A Response

A few days ago, I got a comment on my last blog post.  I have a lot of people who subscribe to my blog or find it on Facebook or Twitter and I have no idea who they are.  The comment came from a person like that and I decided to respond to it publicly, because it was an honest question that made me pause.  Here goes…

Mike I say, answer me this; please How does one ever come to a common ground with a racist, or someone who violates the law by illegally keeping brown children who are following our laws to apply for citizenship out of out of this country. A man who speaks of his sexual fetishes out loud including but not limited to his own children. A bully whose documented lies in the last 3 years are in the thousands. My position is a sane individual would speak out against him but yet the conservative Christian community for the most part supports him and I ask you Why?

First off, I will never have the opportunity to sit down over chips and salsa with Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, or Stephen Miller.  Nor will the chips get passed between me and Nancy, Bernie, or Beto…even though we are obviously on a first-name basis. Hah! But I have had many opportunities to sit and break tortilla chips with their supporters…and my friends.

And that’s what I was talking about when I wrote my post.  I suppose if I ever had a sit down with the President or with the Speaker of the House, I would like to think I would do the same thing I do with Marshall and Gary and David and Gayla and Judy and Chris.  I would ask honest questions and I would listen carefully to their answers and do my best to understand not only what they believe about important issues, but why and how they have come to those beliefs.

That’s what I do. That’s who I am. That’s how I learn and grow and serve. That’s how I build friendships. That’s how a shepherd lives. It’s not perfect, but it’s how I fall asleep at night.

But I understand…talking directly and unfiltered with the very people who are intimately responsible for the wrongdoing you are reacting to is really, really different from having to interact or even walk side-by-side with someone who ideologically supports or defends the actions of the ones responsible.  And it’s a BIG difference.

Btw…I am unapologetically pro-life.  In every area of life. At all times. Because of that, it constantly puts me at odds with the leaders and predominant ideologies of both political parties.  Big time odds. Welcome to my world.

You may think this is the chicken way out, but for me, finding common ground or pursuing genuine friendship with the source of evil is completely different from doing the same with someone who, because of their understanding, their life story, their fears, their hopes, or a dozen other factors, finds a plausible reason to support the thing you or I might call evil. 

I will never get to hold the communion tray for Nancy Pelosi to take and drink her cup.  I will never harmonize a great hymn of the faith with President Trump singing next to me. We will never share the same hospital room of suffering or a plate of potato salad at a church potluck.  That’s what friends do. That’s what friends who disagree with each other do. That’s what friends who seek the kingdom of God with each other do.

Brother, I want you to know there are many people I passionately disagree with.  Sometimes they are the source of what I believe are evil actions. Sometimes, they are the supporters and defenders of people and systems I believe are wrong and I am convinced their defense of those issues are not only mistaken, but they might very well be unjust, illegal, immoral, or even ungodly. 

Sometimes I feel compelled to push back at friends and neighbors where I sense there is as much openness and respect to hear my side, as there is a willingness on my part to hear and respect theirs. Sometimes I don’t.

Sadly, that kind of civil discourse is pretty hard to find these days. But I’ll keep trying.

Why don’t I use my sermons, my teaching, and my writing to speak out against the political evil I see? Well that’s for another post.

Hope that helps.

The Skywalker Letters. #2

Young Jedi,

Roll with me here. As the church becomes more militant and combative in our fight for truth, justice and the American way, the more our commitment to expanding the Kingdom will be compromised.

Come on.  As pastors, is our highest calling to preach the gospel to all nations and reach the lost with the message of hope and grace and healing revealed in the life and words of Jesus or not?  Are we called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus or not? Are we to do what he did…say the things he said…treat people the way he did…and live by giving value to the things he valued or not?

Some people may say that Jesus was an extremist. Maybe you do. I know I did when I was a young Jedi. Some say he polarized people and drew lines and caused his followers to choose sides.  And in a way he did. But he also did something else.

He navigated the middle.

He rubbed elbows with everyone.  He was as comfortable with the prostitute as he was with the aristocrat.  He saw the good, or at least the potential for good, in all. He partied at the wedding feast and he taught in the temple.  He loved the saint and the sinner. How about you?

He was a living bridge and not a wall.  He was a window and not a barricade. He was always the safe middle ground where all were accepted. All were welcome. All were loved. Such a far cry from so many of his followers today.

How about you? Will you be safe?  Will you be welcoming?  Will you listen or are you licking your chops to tell people what you think they need to know?

Will you try to walk in the shoes of the other…to see what they see and feel what they feel and understand why they may think and act the way they do?  Will you do that without judgment and rejection? Do you still have more to learn…even from people with whom you have differences of opinion or conviction?

Will you draw people in or will you push them away with your opinions and corner on the truth?  Will you be known more for you love or for your rhetoric?

Junior, can I offer a suggestion?  The more people are defined by right and left…liberal and conservative…pro this and con that…the greater the need for some pastors who can navigate from the middle.  Followers of Christ and leaders in his church who can understand and articulate and sympathize with both sides of the fence. Any fence.

We desperately need a new generation of pastors who will not be bullied by anybody.  Who will not be intimidated by new ideas or run scared by change. Who will not be frightened by people who are different…philosophies that are different…and even ideas that challenge our orthodox understandings of the church and doctrine.

The world we live in has changed.  Technology has changed. The flow of information has changed.  The rate of change has changed. But people still need to meet Jesus.

And if that’s going to happen in the world as we know it now, we need to have pastors (and people, in general) who can navigate the middle.  The middle is where peace is forged, where compromise is found, where surprising friendships and new alliances are born.  The middle is where people are drawn in, not alienated.

Will that be you?  Will you be a pastor who navigates the middle? We’ve got more than enough of the others!

Shalom, Skywalker.

I’m not stupid.

Republican DemocratI have acted out of character the past couple of weeks.  For the first time, maybe ever, I have spent a significant amount of time watching both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.  On top of that, I have spent time listening to, and reading, commentary given before, during, and after the Conventions on CNN, Fox News, and PBS.

Hey.  Just doin’ my due diligence as a citizen.  Here’s what I’m thinking tonight…

Listening to those who are profoundly entrenched on the far left or the far right is an exercise in absolute bewilderment for me.  Each sees the other as the epitome of lunacy.  They are both repulsed by the ideologies and policies of the other.  They both see the other as manipulative, deceitful, self-centered, and bent on destroying everything good about America.  Neither side trusts the other any further than they could throw them.

They each speak of the other, not only as ill-informed and deluded in their thinking, but as simply stupid for thinking and believing and behaving as they do.  Each side sees itself as vastly superior.  To hear their supporters talk, one would have to conclude the other side is not just incapable of leading our country, but wholly destined to lead us into economic and moral oblivion.

For these, the extremely opinionated, there is no hope of middle ground or compromise, because there is no trust, no respect, no listening, and no shared values.  Each side stands smugly with their arms folded and backs bowed, believing they are smarter, wiser, and better people than those they oppose.

The thing that makes this attitude so nauseating to me, is both convention crowds are full of the best and brightest our country has to offer: grade school teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, business owners, corporate execs, college professors, scientists, engineers, architects, artists, financial advisers, military, law enforcement, parents, civic leaders, and maybe even a few pastors.  I assume each of them is experienced, educated, well-read, and thoughtful. The last thing I would ever think of doing is to call them “stupid”, because of who they are going to vote for.

What an incredibly naive and insulting thing that would be for me to do.

It saddens me to witness our inability, or stubborn unwillingness, to embrace those who are politically different, as people of value, virtue, intellectual worth, and shared hope. Instead, lines are drawn deeper and judgment is cast.

And anymore, this thinking, this attitude, this way of interacting with people, has spilled over into most every other area of our lives.

I feel like I want to pray about it tonight.

But I just don’t have the words.

Maybe tomorrow.

Soul wrestling

RestlessFor the past hour or so, I have sat quietly staring at the television over the top of my laptop screen.  My mind pin-balling.  My soul wrestling.  Trying to put a finger on why my heart is restless.

It probably has something to do with eating dinner at Taco Bell tonight, but there is more.  Much more.

The State of the Union Address.  American Sniper.  Domestic abuse.  Road rage.  Drunk driving.  Sex trafficking.  Illegal immigration.  LGBTQ.  Drug abuse.  The Economy.  Health care reform.  Racism.  ISIS.  Pornography.  Gitmo.  Kidnapped school girls.  Child suicides.  Homeland terrorism.  Welfare.  Poverty.  Death penalty.  Gun control.  Ebola.  STAAR tests.


Mention one of these (or any one of dozens of others), and you probably won’t get just an opinion.  You could likely get passion.  And an earful of one-sided, I’m-right-and-you’re-stupid pulpiteering.

We live in such a convoluted, broken world.  Thanks to technology, we are no longer shielded from the craziness.  We are touched deeply by reality.  Sometimes personally.  Always vicariously.

I watch as friendships erode over political opinions.  I grew up in one of the most patriotic and military-minded cities in America.  I played high school football with children of illegal immigrants.  Some of my best friends are gun enthusiasts.  I will never own one.  I have counseled victims of domestic abuse all of my adult life.

My friends, family, and ministry have been deeply impacted the reality of homosexuality.  I have held hungry children on my lap and tried to encourage families who had lost everything.  I have listened to the pain of parents who have lost their children to drunk drivers.

I have walked with people whose lives have been ravaged by drug and alcohol abuse.  At an early age, I was challenged to walk closely with the poor, the forgotten, and the less fortunate.  I have always had friends who were on welfare.

My kids spent five years as the white minority in a San Diego public elementary school.  It helped create the lens through which I view the world.  I have had deep, trust-filled relationships with Mexican, Asian, and African-Americans…  close enough that I could ask them to help me understand the prejudice they experience.  They did and I did my best to listen carefully and act on what I learned.

There are no easy answers.  No political party or agenda has a cure for sin.  No gun, police force, or military regime can protect us from self-centeredness.  Violence solves nothing.  Racism cannot self-identify.  No drink or pill can make the pain go away.  Education cannot transform our hearts.  Too much money corrupts.  Not enough money robs dignity.  Hopelessness leads to death.

The only thing that can cast out fear is love.  You either believe that or you don’t.

God is love.  Jesus was God with skin on.

When are we going to start talking like him…acting like him…treating others like he did…living with his priorities…believing that his ways are better than our ways?

Confused?  Read Matthew 5-7.

My one political post

four years ago, during the presidential election, i wrote my one “political” post for the season.  i’ve written a few others through the years, but after i write them, i always tell myself “never again”.

well i’ve gone back on my word again.  but this is it.  no mas.

since the internet and air waves are starting to blow up with opinion overload,  i figured i should get my observations out early, so you all can get on with expressing yours.  here are some things i am thinking as i watch the GOP convention:

i will never let your political opinions affect my relationship to you.  our interaction is based on stuff that is way more important than politics.

i know why i have never run for president or any other position of civic leadership.  apparently, it’s ok for people to gossip, slander, viciously attack, lie, be divisive, call names, insult, accuse, think the worst, disgrace and demean…as long as it’s about a president or presidential hopeful.  my skin is not nearly thick enough.  i hope we don’t start giving people permission to treat pastors this way.  sheesh.

you will never know how i vote.  you may think you do, but you don’t.  i made a decision a long time ago that i would never, ever risk damaging my friendships or my ability to care for people, over something as inconsequential as my personal political opinion.  you can check out my post from four years ago for a deeper explanation, if you’re having trouble sleeping.

i’m not as dumb as i look.  i tend to play really dumb when the subject of politics comes up, but i’m truly not as dumb as i look.  i promise.  i read everything i can find.  i don’t just read stuff that reinforces what i already believe, but i work hard to understand the other side of every issue.   but i don’t do it so i can talk.  i do it so i can listen.  what you think matters to me.

i don’t completely trust any person, news , or information source to give me political truth.  in fact, these days there’s really nobody i trust to give unbiased or uninfluenced fact.   even the people and sources that i have trusted in the past have been sucked into the battlefield of half-truths and telling people what they want them to know.  “christian” sources are some of the worst offenders.  it embarrasses me.

i have a fundamental problem with the bill of rights and the constitution.  just hear me out.  it’s a personal thing.  i believe…with my whole heart…that all the “rights” and “opportunities” i’m told i deserve as a citizen of the united states have been patently redefined by my relationship to jesus.  in my redemption, i forfeited all my “rights”.  i am first and foremost a citizen of the kingdom…and in that kingdom, i have no “rights”.  i am a servant of the king.  my role and responsibility in the kingdom of god always trumps my “rights” as a citizen of this great country.  and that will always create tension for me.

people disagree.  but just because we disagree, it doesn’t make you ignorant.  and i wish how you interact with me didn’t insinuate that i am an imbecile because i can’t see what you see.   i want that respect from pentecostals, calvinists, democrats, republicans, and dodger fans.   and you deserve it from me.

i know what the bible says regarding this whole political mess we find ourselves in.  these words only apply to people who claim to follow jesus and submit themselves to the authority of the holy writings.  all of the rest of you are off the hook:

  • pray.  in 1 timothy 2:1-2,  paul writes

First, I want all of you to pray for everyone. Ask God to bless them. Give thanks for them.  Pray for kings. Pray for all who are in authority. Pray that we will live peaceful and quiet lives. And pray that we will be godly and holy.

citizens of the kingdom are held to a different standard than the rest of society.  as americans, we have the freedom to say whatever we want.  as slaves of christ, we have the command to pray for our leaders and to live in quietness and peace.  will you spend as much time praying for mitt romney, as you do criticizing him?  have you asked god to bless president obama and expressed your thanks to god for his service to this country…with the same passion that you have called his politics into question?  if you haven’t, you are simply disobedient to the one who has given you grace and mercy that you don’t deserve.  think about it.

  • live by a higher standard.  a simple paraphrase of 1 peter 2:17 is this:

Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by disobeying Him.  Treat everyone you meet with dignity.  Love your spiritual family.  Revere God.  Respect governing authorities.

don’t make a mockery of god by thinking, acting, or talking in a way that is contrary to the character and personality of jesus.  even though you have the freedom to do it…and the promise of forgiveness when you act in disobedience.  no matter what…whether a person “deserves” it or not…the kingdom citizen treats every person with dignity and absolute respect.  anything short of that tarnishes the reputation of the king and the kingdom.

in this political season, be wise…be diligent…be involved…and be committed to your principles and what you believe to be true and righteous for the good of our country.

but more than that, be humble…be gracious…be loving…be peacemakers…and be christlike in every way.

Me and politics, part deux…

i want to make it clear.   i’m not against criticism.   over the course of my lifetime,  i’ve seen my fair share of political low-lights,  shenanigans,  and disappointments.   many,  if not all,  of them were worthy of scathing condemnation.

without a critical eye and an openness to change,  improvement will never happen…not corporately…not personally.

no…i’m not against criticism.   in fact,  it’s a part of life.   i’m not just used to it.   i’m numb to it.

“hey,  ron washington…you stink!”

“hey,  tony romo…you’re a loser!”

“hey bono…you’re a self-centered opportunist!”

“hey ed young…you’re greedy and shallow!”

“hey wade…you’re a clueless wimp!”

“hey lindsey…you’re a rich b*****!”

“hey farra…your sermons suck!”

hey…why leave myself out it?   nobody’s exempt.   nobody’s off-limits.   nobody’s safe.   we are a culture that has the freedom to speak it’s mind…and we’re gonna do it.

but do we really believe that ron washington knows nothing about baseball?   or that ed young is really nothing more than a religious huckster?   or that god can’t use my feeble effort at preaching to be of value to somebody?

do we really believe that W was nothing more than a buffoon?   or that obama truly intends to destroy everything we know and love about america?

as children of the king and followers of the prince of peace,  can we not lead the way in civility and good will?   can we not,  by the power of the holy spirit,  rise above the meanness and heartless judgment that dominates the political world…the world that we are merely passing through…the world where we are nothing but aliens and pilgrims?

if you think that these past two posts are directed at you,  personally…don’t flatter yourself.   first off,  if i had something to say to you personally,  i would man-up and do it.    second…this is about all of us.

none of us get off scott free.   we are all cut from the same sinful cloth that required jesus’ death.   scripture says that no one is righteous.    let’s make sure that when it comes to politics,  our behavior and values…and criticisms…are governed by the rule book of the kingdom where we have our citizenship…and not by the country we were born in.

no more political commentary.   for at least two years.

Me and politics

i never talk politics.   all of you do,  but i don’t.   you may think i’m a chicken or i’m just uneducated,  but neither is true.   i care deeply about the american political scene…stay current…and have some really strong political opinions.   but you will never hear them.


in light of the mid-term election process we have just completed,  here are five thoughts,  explanations,  or personal opinions i’ll pass on:

1.   the priority reason i never talk politics is because i am unwilling to alienate a large percentage of the people i serve as a leader in my church family.   shock…north point has republicans, democrats and libertarians.  maybe even a few tea partiers.   i wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a greenie.   i’ve found that of all the topics up for discussion around the communion table,  there is nothing more polarizing than one’s political opinions.   if i’m going to polarize and alienate people,  i’m sure as heck going to do it over my sports teams or favorite fast food restaurants…and not political rhetoric.

2.  i’m weary of people…christians in particular…who show disrespect and cast judgment on legitimate politicians and the people who align themselves political party platforms.   i’m tired of smug superior attitudes…from all sides.   i’m tired of claims that one’s sources of information are vastly superior and infinitely more reliable than others…and the requisite smug judgment that normally follows.   christ died to break down the dividing walls of hostility that separated not just the jews from the greeks,  but the walls that separated classes and sexes and religious traditions and cultural heritage.   christians must never be found guilty of erecting dividing walls…but always be seen as those who peacefully and respectfully tear them down.

i am as disgusted with people who call obama an evil,  closet-muslim,  destroyer of the american way…as i was of those who mocked george W with their slanderous insults about his lack of education,  poor leadership skills and embarrassment to our country.

3.   i love that we live in a country that cherishes the right of individual citizens to freely speak their minds…even if it means openly criticizing and undermining the president and the government he leads.   men and women died for this freedom.   i’m grateful for it.   but as christians,  we are first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of god…a nation that runs by completely different standards than the country of our earthly citizenship.   the word of god says that we are to submit to our earthly leaders and pray for them.   it’s just my opinion,  but if you are not praying faithfully and sincerely for our leaders,  you have no right to criticize.   in fact,  there are some stern warnings in the rule book of the kingdom about developing a critical spirit.   beware.

4.   i know this is not a new thought,  but god is neither a republican nor a democrat.   both platforms have good and bad from a biblical point of view.    honest faith must be free to challenge both the right and the left from a consistent moral…and biblical ground.   civil,  loving,  open and respectful dialogue is the only kind of dialogue that should characterize believers and fellow-citizens of the kingdom.

5.    politics corrupt.   every time.   for every man and woman.   it just seems like it’s the nature of the beast.   a wise man once observed that even when a new leader takes over for an old foolish one, the new leader eventually becomes as bad as the old one.

Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.   The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.   I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.   There was no end to all the people who were before them.   But those who came later were not pleased with the successor.  This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.   Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

we are kingdom people first.   always.   so let our thoughts,  behaviors,  interactions,   relationships,  and…politics… always reflect the grace and mercy of our king.   always.