Christians need not apply?

It seems undeniable that keeping the faith in the market place is becoming increasingly more difficult. That is, if your faith involves holding traditional Christian convictions. If you are okay with being a “silent Christian” that does let your faith be widely known, then you should be okay. However, if it ever gets discovered that you hold to traditional Christian convictions, even though you are one of the silent ones, you should still expect repercussions. In recent news, the retailer of those delightfully delicious chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-a, has been targeted for the views of its founder. It seems that in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination, a public showing of intolerance and discrimination by our elected officials is in order. Heh? Yes, you read that right. According to the more liberally minded, intolerance and discrimination are perfectly legitimate if they are aimed at people, organizations, and businesses that disagree with you – and as long as the intolerance and discrimination is being done in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination. Anyhow, you can read anti-quality food news stories here, here, and here.

Years ago, the Five Man Electrical Band releases the song, “signs.” In it we learn that, “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.” Increasingly, it seems that the sentiment is, “Faithful, Bible-believing Christians need not apply.” I only mentioned Chick-fil-a, a large business. But there have also been instances where bakers, caterers, florists, photographers, bed & breakfast owners, and others have faced public backlash, lawsuits, death threats, and more.

Now, as much as I wish there was a quick and easy solution to such shenanigans, there simply isn’t. The politicians that ban Christian businesses, questions the religious beliefs of judicial nominees, the officials that come after Christians who dare wish to stand for their beliefs in the market place, all of these people were put into power by us. For whatever reason, we, the voting public, put them in power. And, power they now have. What will they do with this power? I think we can already see that the hand has been shown and we are starting to see the fulfillment of President Woodrow Wilson’s statement that, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.”

 

 

 

Well, that didn’t take long…

It has not been long since the Special General Conference in St. Louis ended. Still, in the relatively short span of time between the end of February and now, it has become apparent that the liberal wing of the church was not prepared to deal with the defeat of their precious “One Church Plan.” The vote at the Special General Conference is being called into question by some who are claiming that unauthorized people voted – I do find it funny that the UMC required a photo ID for voters at the conference despite so many who protest against such policies in the secular arena. Now a task force has been organized by the conference’s organizers to investigate the alleged voting irregularities.

But, even that small matter pales in comparison to the defiant attitude of some Annual Conferences.  Apparently, and admittedly unsurprisingly, the New York and Greater New Jersey Conferences are having trouble coming to terms with what transpired in St. Louis. UM News even has a quote from Bishop Bickerton stating, “Just because the vote went a certain way, we cannot expect conformity to follow.” This is a strange thing to say, especially since many of us could venture to suppose that he would have expected conformity to follow if the “One Church Plan” won the day in St. Louis.

We should not be surprised that supporters of the “One Church Plan” are so up in arms at the moment and seemingly eager to engage in slash and burn tactics until they get their way or force conservatives out. At least the WCA and other conservatives were honest enough with themselves and others to put their cards on the table and let it be known that leaving the church was a live option. The same cannot be said of those on the left. They are like a hair in a grilled cheese sandwich – they will stay and make a mess until it becomes more desirable to throw it all away than try to salvage what is good.

Now, back to the “One Church Plan” and why we should not be surprised by their disgust with having existing, long-held, and Biblically based standards enforced within the denomination. The “One Church Plan” removes accountability and turns the denomination into a buffet of individualism. Supporters of the “One Church Plan” have essentially turned their noses up at historic Christianity and decided to throw off the yoke of accountability.

Anyhow, that is enough for now.

Wrestling with Counseling Models

Years of pastoral ministry has led to scores of counseling sessions. Bible college and seminary both taught what is typically called “Christian Counseling.” Basically, this is putting a Christian spin on secular counseling theory and practices. Years ago, I even went through the American Association of Christian Counselors‘ (AACC) “Caring for People God’s Way” course on VHS. While I have found great value in Christian Counseling, I have grave reservations about the secular components of its foundation.

Though I never completed the degree, I did take several courses in the behavioral health program at a secular university. I gleaned a lot from the role-playing sessions in the basic counseling skills course and enjoyed learning about a wide variety of counseling theories. The ethics course, on the other hand, was a little tougher – not due to the coursework, but as a result of seeing how powerful cultural influences are on the field. It was in that course I realized how difficult it would be to maintain a faithful witness to Scripture and be a counselor licensed by the state. It was also in that course that I gave up my desire to pursue a secular counseling degree and abandoned any plans of counseling outside of the pastoral ministry context. To further pollute my views of secular psychology, the APA has come out with some controversial statements about masculinity – this in a society so desperate for authentic men and not the boys in men’s bodies we so commonly see masquerading as the real thing. Thankfully, there are voices of reason out there that are pushing back against the progressive onslaught.

Moving on…

Through the years I have read various Biblical counseling texts, but have not been overly impressed with them. It wasn’t the notion of Biblical counseling that I had trouble with, it was the practical application – what did it look like in actual practice? Recently, however, I began listening to a Biblical Counseling podcast and have been impressed with it thus far.  I appreciate the focus on Scripture and how the podcaster gives practical examples of application.

If you are unfamiliar with Biblical counseling, take a look at this article.

This is not to say that I have abandoned Christian Counseling. Indeed, I think there is much to commend in the approach. For one thing, a lot of research has gone into the various therapeutic models. Furthermore, I think some models have an underlying foundation that is rooted in the Scriptures, even if this was, and is, unknown or unrecognized by its modern proponents. In particular, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy reminds me of Paul’s exhortation,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2 ESV)

Similarly, Paul says,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:8-9 ESV)

You can also take a look at Colossians 3:1-11

While I have very serious reservations with certain aspects of secular psychology, I also think we need to be careful to avoid throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. We need to be able to chew the meat and spit out the fat and gristle.

This post is getting rather long, so I’ll wind it down. At the end of the day, I think both Christian and Biblical counseling models have tremendous value and people who are interested in the ministry of counseling can learn a great deal from both.

The Shocker in St. Louis

I did not think it would happen, but it did: the UMC took a conservative stance on a social issue at a General Conference. Much to my surprise, the Special General Conference passed the Traditional Plan – the one I had hoped they would. With the bishops throwing their weight behind the One Church Plan, and throwing in a big name like Adam Hamilton to speak on their behalf, it looked like the fix was in. But, thankfully, many brothers and sisters in Christ took a stand and upheld what the United Methodist Church already stated in its Discipline. Yes, you read that right. Despite some out there claiming that something new and sinister was passed at the General Conference in St. Louis, the truth is that the church voted to affirm and actually enforce what is already codified in The Book of Discipline. So, when you read a news story like the one produced by a Florida news station, just know that there may be a spin and more investigation is warranted.

It should be pointed out that the plan still has to go before the Judicial Council, which meets in April. However, there is certainly reason for traditionalists in the United Methodist Church to celebrate. The Church should be about the business of transforming culture, not being transformed by it. The UMC took a stand. Praise be to God.

It’s time for the UMC to Split

It is time… In fact, it is past time for the United Methodist Church to go through an amicable separation. For far too long we have been playing the game of trying to stay together and pretend everything is well. The reality, however, is that everything is not well.

I believe it was at the 2008 or 2012 General Conference that mention of an amicable separation was mentioned, only to have the typical knee-jerk spasmodic reaction that we typically have when someone mentions the idea. People were up in arms, calling for unity, and speaking about how foreign such an idea was. Garbage. The idea was not foreign. Indeed, many of us have thought about it for a number of years. The reaction of  many of the representatives at General Conference reminds me of the way the media reacted to the 2016 election: we never saw that coming. No kidding. To see something like that coming you have to get out of whatever ivory tower you are in and visit the commoners that populate the churches on Sunday morning. There you will find a wide range of folks. There will be everything from people who abhor the idea of a split to those who have their metaphorical “bug out” bags packed and ready to go.

If we would have taken seriously the words spoken at that General Conference years ago, a lot of heartache and ill will within the denomination could have been avoided. The new denominational structures would already be up and running by now and we could all focus on ministry instead of figuring out how we can muck up things for a while longer.

If you have been following all the chatter around the special General COnference this year, then you have probably formed an opinion about which plans you like and don’t like for moving forward. For me, the Traditional Plan is the way to go. Now, I understand a split will undoubtedly follow this move, but it will be good in the end. The Bishops seem to be obsessed with the One Church Plan, but unless following the PCUSA down the same path they took is your idea of good plan, then I would avoid this like the plague. The other plan they have been tossing out there, where we essentially have different jurisdictions of the church based on theology overlapping geographically, is the ecclesiastical version of a house of mirrors – you never know what you are looking at.

I think I’ll leave it at that for now.

The Surveillance State

How often we become, or create, the very things we fear.  This is the thought that came into my mind recently regarding the surveillance state.  I have long heard people talk about “big brother” increasingly invading our privacy and how we are living in times reminiscent of the book 1984.  While I do fear intrusive overreach, what I find intriguing is that the surveillance state we fear is not the product of the government.  So, if the G-Men are not the ones acting as “big brother,” then who is?  There are, of course, the obvious culprits in the tech industry.  However, there are also those that are less obvious.  In particular, I am thinking about those people who are obsessed with filming things on cell phones.  I am repeatedly amazed at how so many scandalous moments on the news come as the result of a cell phone recording.  It’s as if we are under constant surveillance.  And, sadly, this might not be too far from the truth.  But it is not the government, it is us, just as the old saying goes, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

This is not to say that video recording is a bad thing.  Indeed, security cameras and vigilant citizens have captured video of criminals and their crimes in a way that allows law enforcement to act swiftly.  At the same time, it can also help to sort out truth from fiction in those moments where two or more sides cannot agree on what was said or done.

No, the whole point of this rambling post is not to condemn video, but to point out that in some instances (and perhaps many) the very things we dread are our own creation.

Road Trip Pit Stops

Have you ever wanted to see a giant metal cross? If so, then the Cross at the Crossroads is the road trip pit stop for you! Standing an impressive 198 feet tall, the cross looms large over everything nearby in Effingham, IL. Located near the intersection of I-57 and I-70, the site also features a Chapel Welcome Center and has a Ten Commandments display around the base of the cross.

Cross

In addition to the Cross at the Crossroads, it is worth pointing out that Effingham is also the hometown of Hodgson Mill (perhaps you have seen there products at your local grocery store). And, if you happen to be a fan of Hodgson Mill, they have an outlet store in Effingham.

For more information about the Cross at the Crossroads, visit: crossusa.org