Friday, January 9, 2015

Celebrate Your Local Law Enforcement Officers

Southbrook Celebrates Law Enforcement Appreciation Day

Friday, January 9th, 2015 is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.  Southbrook Church expressed its appreciation to area Police Departments, by providing Kringle and Apple Cake desserts along with a personal expression of thankfulness.  Pastor Jason visited Oak Creek and Cudahy Police Departments, while I stopped in at the Franklin Police Department and the Muskego Police Department.

I have had the privilege of serving as the Chaplain for the City of Franklin Police Department.  My main role is to assist the officers during some of the most tragic calls that they encounter.  When there is a suicide, an unexpected death, a fatal accident, or the need to make a death notification – my phone rings…

4 Things I have learned about Law Enforcement Officers

-They are just like us with real issues, family struggles, fears and concerns.  We have rough days with our kids, troubles in our marriages, and tensions with our co-workers…. Our Law Enforcement officers can identity.

-Most Police Officers I know are excellent and truly care.  Most are selfless and devoted to serving the citizens of their city.  Remember, that in every profession –Lawyers, Teachers, Nurses and even Pastors– there are those who are just punching the clock. 

-When they leave for work there is a chance that they may not return at the end of the shift.  The reality is that their job involves the possibility of death.  During 2014, 121 police officers killed in the line of duty.

-Law Enforcement Officers carry enormous levels of stress.  Even in suburbs like Franklin and Oak Creek, Police Officers have to treat each traffic stop, each interaction with the public as a potential threat.  There are no simple interactions; Police Officers don’t know if the person is mentally ill, wants the Police to kill them, or is just an innocent citizen.

What we can do…

1.     Love your local Police.
2.     Pray for your Police.  Every time I see a squad I immediately pray for that officer, for their safety and for their family.

3.     Recognize the level of uncertainty and stress that their family carries each and every day their loved one is on the job.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Race and Death in America. A Response

The names, are too many….  Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Dontre Hamilton…..

The emotions, run too deep….  Outrage.  Unbearable sadness.  Despair.  Shame.  Hope….

The Images, are too graphic….   Grieving parents.  A community in flames.  An unarmed man being choked to death…

The Left and Right Media covered these events in predictable fashion, further ingratiating themselves to their echo-chamber audiences.

I’ve learned that writing about Race is a fool’s errand.  We live in a hyper-political and racial atmosphere, where instant reactions rule the day. The Politicians, Pundits and Talking-Heads push their personal agendas, which only served to re-affirm our own stereotypes. 

Let me just ask this…. What type of country is it, where an armed white man can threaten federal officers and be turned into a Conservative folk hero -Cliven Bundy- while unarmed black men are killed and then blamed for their own deaths….?

I’ll leave it up to others to wrestle with the legal, moral and ethical implications of these events.  

The question I want to answer is this: How should Christians -of all political stripes- respond to these events?  As a pastor of a multi-ethnic, economically diverse congregation, let me offer a few suggestions…

Identify with the brokenhearted
The Bible commands us to do relate to those who are suffering.  We see this clearly in paces like Romans 12.15, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’  We do this because God identifies with those who struggle in life.  Psalm 34.18 tells us, ‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’  Christ-followers need to identify with those who are suffering, grieved, and hurting.

When faced with a choice to side with the powerful or the oppressed - side with the oppressed
God draws near to people who are oppressed.  The commands to care for the poor, the widowed and orphaned are found throughout the Bible.  Jesus declared that he came to bring, ‘liberty to those who are oppressed,’ Luke 4.18-19.  The prophet Isaiah in Chapter 1.17 declared, ‘Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.’

Realize that we all have our own internal biases
White Privilege is the term used to describe the reality of those who are born into systems that deliver access to power and resources -to the neglect of others.  White Privilege doesn’t mean that someone is racist; rather it implicates the corrupt nature of our social systems.  Conservative Pastor Matt Chandler affirmed the reality of White Privilege by declaring that his, ‘Blond hair and blue eyed sons will never be seen as suspicious by the Police.’  Acknowledging that White Privilege exists is helpful in deeply divisive times like this.

Listen to other narratives
Take time to listen -not just hear but truly listen- to the stories of others from different racial backgrounds.  Invite a friend over for dinner and seek to understand their experiences and opinions is critical in bridging perceptions. Christianity affirms that all people are created in the image of God and therefore have equal worth and value.  Learning the life stories of fellow imager-bearers draws us closer to our Creator.

Christians are required to address reconciliation
We are commanded to love one another, with the same love that God has for us.  Jesus tells us in John 13.35 that, ‘All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.’  At one point Jesus is asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’  He responds with a story that crosses racial and ethnic divisions -setting the Good Samaritan as the ultimate example of reconciliation.  

We can argue the merits of rioting, we can shake our head in anger at those grabbing the spotlight for self-promotion, we can debate the conflicting eye-witness accounts of each incident, and we can take sides in the predictable ‘us vs. them’ narrative that plays out in our Country…


We can chart a new course, one where Christians join in the suffering, where Christians embrace the sorrow, side with the oppressed, assess our own personal biases, listen -sincerely listen- and take the lead on racial reconciliation.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

12 Questions: Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

Southbrook Church's summer series is called '12 Questions.'  We are engaging 12 difficult questions about our faith and following Jesus.

One of the most challenging questions is this, 'Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People.' All of us have asked this at one point or another.  All of us have some pain in our lives, some tragedy that has caused us to wonder why this is happening to us.

I am not sure that there is one answer that totally satisfies our struggles.  But let me offer six truths that can help us as we deal with this heart wrenching question...

1. Evil is not from God -Genesis 1.31 reminds us that God created the world perfect.  God's perfection allowed us the freedom to chose to love him.  We took that freedom and turned our back on God, allowing chaos and sin to enter.  If God were to eliminate evil today, then there would be none of us left!

2. God is good -Matthew 7.9-11 tells us that God is like a parent who only wants the best for their children.  An inescapable fact of life is that God is good.  We are surrounded by God's goodness so much, that at times it is easy to overlook God's goodness.

3. God can redeem evil -Romans 8.28 speaks to the fact that God can make beauty out of chaos. Story after story in the Bible points to this truth; that out of darkness God can bring light. The Bible's central story: of Jesus defeating sin on the Cross, is the supreme example of God redeeming evil.

4. God wins in the end -Revelation 21.4 gives us great hope, as it points towards the truth that God will win in the end. Contrary to the song 'Circle of Life' from the Lion King movie, our life is not trapped in an unending circle.  Rather the world had a specific beginning and will end in a similar fashion. God does indeed win in the end!

5. How does rejecting God make life any easier? Time and time again, in the midst of tragedy I hear this sentiment.  Tragedy naturally shakes up our lives, makes us question what is important in life. Life is tough enough with God in our lives. I can't imagine going through life without the presence and relationship that Jesus offers!

6. What is your God doing about evil?  At times and in the right context I will ask this question.  It is a simple one, and one that can truly alter a conversation. To the skeptic who blasts Christianity, I will ask, 'What is your God doing about evil?' What is the Universe doing to personally comfort me?  What is your nature God doing to provide me with answers in life.  What are your crystals or your church doing to provide me peace?

The God of the Bible is moving heaven and earth to rescue us.  The God of the Bible sent his son into this world. He absorbed our pain, our sin, our suffering.  He took our brokenness and carried it to the cross. He rose from the dead, loved us enough to leave us, but did not leave us alone. He left us His Word and the Church to guide and love us.  He promised to return again to defeat sin and death once and for all.

70 years ago a young woman survived the horrors of a Nazi Prison Camp. After being set free Corrie Ten Boom wrote these words: 'No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.'

Truly our only hope is to align ourselves with Jesus, to commit and trust in Him.  He is the only one who has done something and is still working to change our lives.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Forgetting your Father on Father's Day

I admit, I would rather forget my father on Father’s Day.

He was a seminary student when I was born, a pastor when I was a child, a President of a Christian Ministry when I was in High School, and a Trustee of a Christian University when I was an undergraduate.

But most of his life he was living a lie.

Domestic abuse, substance abuse, absentee father, vindictive boss, self-aggrandizer, and master manipulator.  

The Family Court Judge granted restraining orders against him, which we carried around for years. He died a few years ago, separated from his own family, never having seen his grandkids... 

You can see why I would rather forget my father on Father’s Day.  

The good news is that God is at work and apparently, loves tragic irony -as now I am a Husband, and Father and a Pastor.  Looking back I have learned a few lessons regarding my father’s life.

There is hope - Life change can occur.  It is laborious and taxing, but with God all things are possible.  God can alter the path of our life...!

His trajectory of life does not have to be yours - God's plan for your life is unique and you will not follow the same pattern of anyone else.

Admit there are pockets of good - There are good times to be remembered for sure, but it is far easier to ignore them.  Being forced to remember something positive humanizes the person who caused so much pain.

It is easier to run from, then to embrace the hardship - Even though running from hardship is a normal response, it tends to isolate ourselves from the reality in which we too can hurt others. I've learned to lean in to the pain, embrace it, and use it to help others.

Give yourself grace when you personally fail - My failures do not mean that I am replicating my father's life. Everyone will fail and extra grace is needed to those who have had such poor role models in life.

Some of us do wish to forget our father's of Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

12 Questions Needs Your Help

Southbrook Church's 2014 Summer Series is called 12 Questions. 

I don't know about you, but I often struggle with doubt and questions about my faith in Christ.

Rather than run from these questions, this summer we are going to embrace them and learn together from God's Word.

Here is the lineup of topics that we will be talking about this summer at Southbrook Church.

  • Why Pray?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why did Jesus have to die?
  • Is following Jesus worth all the struggles that I am going through?
  • Is Satan real?
  • Why read the Bible?
  • How can I share God at Work?
  • Can I really know God's will for my life?
  • Why isn't being good, good enough?

We intentionally made room to address a few more of your questions.  So what are some other topics that we should address in our 12 Questions series?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Churches Respond to Crime and Racism...

Sadly the local news never seems to change.

A 10 year old girl shot in the head while at her local playground. The 18 year old man charged with this shooting had been previously arrested 15 times.

Three people killed in a 10 hour span in the city of Milwaukee.

A Beloit woman killed, her boyfriend arrested by Police.

Arrests made in local sex trafficking scheme.

An April 2014 study by Annie E. Casey Foundation identified 12 indicators of adulthood success, ranking each State by race.  Wisconsin ranked 10th best in the nation for white children and 50th for black children.  The report also noted that the economic disparity continues to widen, thereby putting even more children at risk.

The news both overwhelms and paralyzes us...

How should the Church respond to these issues?  
  • Openly talk about them.  God's Truth provides the lens for us to address every issue, no matter how volatile. 
  • Repent of our negligence.  God charges the Church with the task of reflecting Him everywhere.
  • Humanize the struggle.  We are not dealing with statistics and reports, but with people created in the image of God.
  • Start working together.  In Milwaukee, a group called 'Pastors United' is working together to address the issues affecting their congregations. 
  • Start somewhere, anywhere.  We may not be able to change the systemic issues of crime and racism, but we can at least try.  Churches can act locally and incrementally.
  • Viewing others through God's perspective.  A Christ-focused world view affirms that our worth and value comes from being created in God's Image.
Until that time, Churches can hold to the words from Isaiah 60.18 
Violence will disappear from your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Week 2014 -Good Friday

Join us each day as we focus on the final week of Jesus' crucifixion.

Good Friday. What a contradiction in terms. How can there be anything good about the beating, torture and crucifixion of of the Son of God?

Christians originally called Jesus' crucifixion day 'God's Friday' but over time the phrase was transformed into 'Good Friday.'

From 9am till 3pm, Jesus hung on the Cross. Mocked by the crowds, ridiculed by the religious leaders, and abandoned by his closest friends; Jesus felt the weight of our sins and the distance of being separated from God's love.

The suffering and agony caused by crucifixion was so intense that a whole new word was created: 'excruciating,' Latin 'of the cross.'

Our sins drove the nails, but it was love that held Him to the cross.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week 2014 -Maundy Thursday

Join us each day as we focus on the final week of Jesus' crucifixion.

Thursday of Holy Week is called 'Maundy Thursday.' The term 'Maundy' is derived from the Latin mandatum. While eating the Passover Meal with his disciples, Jesus said, 'I give you a new command (mandate), that you love one another as I have loved you.'

The central focus of Maundy Thursday is Jesus washing his disciples' feet. During the Passover meal, Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his robe, grabs the basin and begins to scrub the dust and dirt from their feet.

Jesus offers two reasons as to why he is doing this demeaning task. In John 13v15 he reminds his followers to follow his example. 'I have set an example for you that you should do as I have done for you.' Jesus wants his followers to be marked by service, humble self-sacrificial service. What strikes me about Jesus' actions is that he is also taking time to wash Judas' feet. A few days earlier Judas went to the Chief Priests in order to set the trap to betray Jesus. Jesus' example compels us humbly serve, even those who are actively working against Christians!

The other reason Jesus gives for this shocking act of service, is found in John 13v7. 'Later you will understand what I am doing.' Jesus' cryptic comment actually points towards the Cross -as the foot washing foreshadows his crucifixion. Notice the parallels...

Foot washing                                               Cross
Humbling - slave work                                  Crucifixion - a slave's death
Water poured out                                           Blood poured out
Wipes dirt from feet                                       Wipes sin from our lives
Dirt transferred from feet to his towel            Our sin is transferred to Jesus
Jesus was in his underwear                            Clothes divided while on the cross
Done to both friends and Judas                     Died for the sins of us all

Maundy Thursday points us towards Jesus... His life and his sacrifice for our sins.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week 2014 - Plotting Wednesday

Join us each day as we focus on the final week of Jesus' crucifixion.

Wednesday of Holy Week finds the plot to kill Jesus picking up steam. From the very beginning, the Jewish religious leaders set out to get Jesus.

Jesus claimed to be the Messiah -the Chosen One and he also claimed to be the Son of God. This caused great concern to the religious leaders, as Jesus was young, not formally trained, and came outside of their established religious traditions. Inside Jerusalem the Sanhedrin met. The Sanhedrin was a religious court, where the spiritual leaders gathered to make their decisions.

Fear drove this group. Because it was Passover, the city was jammed with pilgrims and the political tension was at an all time high. The Jewish religious leaders feared that Jesus would spark a political rebellion -which would incite the Roman Army to enter the City.

In order to avoid the greater potential threat of an invading Roman Army, the Sanhedrin decided it was more expedient to get rid of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week 2014 -Confrontation Tuesday

Join us each day as we focus on the final week before Jesus' crucifixion.

The plot to arrest Jesus picks up steam as Judas agrees to betray Jesus. Luke 22.1-6 records Judas' trip to the Chief Priests and his agreement to betray his friend. For a while now, the religious leaders were looking for ways to trap and arrest Jesus. Judas' betrayal adds more fuel to the fire.

As Jesus was leaving the Temple on his way out of town he predicted that the Temple would be destroyed. He took this opportunity to also speak about the end times and that even he doesn't know the specifics of how it will all end.

The conspiracy against Jesus is well underway. From the perspective of the Pharisees, Jesus was just a young man: unschooled and uneducated. 'Who is the 33 year old kid, who makes these claims about being sent from God?'

Tuesday is marked by confrontation, as both sides are looking for ways to discredit the other. The tension is high, the city on edge, and the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering is in full force.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week 2014 -Fig Monday

Join us each day as we focus on the final week before Jesus' crucifixion.

Christians call the day after Palm Sunday, 'Fig Monday.'  On this day Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree and chases the corrupt people out of the Temple.

At first these two events seem unrelated and frankly, quite odd.  But viewed together, we see that they are what is known as, 'an acted parable.'

In Mark 11, these event appear in this order:
     Jesus curses the Fig Tree
     Jesus cleanses the Temple
     Jesus revisits the cursed Fig Tree

In this final week of Jesus' life, he comes to both the Fig Tree and the Temple -seeking fruit, seeking life, seeking nourishment.  His physical hunger drove him to the Fig Tree, but since it was barren he cursed it. His spiritual hunger drove him to the Temple, but when he arrived it had been transformed into a commercial enterprise -and so he blasted it as well.

In this way we can see a link between these two events. What Jesus does to the Fig Tree he will do to the Temple. This story challenges us to ask the question, what would Jesus find if he came to our Churches, or into our homes? Would he find fruit? Would he find life? 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

Join us each day as we focus on the final week before Jesus' crucifixion

Christians celebrate Palm Sunday one week before Easter. The crowds waved palm branches as Jesus and his followers enter the city of Jerusalem.

To fully understand Palm Sunday we need to view it through the lens of three themes: Passover, City vs. Country, and Triumph.

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the Passover festival -the annual celebration commemorating God rescuing His people from Egypt. During Jesus' time, Passover became a nationalistic holiday as well as a religious festival. The people were longing once again for a new Moses, a new leader who would bring them out from the oppression of the Romans.

Jesus and his followers primarily came from the country. They were viewed with disdain by the educated elite who mocked the uneducated country folk. The tension between the City religious leaders and the country followers of Jesus was at an all time high on Palm Sunday.

Jesus entered the city on a donkey to the cheers of his followers. By entering the city in this manner, Jesus is deliberately mocking and imitating the formal military processions of others who have come before him. 160 years earlier, Judah Maccabees led a revolt against the Greek rulers of Israel. He entered Jerusalem while riding a war horse, followed by his fellow Jewish rebels. At the time of Jesus, Roman generals and officials would enter a city riding a war horse, followed by their soldiers. Even Pilate, the Roman Governor entered the city before Jesus, with all of his soldiers. The name given to this specific method of entering a city- 'Triumph.' Jesus triggers Israel's cultural memory -by imitating Judah Maccabees' manner of entering the city.  Jesus also triggers Israel's anger towards their oppressors, by imitating Pilate's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Jesus wants the world to know that he is a ruler unlike any that have come before him.
Instead of choosing Power, he chooses Humility. Instead of riding a war horse, he rides a donkey. Instead of carrying a sword, he carries the cross.

He will act in power and in glory and will do so in a way that no one ever saw coming....

Bubba for the Win

Bubba Watson does not have the coolest hair. After winning his first Masters in 2012 Bubba cried like a baby. He made an advertisement for a first-of-its-kind Golf-Cart Hovercraft. Let's be honest, he is a golfing nerd.

But on Sunday April 13th, 2014 Bubba Watson, the golfing nerd, won his second Masters, landing himself a $1.6M payout for Golf's most prestigious tournament.

Yet for all of his accolades, fame and fortune, Bubba knows that what is most important in his life is not winning at golf. What is most important is winning at life.

From his prolific twitter account, Bubba recently tweeted this about his priorities: 'Most important things in my life- 1. God, 2. Wife, 3. Family, 4. Helping Others, 5. Golf.'

He knows that this faith in Christ at times bring scorn and mockery. To those who sneer at his Christian faith, Bubba realizes that, 'For me it's just showing the Light.  There's people who want to put down Christians. I try to tell them Jesus loves you. It's just a way to be strong in my faith.'

After his 2012 Masters win, Bubba Watson gave an interview with CNN, in which he talked about his faith.  Watch at the 1:25 mark and hear his own story of how he came to faith in Christ.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Being a Good Samaritan is Impossible

James Janknegt painting, 'Portrait of You as the Good Samaritan.'

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one Jesus' most well known and well loved stories. Even those with little-to-no Church experience know this story. The phrase, 'be a Good Samaritan' has entered our cultural lexicon. Parents encourage their children to be 'Good Samaritans' and help others in need.

At Church, this story usually ends up with an application like this: 'Anyone in need is your neighbor. Be sure and help them.' And we leave Church reminded that we are to care for everyone.

I love what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about this familiar story...
'The first question which the Priest and the Levite asked was, 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?'  But the Good Samaritan reversed the question, 'If I do not stop and help this man, what will happen to him?'

Jesus ends this story -found in Luke 10- with a challenge to 'go and do likewise.' Did you catch it? Jesus wants us to follow the Good Samaritan's example of radical selfless compassion.

The truth of the matter is that sometimes the most familiar stories are also the most difficult to understand.

It is impossible to be a Good Samaritan to everyone who is in need.  And that is exactly the point of this story.

Jesus wants us to realize that our standard is impossible to achieve.... be continued...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Police Matters

The International Conference of Police Chaplains holds regional training seminars throughout the country each year.  I am thankful to the City of Franklin Police Department for providing the funds to attend this training.

This is my fifth year as the Chaplain for the Franklin Police Department. It truly is an honor to give back to the City through serving as their Chaplain. The chance to positively influence the officers and their families is truly rewarding.

A few takeaways of the conference:

  • Law Enforcement Officers have higher rates of alcoholism and divorce than the general population.
  • While every school holds Fire Drills (even though the last student to die in a fire was 50 years ago) -schools rarely hold Active Shooter Drills even with the higher rates of school shootings in the news.
  • Every School, Business or Church should have an Active Shooter Response Plan.
  • Police Families need extra love and attention.
  • The prevalence of Domestic Violence is as tragic as it is overwhelming.
  • Dispatchers are often overlooked when it comes to caring for those who work in Law Enforcement.
  • More Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officers died by suicide in the past 10 years, than died in the line of duty.
  • 'Every Saint has a past, and every Sinner has a future.' -Police Chaplain Instructor

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sunday Morning LeftOvers: Sunday March 9th, 2014

This is a modern day icon painted by Athanasios Clark. He depicts Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave and it serves as a great reminder of Jesus' love and his care for his followers.

Sunday at Southbrook Church we dealt with the challenging topic of death. Honestly I would rather talk about the Book of Revelation or even ancient Jewish circumcision rituals, than talk about this subject.

Death is woven into the fabric of our culture. I think of Pixar's 'Up' and that opening four minute scene which depicts the life and love of the main characters Carl and Ellie. It truly is a powerful montage of their life, culminating in Ellie's death.

The story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life is recounted in the book of John, chapter 11. This lengthy account is filled with intrigue, a plot to kill Jesus, and the overwhelming grief of Lazarus' sisters.  Lazarus' death not only brought the city to tears, but literally drove Jesus to his knees as he wept and sobbed.

Looking into the story we find great hope and compassion displayed by Jesus.  Twice in this story (in v33 and v38) we are told that Jesus was 'deeply moved in spirit and troubled.' In the original language this phrase is just one word: embrimaomai. This word is used to describe the snort of an angry animal. The image that comes to mind is of a Saturday morning Cartoon bull that is about to charge. Can you see the steam and rage that emanates out of the bulls' nose? That is the image used to describe Jesus in this chapter.

Jesus being filled with anger is an unusual perspective on someone who is assumed to be meek and mild. We know that Jesus is not mad at the crowd for their crying -as he too starts to weep.  We also know that Jesus is not angry that his friend Lazarus has died -as he knows that Lazarus will soon be alive.

Jesus anger flows from his love for us.  Jesus feels our pain, weeps along with us, and personally felt the same hurt that we too experience. If there is any comfort that we can find when facing death it is this: we have a God who understands our hurt and who understands our deepest pain. And Jesus goes beyond identifying with our pain.  His anger over death and his love for us drove Jesus to die for us.

The good news with Jesus is that he not only identifies with us in our suffering; but he has the ability to replace our sorrow with peace and comfort.  The good news with Jesus is that when we face death, we approach it with the God of the universe walking alongside of us...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gay Weddings? Let Them Eat Cake - A different perspective

A recent post on Jonathan’s “Coffee Shop Pastor” blog asked the question, “Should Christians make Gay Wedding Cakes?” and kicked off an email discussion between the author and myself. The answer Jonathan gave was “yes” and his reasons can be found in his February 26th blog by clicking here.

To summarize- Jonathan believes as Christians we should serve others, including those we don’t agree with. I absolutely agree. He also questions whether as Christians we want to live in a society where we can refuse business transactions based on religious beliefs. Here’s where I must respectfully disagree. I believe any business owner should have the right to follow his conscience when deciding whom he will do business with if it violates a deeply held conviction.

Answering the question of whether we want to live in a society where we can refuse to do business with those with whom we disagree, I emphatically say, “It depends.” Do we wish to force those contractors who are morally opposed to abortion to bid on a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic? I think there is a discernible difference between refusing to do business with those we don’t like and refusing to engage in business that goes against our core beliefs.

I also believe we are to follow Christ’s example in standing up for what is right. Examples of this are the times he exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day and his throwing the “moneychangers” out of the temple. When we stand up for righteousness in a loving way, we show the world our principles are something we really believe in. Turning down business (especially in today’s economy) is something most people would view as odd if not downright crazy and could illustrate there are things more important than profit- like principles.

Some may refer to the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman to show how he was unwilling to condemn her sinful behavior. While I agree, Jesus defended the woman the most important part of the story is at the end. John 8:11 (NIV)- “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Italics mine) Jesus made sure to tell the woman she needed to change the direction of her sinful life. I believe making a cake for a Gay Wedding implicitly implies acceptance of the wedding and by extension the behavior.

In closing, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts:

First- I tried to stay away from the political arguments since I am uncomfortable with the way Arizona approached this issue. My belief is that government should stay out of the way unless compelled to act and Arizona wasn’t facing any imminent danger of religious persecution.

Second- I do believe there are certain factions in our society whose objective is to force their belief system down the throats of any and all who may not agree with them- and they’re not Christians. I think it’s more important for these factions to be “oppressed” than it is for them to celebrate a wedding. I know this- if I had someone tell me they didn’t want to bake a cake for my son or daughter’s baptism (because they felt Christianity was silly, oppressive to women, neanderthal or… well pick one) I would simply find a baker who would.

Now that’s a radical idea.

-DJ Haugh

Monday, March 3, 2014

Death's Checkmate

This scene comes from one of my all-time favorite movies, Ingmar Bergman's, The Seventh Seal.
Antonius Block -a Knight who recently returns from fighting the Crusades- finds his native Sweden ravaged by the Plague.  Block challenges Death to a game of chess, hoping to forestall the inevitable.  He manages to reunite with his wife, before Death checkmates Block.

Movies have long held great power in helping us deal with death. Bergman's dramatic range helps us to see Death from an existential perspective.

I am constantly surprised at how many children's movies deal with Death.  Matricide is central to both Bambi and Finding Nemo, patricide is key to The Lion King.  For my money, Pixar's Up, showed us all why it won the Oscar for the Best Animated Feature Film.

Who could resist the powerful montage of Ellie and Carl's relationship? Grab some Kleenex and spend the next 4:20 in awe of the emotional range that culminates in Ellie's death.

The movie Up reminds us that Death destroys our closest relationships and that all of us must be ready to respond when Death calls.

These movies remind us of something that we would rather forget: Death is inevitable.  Even when embrace the escapism of children's movies, we are still confronted with the reality of our own mortality.

Did a movie that dealt with death have a profound influence on you? I want to what movie and why. Discuss in the comment section below.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Should Christians Make Gay Wedding Cakes?


The debate rages across America. Religious Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are working overtime- rallying their sides to both defend and attack Arizona's SB 1062.

What the bill accomplishes depends on who you ask.

Proponents of the bill claim it would protect business owners from violating their personal religious beliefs. Supporters point to a Colorado baker named Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Phillips refused to create the cake claiming it would infringe on his personal religious views towards homosexuality. This past December a Federal Judge ruled that Phillips broke Colorado's Anti-Discrimination law. Arizona SB 1062 is intended to protect those like Phillips who believe that their religious freedoms are being threatened by activists courts and laws.

Critics of Arizona's bill claim it will increase oppression and discrimination towards those who have long felt marginalized by society and the courts.  The ACLU of Arizona released a statement urging the Governor to veto the bill- fearing that the bill, "Allow[s] private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming." Many businesses like the NFL, Apple, American Airlines and AT&T have threatened to leave Arizona if Governor Brewer signs SB 1062 into law.

I think Christians should make gay wedding cakes.  Here's why....

  • Serving our neighbors does not mean agreeing with their personal beliefs.  Just hours before Jesus was arrested, he was in the upper room where he washed his disciples feet. He served every disciple, not just those he liked.  Jesus even aided Judas who had already aligned himself with the corrupt religious leaders to betray Him. 
  • Do Christians want a society where we can refuse a business interaction with another person on the sole basis of our personal religious beliefs.  What if an Atheist restaurant owner refused to serve a Christian family because she thought Christianity was foolish? How would Christians respond to a Muslim store owner denying Christians access to their goods because they were buying items for a Youth Group activity?  Would Christians tolerate being denied access to a doctor's office because the doctor disagreed with the patient's personal religious views on the sanctity of life?
  • Christians support Anti-Discrimination laws because they reflect the Biblical truth that everyone has value by being created in God's Image. The Biblical view that every person is created in God's Image extends to everyone -even those who may be opposed to the cause of Christ.
  • A democratic society protects the rights of minority from the oppression of the majority. Freedom of Religion exists as ways of ensuring that even non-traditional religions have equal protection. Our Bill of Rights must extend to everyone, even those whose lifestyle may exist outside of Biblical parameters.
  • Serving those with whom we disagree seems to be a core message of the Cross.  Jesus willingly died for  everyone, even those who were in defiant opposition to Him.  Serving those outside of our religious and moral spheres is at the heart of Christianity.
  • Jesus calls us to Love God and to Love Others.  It is rewarding to Love God, and its easy to Love Others (who think, look, act and believe like me in every way).  However, true Christian love is meant to extend to everyone, not just those who believe just like me.
  • In January of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a 'ministerial exception' from employment discrimination laws.  This ruling allows religious institutions to hire and fire employees without government interference. In a 9-0 unanimous vote, Chief Justice Roberts affirmed, “The Establishment Clause prevents the government from appointing ministers, and the Free Exercise Clause prevents it from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own.”

Jesus parting words before his death are instructive for us today...
'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.'

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jesus Walks on the Water

The story of Jesus walking on the water is as widely mocked as it is well loved.

Grab a bible or read it online at  The story is found in Mark 6.45-52.

This story is mocked for representing an antiquated view of reality -people can't walk on water.  Scholars sneer at modern, intelligent people for believing something that is so clearly in opposition to reality.

Others have found great comfort in this story, as it demonstrates the personal love that Jesus shows for his followers.  The image of Jesus calming the storm has brought peace to so many caught up in the grip of suffering.

There is more to this story than the simple account of Jesus demonstrating his power over nature. Imbedded within this story are some powerful truths.  Here are a few:

-Obedience to Jesus can mean disaster
-Miracles can draw us away from God
-We can be face to face with Jesus and still miss him
-Jesus may send us into danger so that he can reveal himself to us

When you read this story, what stands out to you?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Christ on the Field at the Super Bowl

I love football. No surprise there. I remember meeting my hero -Packers Fullback William Henderson and being speechless as he shook my hand.

For me the best part of the game is rarely displayed on television.  It is the post-game prayer, where the opposing teams come together and offer their thanks to the Lord.

A powerful image relaying the importance of Christ in their lives. 

Here are some links to Christian players and coaches who are playing in this Super Bowl.

In this Great video Clip Russell Wilson, along with fellow players, Chris Maragos, Clint Gresham, and Russell Okung share their story of why following Christ is the most important part of their lives. Seahawks Coaches Rocky Seto and Sherman Smith are also featured in this solid 14 minute video.

Seattle Pastor Mark Driscoll also interviewed these same players.  You can watch the 3 minute clip here.

Jacob Tamme, the Denver Bronco's Tight End gave an interview to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Read the full interview here....  When asked what is the greatest piece of spiritual advice you could give to students he replied,  'Get to know Jesus, our Savior. The Bible says Jesus is so great He “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3,) He loves us so much He died for us and now desires to have a relationship with us.'

Peyton Manning, the celebrated Quarterback of the Denver Bronco's wrote about his Faith in Christ in his book, Manning.
For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. . . . as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old . . .
Some players get more vocal about it . . . and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism . . .
My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago. . .
I’ve been blessed—having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.
But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him. . . . I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way.

30,000 - Humbled and Thankful

The Coffee Shop Pastor blog recently surpassed 30,000 hits... and I am amazed.

The ability to engineer conversations with people all over the globe is astounding.

Thank you all following along, reading, commenting and entering into dialogue about Christ, his Church, and living out this Faith...