questions. And he encouraged Mars Hill to keep being the place for the agnostic, outsider and heretic. A place to be yourself, a place to be accepted in your unknowning. This is a troubling trend in many churches: to actually promote that you don't know things rather than "contend and stand strong for the faith. (Jude 1:3)." The article I mentioned earlier, takes issue with this position as well, and expresses in vivid color where I think most of the Emergents, the Progressives, the Liberals, and the Christian Agnostics all fail in their walk with God. Listen closely:
"What I am opposed to is the supposition behind his departure—the reason he gives for leaving. For Dobson, he’s been on a journey which started one place and is leading him to another; specifically, to the edges of faith. In actual fact, he’s exactly where he’s always been. His self-professed goal was always to be the cool pastor with the cool shoes. It’s not that he’s journeyed away from the “center” of faith. No, he’s just stayed in the center of the zeitgeist—in the “mainstream” of a culture which is rapidly leaving Christian orthodoxy behind."
In other words, to doubt, to waffle, to admit that you don't know and to act like you are better than those ignorant Christians who do believe things, has now become the norm. Ironically the position of being proud of your ignorance has always been the norm, the zeitgeist, the center of sophisticated thought. Listen to a quote from G. K. Chesterton, a man who lived in the late 1800's in London,
"We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced."
When I watched his sermon, it seems that Kent believes that believing anything for sure is the problem of belief. To him, people who know things are dangerous. People who have convictions probably have them because they want to manipulate and dominate others. However, for Kent, people who are ignorant are the truly authentic, and that is all that matters today. Oh yeah, being a cool pastor with "cool shoes" also counts.
Could you imagine if a College Football coach said the reason he is retiring is because he is not sure about the game of football anymore? He is not sure what it really means to be a football player and he needs to be true to himself and look for a better way to play football? We would think he is a little crazy; but when a pastor stands up and says they are not sure who God is anymore, or they don't really know what it means to be a Christian, we applaud him. Seems rather silly to me.
Why were we given the scriptures in the first place? To confuse us or open our minds to truth? (Psalm 119:106)
I am going to go out on a limb here: I know I am not part of the center, the zeitgeist, and in my minority opinion, I will humbly admit that "I know." I know Jesus exists. I know God the Father is a loving God with hatred toward sin. I know he is real. I know Jesus died to set me free. This is the one thing that I know (As Jars of Clay use to sing). In fact, the more I pastor the more I see the word of God as the only true answer for man's ill's.
It explains why people are so wicked. It explains why when people die everyone hopes for more beyond the grave, even the atheist. The Bible doesn't confuse me; like the sun, it sheds light on everything else I see.
I am sad for Kent. I am sad that he was poisoned by the previous pastor (Rob Bell) who taught people it is cool and super-spiritual to always "question and be content without having answers." Questions are not wrong in and of themselves; but they are not supposed to be the final destination. For me, questions lead to the real cool things, "answers." For 23 years I had no answers, but then I started learning the scriptures and they opened my mind and world to "true truth" for the first time. A pastor's job is to tell people the truth. Not to lead them into a dark fuzzy world of mystery.
Malachi 2:7 is very clear, "For the lips of a priest OUGHT TO preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction - because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty."
I am sad for Mars Hill, it is a tragedy to see something that was such an enormous force for good unravel right before your eyes. All because the people at the top were more worried about being cool than right. Image now matters more than content.
The result is a bunch of confused people wearing "cool shoes."