Bemoaning Inconsistency

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
(Colossians 3:2–3)

Sometimes it is really amazing – and desperately heartbreaking – how people will justify sin and ungodliness and see no contradiction with their Christian testimony.

I may have matured (or devolved, whichever your perspective) from being a “snarky Presbyterian pastor” to a full-fledged irascible and peevish grump – and that’s something that I guess I’ll have to deal with – but seriously folks there are just certain things that as Christians we should know better.

Here’s my list of grievances for the week:

  • Christians and 50 Shades – Folks, the book and the movie are straight-up porn, there’s no way around it. The book (and I’ll admit I haven’t read it, nor do I intend to) glamorizes an unhinged sexual lifestyle that includes bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. I hear women claim that it can spice up the romance with their husbands – but I wonder, is that what they want from them? If that’s the case, do they let their husbands subscribe to Hustler?

Just today I read an argument for the moral  equivalency between 50 Shades and the Song of Solomon in Scripture. Are we seriously to compare the literary values of the Song of Solomon – the love song between a husband and a wife of exclusive passion, pleasure, and purity in one another – with the aggressive erotic exploits of unmarried and uncommitted individuals? It would be one thing to hear this kind of equivocation from someone hostile to the Christian faith, but this was coming from a professed believer.  Sigh!

By the way – that noise you are hearing is me banging my head on the desk.

  • Take Me to Church – I will readily admit that my iTunes music library could use a going over. There are some songs which, carrying over from my teenage years, are fun to listen to, but I don’t think I’d want my kids to come up to me and recite the lyrics.

That being said, there is a video circulating of a Presbyterian pastor doing a cover of Hozier’s song “Take Me to Church.”  Just looking at the title, you might ask, Well, what’s so wrong with that?  Then you read the lyrics:

My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshipped her sooner

My Church offers no absolutes
She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom.’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you—

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

I heard this song on the radio once and knew it was not something I needed to hear again.  For a Pastor to express his enthusiasm, and even do a cover of a song that supplants the worship of God with the worship of sex is just mind-boggling.  What’s next?  Shall we reopen the office of Temple Prostitutes?  I can grant someone might hum along with the tune – it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.  But once you’ve read the words, wouldn’t you think, especially as a pastor, that at some point you might stop and say, Maybe this isn’t consistent with the gospel that I’m preaching…  Then again, maybe it is.

  • Facebook Assassinations – I don’t really know how else to describe it.  It is sad when Christians go to social media (Facebook, Twitter) and openly berate, slander, and ridicule others. We mock and deride our president, our congressmen, or teachers or school administrators, our brothers and sisters in Christ without any thought or regard to how our words kill and destroy. “Christians” have launched campaigns to impugn and destroy the reputation of others, never knowing or attempting to understand all the facts, or to work toward reconciliation and restoration. It is an assassination attempt, for Jesus said, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment.”

To paraphrase Darth Vader, “I find your lack of consistency disturbing.”

VaderAs Christians, we have by definition died to sin, and are alive in Christ.  We are, therefore, called to set our minds on things above, to set our minds on Christ.  The movies we watch, the songs we listen to, the way we speak to and treat one another – these are to be influenced by the fact that our lives are hidden in Christ.  We live because he lives in us. That’s not to say that the only book we can read is the Bible, but we should ensure that what we read uplifts and encourages our walk with Christ.  We don’t have to listen only to hymns and spiritual songs, but we must discern whether the music that we’re listening to is glorifying to God and promoting holiness?  To live consistent with our faith does not mean that we cannot be critical of those in authority over us, but it does mean that we will be prayerful, respectful, and ultimately, that we will “seek to outdo one another showing honor.”

If you know that your life is hidden in Christ, then you will set your mind on the things of Christ, and not on the things of this world.  The truth of your life in Christ will radically transform everything else you do.

So I guess I’ll end with, of all things, a quote from the Presbyterian Book of Order, which states:

That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.

The Lord your God is With You

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

I have served for the last 14 years as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), nine of those years as the pastor of the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cherokee, IA.  Through these years of service I have faithfully proclaimed the Word of God, and have tried to work for Biblical Reformation and Renewal within the larger denomination.  Ever since my ordination, though, I have continued to feel a growing division between the clear teaching of Scripture and the decisions and actions of the denomination.  I have struggled to maintain faithfulness as one called to be a minister of Word and Sacrament while pledging to further the “peace, unity, and purity of the Church.”

Four years ago, when the denomination’s position on the standards for ordained ministry were changed to allow for the ordination of practicing homosexuals, I began prayerfully studying what my future in ministry would look like. The action regarding a “redefinition of marriage” at the most recent General Assembly further confirmed that it was time for me to look elsewhere.

And so it is with joy that I can share that I have  been offered the opportunity to serve as the pastor of Ebeneezer Presbyterian Church in Lennox, SD, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, which a distinctively Reformed and Presbyterian body with whom I am in agreement in matters of faith and practice.

I have nothing but the greatest respect appreciation for those churches that I have been fortunate to serve these past 14 years.  They have taught me what it means to be a pastor – to prayerfully teach and apply the word of God so that all might know Christ and be encouraged and strengthened in their walk with Him.

Over time, I have come to understand that my primary calling is to be faithful to God, and ultimately this move from one denomination to another is my attempt to be faithful.  It is a difficult decision because it does mean uprooting my family, taking some risks financially, and stepping out on faith in a new ministry.  And yet I know that I can go forward boldly, courageously, because the Lord is with me, and He is my shield and my strength.  I go forward knowing that “He who calls me is faithful” (1 Thess 5:24), even when my faith waivers and my doubts rise.  I go forward knowing that the One who has brought about such good work in the church so far, He is faithful to complete it.

I thank my congregation here in Cherokee for their support, their prayers, and their encouragement over the years.  I want to assure you, I will continue to give thanks to God for you in all my prayers.  In the coming months as I prepare to leave, I hope and pray that we can celebrate all that the Lord has done in our ministry together, as we also prepare a strong foundation for the next chapter in your ministry. Keep loving and caring for one another, and remain steadfast in your faithfulness to the Lord

Grace and Peace