Monthly Archives: March 2013

Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin; We’ve Lost Sight Of The First Part

This post is going to upset people.  I’m warning you from the outset.  I’m taking a flamethrower to Old Religion in this post, and in fact, to some of the things I have held dear for most of my life.

Hindsight is a hideous thing.  Long before I lost my job in January my mind was beginning to analyze some of the decisions I’ve made in ministry in the last two years.  I realize nobody’s perfect and my choices were made with the best of intent.

Somebody posted a quote of Rick Warren’s a few weeks ago that hit a chord with me.

Our culture has accepted two huge lies:
The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle you must fear or hate them.
The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.
Both are nonsense.

I agree with this wholeheartedly, regardless of whether Rick Warren said it or not.

The evangelical Christian response to homosexuals (not homosexuality) in the last generation and a half has done nothing to further the cause of Christ.  I wrote that one, you can quote me on it.

I have a friend.   She will always be my friend, regardless of whatever dumb ideas she may have at any given time.  She used to be a he.  And according to a medical definition, she still is a he, but that’s subject to change anytime in the future.  Am I concerned about this?  Absolutely I am.  Am I going to take my twenty pound leather bound KJV and beat her over the head with hate and religious jargon and scare her further away from God?  How am I going to answer to God if I make that my choice?

She was a kid in one of my past youth groups.  She used to sing in the worship team and has a lot of talent.  After leaving home to go to college, she was exposed to influences that made her think.   You can rest assured that those influences didn’t say “Oh.  You’re a Christian.  We’re not going to have anything to do with you!”

I’m not afraid of her.  And I don’t hate her.  In fact, in Christian circles, she has acknowledged my wife and I as being “one of the few” who treats her like a human being.  I don’t agree with her choice to label herself the way she has.  And I’m not going to help her go down the path any further.  But if somebody doesn’t reach over the side of the boat with their arm extended, this precious soul is going to drown.

At Christmas last year, I preached my last message at my old church on a non-traditional Christmas passage.  I preached on John 3:16.  We say the Reason For The Season is Jesus.  And if that’s true, then the answer to all the questions about why Christmas happened the way it did can be found in John 3:16.  God loved the world so much… that He gave his only Son…

Just because somebody has “come out of the closet” doesn’t mean we as Christians should retreat into one and nervously sing our songs of faith and power on continuous repeat hoping it will drive the scary people away.  And just because somebody comes out of the closet doesn’t make his or her sin any more or less serious than the sin we nurture in our churches by labeling people and trying to excommunicate them from the grace they so desperately need.

The rebellion around which the homosexual lifestyle is based is focused on two things.  False power, and false love.  They march so proudly down our streets with the beautiful rainbow flags (another sermon in itself) and proclaim their crusade “against hate”.  They love everybody unconditionally.  They’ve stolen our message (not to mention the symbol of a divine covenant) and are using it against us!

It’s working.  All over the world innocent souls who God sent a Saviour for are turning by the droves.  Away from the church and it’s condemnation.  And towards a lifestyle that has embraced what we as the church have discarded in the name of holiness or any other number of completely lame excuses.  Are we called to save the saved?  So many of our churches haven’t seen a new convert in decades, and the ones who trickle through leave quickly when they find out what we’re really about.  Many churches haven’t enlarged their borders in decades.  We laud our increase or lament our decrease when really all it is are disgruntled Christians moving from church to church as pastors change.

We need to love the unlovable.  Or else they’re never going to be freed from the body of sin and death.

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A Voice In The Desert

I lost my job in January.  The church was going through some financial difficulty and they just couldn’t afford to keep us.  I knew it was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional roller coaster that the last few months have been.  There have been days I’ve wanted to lay in bed all day.  There have been days I’ve sat at my desk and just stared at the monitor and cried.  It’s been almost fifty days since I’ve touched a piano and I’m losing my mind.  I need an outlet, but I don’t have one.  Sooner or later, I’m worried the bottle is going to explode.

Lately, I’ve felt that I should take this season of rest to help direct and engage fundraising for Team Mackie.  Mackie (Mackenzie) is my best friend’s son.  He was born blind in both eyes with a condition called PFVS.  I won’t tell the whole story because this blog post is about something else, but Mackie needs treatment in the States, OHIP is not going to cover it, and we need to raise somewhere between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars.  We’ve got a lotta work ahead of us, and there are days I sit in front of the computer all day and do nothing but knock on virtual doors and organize things.  My fingers have “told” the story of Mackenzie so many times, I think they could do it without the conscious help of my brain.

Needless to say… organizing an event of this magnitude has not been success after success after success.  There have been roadblocks.  There have been frustrations.  There have been times I wanted to whip a cat off a fourth storey balcony to see if they bounce.  (Don’t worry, they’re all still here.)  Coupled with the frustration and depression of losing my dream job (not to mention living in this apartment complex) — let’s just say my blood pressure has been at an all time high and leave it at that.  But this is the task I’ve chosen, I’m committed to it, and I’ll do whatever I have to.  It’s that simple.  I’m in for the long haul.

I think last night was the last straw in the string of misfortunes lately.  (And I could tell you about this “string” for a very long time.)  I had left a backup running on my computer, and my wife and I stepped out.  The files being backed up were my music collection, which is one of my most prized possessions.  It covers a little over thirty gigabytes.  Back when I had my office, I had triple-redundant backups — because I had the resources to pull it off and because this data means that much to me.  Music is my life.  We got home from stepping out and a particular cat of ours who shall not be named, had slept on my laptop keyboard the whole time we were gone.  She must have pushed a lot of keys in the course of settling down, because the source files, the destination files, and Windows itself were all corrupted.  And the only backup I had, I had deleted off the external drive to make room for the new one.  I was up fighting with the computer until about 1 am this morning, trying to get the laptop into a stable operating state.  I did not succeed.  I had to reformat the computer and — in the process — lose all the music.  I cried a lot.  I’ve been building that collection for as long as the mp3 file format has existed.  And that’s close to twenty years.  As I sat here and watched the one-touch-restore on my laptop obliterate all of my data, my gaze turned slightly to the left and then, my head tilted sideways to ponder the thought that had just entered.  My iPad is a 64 gig iPad.  It has all my music on it.  But iTunes doesn’t let you sync both ways, except to a limited extent for purchased content.  None of my content was purchased.  I scoured the web for another hour thinking somebody must have been stuck in this situation before.  And sure enough, I found a program called SharePod that — after being allowed to run for a couple of hours — recovered every last bit of lost data from my iPad.  I went to bed relieved.  All my other data was backed up or could be replaced.  I had my music back.  My heart was beating again.  It felt like the winds were starting to change.

Today was a day of running around.  We scored a major victory in the morning in planning the logistics of the concert and silent auction, and so my wife and I decided to go out for lunch.  We had other errands to run anyway, and our favourite restaurant was “on the flight path” anyway.

We had lunch.  It was tasty.  (It’s always tasty.)  And we went back to the car.  Jillian had to make a detour before she got to the car.  I went out, sat down, plugged my phone into the car charger, and dropped it into the cup holder where I usually leave it when I’m driving, and I started the car.

Much to my amazement, my locked phone began to speak.  Audibly.  In English.  Jillian was getting into the car at this point and it was on the main street of Oshawa so there was a lot of background noise.  At first I thought it was the navigation application, but as I strained to hear it, I could make out some familiar words.  I filed a couple of the phrases away mentally with the intent to do some look-up later.  But when I picked up the phone to see what application was ‘speaking” to me, it stopped, and there was nothing there but the Android home screen.   When I opened the task-switcher, there were no applications open.  Weird.

A while later we were stopped at a grocery store and I was alone in the car with my phone charged and ready.  I started to Google the phrases I was pretty sure were from the Old Testament.  And they were.  They were from the 43rd chapter of Isaiah.

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Ok.  So my spirit received the message, but my brain was still trying to explain it.  I went from application to application to application on my phone trying to find one that either had this passage as “the verse of the day” or even just a Bible application that had been left open in Isaiah.  Of the ones I found that spoke… none of them had the same voice that I heard earlier in the day in the car.

I’m not a hyper-spiritual “spookernatural” kind of person.

But this was real.

Wow.  Just wow.