The Difficulty of Forgiveness: Even Him?

Convicted serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam”, recently declared he has no desire to petition for parole this coming May. After being denied five times, he is serving six sentences of 25 years to life for the murders of six New York City residents from 1976 to 1977. In a letter to the media, he wrote: “If you could understand this, I am already a ‘free man.’ I am not saying this jokingly. I really am. Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me, and I believe this.”

A spokesperson for the New York State Division of Parole describes Berkowitz as a model inmate. He is a mobility guide for blind inmates, assists with the mentally challenged and contributes to Sunday services and Bible studies. Of his work, Berkowitz said, “My main activities are sharing my story of redemption and hope with those on the outside.”

The church and the public are sometimes skeptical and critical of killers like Berkowitz being forgiven by God because forgiveness is defined and exercised on our terms. For some, it’s just an optional response. Maybe the offender isn’t sorry, maybe her offense was too detestable and maybe you just aren’t ready to forgive. If one chooses not to forgive, that’s their prerogative, but if so, it might be conditional: “I forgive you if you promise this” or “This is the last time I will forgive you for this.” Further, it’s acceptable to bring up the offense when convenient: “Remember when you did that awful thing and I forgave you?” This brand of forgiveness is a hopeless guessing game that brings no peace or resolve. The Bible presents forgiveness in a very different light. It is modeled after the forgiveness of God toward sinners. Christian forgiveness is commanded, immediate, free and final.

Several passages in Scripture command forgiveness: Matthew 6:12, Mark 11:25 and Luke 6:37 each direct the believer to forgive. Because of our sinful nature, we don’t want to. We want to withhold grace and exact justice in our own, vengeful way. Since forgiveness isn’t deserved, it shouldn’t be given. The Bible never excuses a Christian from forgiving someone. The consistent practice of forgiveness is a mark of a true disciple. Paul wrote: “…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive (Col. 3:13).”

Forgiveness is also immediate. The text does not say, “When you are ready, and when enough time has passed, and when you think the other person deserves it, go ahead and forgive them.” There is no provision for waiting. Time cannot heal by itself; only in forgiving through the power of the Holy Spirit can wounds be completely healed. Hebrews 12:15 warns against “roots of bitterness” in the hearts of Christians. Withholding forgiveness does not testify to the gospel of Christ and prevents Christians from worshiping rightly.  Jesus warned disciples:

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.” Matthew 5:23-26

Forgiveness must also be free, which means it is given unconditionally and not contingent upon the debtor or the offense. Matthew 18 holds the famous parable of the unforgiving servant. His king forgave his debt worth more than 2,000 lifetimes of wages. After receiving this unimaginable pardon, he threatened a fellow servant with imprisonment if the three months’ wages owed to him were not paid. When the king discovered this, the previously forgiven servant was imprisoned until he could repay his debt. Jesus told this parable when He was asked how many times forgiveness should be offered. Jesus’ answer was seventy times seven, meaning there are no limits to the extent of our forgiveness. The disciples he was speaking to were seeking limits, treating forgiveness like the repayment of a debt. Jesus modeled for us a better way on the cross when he said…, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” He pled for the forgiveness of unrepentant people who didn’t request it nor knew they needed it.

True forgiveness is final; you never bring the incident up to yourself, the debtor or anyone else. It’s not that you forget it, but you choose not to remember. Psalm 103 provides a beautiful picture of God’s forgiveness towards us:

“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (vs. 10-12).”

Unearthing the offense means forgiveness has not happened. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love keeps no record of wrongs. To truly forgive is to wipe away every residue of the debt and move forward.

We too quickly forget that Jesus purchased this forgiveness on the cross. In Berkowitz’s case, God did not sweep his sin under the rug. He took it so seriously that He sent His Son to die for it; justice has come for those murders through Christ. For those who do not repent and believe in Jesus, their justice will come on judgment day. Either way, God is the Justifier (Romans 12:19). Because of this, we are free to forgive and leave vengeance to the Lord.

Does forgiving mean the relationship must return exactly as it was? No. Do we repeatedly position ourselves to be hurt by the same individual? No. We obey God to the extent Scripture has called us to. Every relationship will look differently after forgiveness for an offense.

When a man like David Berkowitz champions the forgiveness of God, our first reaction might not be joy or thankfulness. Christians must remember we too have been forgiven just as great a debt and now have the chance to offer everyone in our lives the very same grace, all for the glory of God and redemption of the lost.

-Emily

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Church Impossible: Can a Failing Church Be Turned Around?

Some churches seem impossible to turn around. While at one time the congregation was thriving, it now has the enthusiasm of a funeral parlor. Things that once made the church successful now weigh it down. The neighborhoods and culture around the church have changed drastically but the leadership, programs, music, décor, and outreach haven’t changed in decades. Attendance slowly declines while the gap between revenues and the budget grows. Small changes are made with the hopes of producing big results but instead only produce more committee meetings.  Fundamental changes are rejected because no one believes the church can fail. More and more church members are worshiping with the angels in heaven than are worshiping with the saints on earth.

I saw a picture of this as I watched Restaurant Impossible, a show on the Food Network hosted by Chef Robert Irvine. His goal is to save the most desperate restaurants in America in just two days with only $10,000 dollars. On the first day, he gives them a thorough assessment by watching it operate at full service. Then he springs into action, updating the menu, retraining the staff, redesigning the aesthetics, and promoting the new restaurant. At the end of the second day, he reopens the new and improved restaurant to flocks of new customers and to triumph or failure.

In a recent episode he went to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to turn around a restaurant named “Dodge City”. This steakhouse had been open for 30 years but was on its last leg. The Wild West theme in the dining room belonged in a low budget 1960s cowboy film. The owner spent most of his time cutting meat and micromanaging his staff. There were five different menus filled with below average selections. Even though it was evident Dodge City was in serious trouble, the owner didn’t want a restaurant makeover but only a few tips to help them improve – preferably with some compliments mixed in.

Dodge City is like many churches. At one time they understood their community and knew how to reach them. Today, fewer and fewer are bothering to walk through the front doors. Both live in denial of the real problems.  Therefore, some of the same steps Chef Irvine took to turn around Dodge City can work in the context of a church.

First, times and communities change even if you don’t. The cowboy décor of Dodge City may have been a sensation in 1980, but in 2011 the deer heads, pictures of Indian chiefs, porcelain pigs, and dim lighting scared more customers away than it drew in. If a church is still using the same outreach, programs, and music that made it successful in the past despite a changing community it is time to reevaluate. Sermons that connect with the current congregation may be gibberish to visitors from the community. Programs enjoyed for decades may fail to connect with and meet the needs of new members. Music that blessed a generation fails to inspire a new one.  In other words, the décor of the church makes the gospel look like a relic of yesteryear instead of life-changing truth for today. Do the outreach, programs, and music of the church faithfully communicate the gospel to the culture and community or do they just warm the hearts of the remaining congregants? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23:

I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

We don’t change these things for the sake of change or to be attractive, but for the sake of communicating the gospel.

Second, make it about what matters again. Dodge City was a steakhouse with five different menus. The choices were overwhelming. But in trying to do everything they did few things well. Many menu items came right out of a can or a box and left customers uninspired. Churches that began with a passion for the gospel, the Word, and reaching the lost can slowly lose focus and make bigger deals out of smaller things. Everyone is on a different mission, championing their own cause whether it is the women’s ministry, Sunday school, choir, missions, youth ministry, or the annual Easter picnic. The church is heading in every direction but making no progress. Instead of a menu which focuses on making disciples through the power of the Spirit and Word, visitors walk away with a taste of everything but Jesus. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Churches must exist to exalt Jesus and make disciples for Him. We must cut our menus – even of good things – to make sure the church has a clear message and a clear mission.

Third, raise up leaders. A problem at Dodge City was the owner’s micromanaging of his staff.  Chef Irvine constantly had to return to the kitchen to make sure the owner was allowing his cooks to do the work instead of doing it himself. Though they had worked at Dodge City for decades, the staff had no freedom. Many churches struggle to reach their communities because only a few long-time members have real responsibility and influence. New perspectives are rarely heard because one must be in the church a decade to be taken seriously. These leaders are often praised for being overworked but their activity secures for them a louder voice and suppresses others who God may be calling to help move the church forward.  Some leaders may even dislike growth because it will mean a loss of their power and control. While leadership should never be given lightly, the best and brightest will not join a church where their talents and insight are shelved. A church must give real influence and real opportunities to raise up younger and newer leaders. Paul wrote 1 Timothy 4:12 to young Timothy as he assumed his leadership:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Churches must raise up and equip new Timothy-like leaders who can multiply the ministry of the church so it may effectively reach out and avoid burn out.

One of the most difficult parts of Robert Irvine’s renovation of Dodge City was the need to demolish thirty years of hard work. Several times it appeared the owner wouldn’t be able to continue with the project even though his restaurant was failing. What often makes the turn-around of a church impossible is the things that once blessed people, changed lives, required hard work, and brought celebration and enjoyment must be changed. Many simply aren’t willing to let go for the sake of the future. Chef Irvine told the distressed owner of Dodge City that, even though his restaurant had worked for 30 years, it now had to change. If he didn’t, the dream that was Dodge City would be no more. And for churches, even where God has done great things and the doors have stayed open for decades, we must be willing to change to reach a changing community and culture. It’s worth it for the sake of the mission of sharing the gospel. Let us not fail.

-Brian

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Let Go of Your Dreams: Reflections from Africa

While in Port Shepstone, South Africa I came across a book by Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America titled: It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor. In the first chapter, he writes:

God promises your payday is on its way. If you’ll learn to be a prisoner of hope and get up every day expecting God’s favor, you’ll see God do amazing things. You’ll overcome every obstacle. You’ll defeat every enemy. And I believe and declare you’ll see every dream, every promise God has put in your heart, come to pass.

While many can spot the flaws in Osteen’s message, I think he captures a hidden conviction of American Christianity – God is all about us and our dreams.

Those of us in the United States have more resources, more opportunities, and more encouragement to achieve our dreams than almost anyone else in the world. “Achieve your dreams” is preached to us from the television, the classroom, the magazine rack, the sports field, the internet, the family, and even the church. We watch people achieve their dreams every night on Sportscenter, American Idol, the Biggest Loser, or America’s Got Talent. Updated every second on Facebook we watch everyone we’ve known in life succeed at achieving marriage, children, jobs, promotions, awards, vacations, bigger homes, newer vehicles, and smarter phones. We achieve pieces of our dreams as we graduate from school, buy that thing we always wanted, and find relationships that satisfy us.

Everything we see and our own desires tell us life is about achieving our dreams. We see those around us achieve their dreams, feel the potential within us to do the same, and experience frustration and even depression when we don’t.

Many of us wouldn’t articulate it as boldly as Osteen does in It’s Your Time, but when we subtly accept the idea that life is about our dreams we come to believe it is God’s job to help us achieve them. Successful people will buy the book and work hard to earn their dreams from God. They are convinced they have what it takes and that God will respond by giving them what they desire. Struggling people will become frustrated and even angry with God because He is impossible to please and seems to be withholding their dreams from them. Whether we are working to earn our dreams from God or are frustrated with Him because our dreams have failed, we are believing in a small, imaginary god.

The idea of God existing to help us achieve our dreams seemed incredibly empty to me as I browsed through that book in South Africa. While in Africa, I had the opportunity to preach the gospel in one of the schools. According to the missionary we worked with, the unemployment rate in the area was about 70% and the HIV infection rate was around 50%. As I looked out over the 930 students who had walked miles to attend school that morning, I realized most of them would never come close to achieving their dreams. While many of them studied, worked hard and were very intelligent and talented the best their reality could offer was to be one of the few with any job and to not die before the age of 45 with AIDS. Believing in a god who was about them achieving their dreams would be about as useful as belief in the Easter bunny.

The true God is not about us and our dreams, but about Himself and His glory. God does what He wants and accomplishes His purposes, not ours. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” In John 17:4 Jesus prays, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work You gave me to do.” The goal of Jesus’ life was the glory of God which should be the dream of our life as well (1 Cor. 10:31). Jesus said even His death, while beneficial to sinners, was ultimately for the glory of God in John 12:27-28, “For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Our lives should result in glory for God, not in dreams achieved for ourselves, as seen in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father.”

This is a God worth believing in. He is not pacing heaven desperately trying to give his children all of their dreams in a broken world. He is confidently ruling and guiding all of history for the display of His glory. He is not an idolater, exalting His human creation above Himself. Instead He loves us enough to exalt Himself above us so we might hope in Him. What those students at the school in rural Africa needed wasn’t the promise of a god who was going to give them a payday and make all of their dreams come to pass. That god would have sounded good in a sermon but would have failed them. We need the God who came to earth and died for us so our lives and all of history, good and bad, may point to Him and His glory.

Is it wrong to have dreams? No! It is wrong to let them control your life, your attitude, and your view of God. Are you blessed with the achievement of your dreams? Hold onto them loosely and hold onto the glorious God of the Bible tightly. Dreams may fade, but His glory and His endless love for you remain.

Are you frustrated by unrealized dreams? Have you remained single longer than you hoped? Did the children fail to turn out the way they were supposed to? Are you stuck in a miserable, dead end job? Are you struggling to make ends meet instead of flourishing? Are you tired of watching peers succeed while you remain mediocre? Then let go of your dreams and live for the glory of God. We are not promised we will achieve our dreams and most of humanity, like those students in Africa, will never have the luxury of dreaming.  Let’s stop worrying about our small, insignificant dreams and embrace the God whose love for us goes beyond our failures and whose glory endures forever.

-Brian

Stay-At-Home Daughterhood: Optional or Biblical?

Until recently, I was convinced of my complete awareness about every concept surrounding biblical womanhood. In a desire to continue my studies and further prepare for my exciting role as a new mommy, I ordered the book “Joyfully At Home” by Jasmine Baucham. Familiar with Pastor Voddie Baucham, I assumed the book to be his wife’s. Having benefitted from his teaching, I expected to benefit from hers also. Turns out, it’s his 20 year-old daughter’s book on stay-at-home daughterhood. I discovered this a few pages in and was too curious and committed (especially after paying the shipping cost) to stop reading.

Stay-at-home daughterhood is a new idea for most. It rejects the expectation of girls leaving for college after high school. It embraces staying at home until marriage for a season of parental training and discipleship in preparation for future roles plus full-time contribution to the needs of the immediate family. College isn’t completely ruled out; Jasmine encourages earning an online degree, but more important is avoiding secular academia and staying home to learn and contribute.

There is much about this work I commend. The reevaluation of cultural norms and life pursuits is a wise step, especially for young women. The much needed focus on fashioning the home according to God’s word is boldly presented in a genuine tone. I believe the author is a good example for her peers.

My goal here is not to review and critique the book itself, but to engage with the premise on which it is based: the immediate family is superior to all other efforts and callings.  In this book, it is given an attention and emphasis not found in Scripture. Stay-at-home daughterhood flows from this viewpoint: “Young men and women seeking advice on how they can serve the Lord often pepper me with questions…they never expect the answer that I inevitably give…’If you are serious about serving the Lord, get married, pray that he gives you a house full of children and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (pg. 115).’”

Jesus did not agree. While the texts on familial roles and the importance of marriage and raising children are just as inerrant and inspired as any, they do not exclude nor eclipse the rest of the Bible. Jesus was very clear throughout the Gospels about the connection of family relationships to His mission:

  • “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26
  • “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37
  • “But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” Matthew 12:47-49
  • “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Mark 10:28-30
  • “To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:59-62

Obviously these texts have a context, but Jesus meant what He said. He was frequently confronted with familial idolatry as He recruited disciples and taught on hillsides. Never once did He encourage someone to devote the best and most of their time and attentions to the family unit. He explained to the Sadducees that the family unit is not eternal (Matthew 22:29-31). Yet, His teaching is not incongruent with texts emphasizing the spiritual importance of and roles within the family. Teaching about family is part of Scripture, not its grand subject. Jasmine reminds readers that “the Great Commission isn’t the only passage in the Bible (pg. 186).” However, Matthew 28:18-20 contains Jesus’ final words to those disciples who would carry out His kingdom work. If her view of family was shared by Jesus, as He ascended to heaven and charged the faithful one last time, He would have said, “Go ye therefore and get married, having lots of children and focusing primarily on your own household,” but He didn’t.

Jasmine appeals to Paul’s Epistles in building her theology for stay-at-home daughterhood (with other texts such as Exodus 22, Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 6 & 22 and Proverbs 31). She states: “…I understand that the college campus is neither the only nor the best place for ministry to take place. If it were, the Apostle Paul would have spent less time encouraging Christians to devote themselves to building solid family units…and more time encouraging them to go out and be educated among the Romans.” First, teaching how to correctly do something is not encouraging devotion. I can teach someone to ride a bicycle even if I don’t like doing it. Paul was giving instruction about families, not actively campaigning for them. In fact, Paul himself never married. Arguably the greatest missionary and servant of Christ we know of did not see procuring a family unit as the best way to serve His Savior. Another problem is that Paul didn’t really spend that much time writing about families. He spent more time engaging skeptics and intellectuals with the gospel message (Acts 17 &18). On one such occasion, however, he wrote this:

  • “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-34

The author makes it clear she is not mandating this practice for every young woman: “…living at home after graduation should be a decision that we can trace back to guiding principles in God’s Word (pg. 140).” I found myself having to perform some pretty clever Scriptural gymnastics to link her cited texts to her reasons for staying home. She confidently rests all her book’s content on this assertion: “I can see no pattern in Scripture for a young woman to pack up and head cross-country to be discipled outside of the framework of the church and home (pg. 142).” This statement accomplishes nothing for her case. Because of travel constraints, underdeveloped nations, lack of education and widespread illiteracy in first century Palestine, we would no more expect a pattern for a girl going off to college in Scripture anymore than we would a pattern of space exploration. Aside from this claim, her case is founded on experience and opinion, cushioned by some cherry-picked Bible verses. By applying her hermeneutic, one could easily argue that all Christians are called to overseas missions. I do not think a biblical case is made for or against either stay-at-home daughterhood or girls going off to college.

I do admire her convictions. To see such a young girl making a culturally radical choice for God’s glory is refreshing. I am not necessarily disagreeing with stay-at-home daughterhood; I’m disagreeing with the elevation of family above all else. This serves as an example of what happens when we “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), extrapolating from the Scriptures, filling in the gaps with personal experience and elevating our conclusion as biblical.

A family can pursue a Christ-centered home with a vision of “multi-generational faithfulness” and not flirt with family idolatry. I agree with her: the neglect of the family unit in and outside the Christian world is shameful, but to lift it above all other biblical teaching is irresponsible. A young woman leaving home for anything other than a husband is not antagonistic to the Bible. There’s no reason the kind of preparation Jasmine speaks of cannot take place prior to college. I am a very blessed stay-at-home wife with a baby on the way. No other task has given me greater joy. However, a day is coming when my wife and mommy duties will cease and I will function as part of a larger, heavenly family. That is the family I must ultimately work in view of.

-Emily

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Pastor offers “Smokin’ Hot Prayer”: Cool or Fool?

On July 23rd, Pastor Joe Nelms prayed before the Nationwide Race at the Nashville Speedway before thousands of NASCAR fans. He called upon the Lord for many things. Among them was a declaration of thankfulness for his “smokin’ hot wife” and his two children, whom he let God and the crowd know were referred to as “the little E’s”. The audience responded with a jovial round of laughter and applause (competing in volume with the pastor as he finished praying). This prayer was racy enough to catch the attention of several media outlets.

Reporters, fans and fundamentalists alike couldn’t help but notice how closely this prayer mirrored Ricky Bobby’s prayer in the 2006 comedy Talladega Nights (a film about a racecar driver whose humorous antics depicted a careless and silly Christian theology).  When questioned about his controversial prayer, Nelms responded:

“I want to get somebody’s attention, so that’s been our desire every time we’ve been up there, to try to make an impact on the fans and give them something they’ll remember, and maybe they’ll go home on a Friday night or a Saturday night and say, ‘Maybe I ought to get up and go to church in the morning.”

Later, in a separate interview on Fox News, the pastor added:

“What we were tryin’ to accomplish was to reach out to folks who don’t know Christ…We wanted to present that being a Christian is not the end of living but the beginning of life.”

Pastor Nelms has received a host of praise and criticism on the national stage for his prayer. Why? By and large, America views prayer as a reverent tradition for people who believe in a god. Prayers are void of humor and recognizable language and offered at church services, before sporting events and sometimes meals (but not in schools). Such a colorful display of this ancient practice has left many questions in its wake (for both the saved and the lost) but one most obvious:  Was it okay for Joe Nelms to pray like that?  There are two things to consider in answering this question: 1.) A voiced desire to reach out to people who don’t know Jesus and 2.) What the Bible teaches about prayer.

I commend Pastor Nelms for wanting to accomplish more than a token nod to the guy upstairs before the race and desiring all spectators to hear something fresh about the Savior of the world. When a Christian is provided an opportunity to address the lost it should not be wasted. I believe he was accurately reading his context and speaking their language (such a prayer wouldn’t fly before a Congressional prayer breakfast). However, I find the means by which he tried to accomplish his goal to lack wisdom.

Jesus preached about prayer at length in Matthew 6: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be seen by others.” He continues in verse seven: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Craig Blomberg offers his commentary:

“Jesus does not rule out [all public prayer]…Public prayer is very appropriate when practiced with the right motives…What is more, prayer ought not be used to gain plaudits, summarize a sermon or communicate information to an audience but should reflect genuine conversation with God.” (NAC, pg. 117) He goes on to say that Jesus is asking for “simplicity, directness and sincerity in talking to God. (pg. 118)”

A simple but forgotten point here is that prayers are for God: not the ears of the audience, congregation or even our children, but for His only. Regardless of intentions, prayer is not a tool to be wielded to gain favor with men or to make Christianity look hip. As Pastor Nelms stated, his intentions were to “get somebody’s attention” and “give them something to remember.” He has yet to say in any interview that he was offering true thanksgiving to God for the gift of his wife. The pastor might truly desire to reach the lost, but his attempt here gave great glory to his own sense of humor and his spouse, leaving little for the Lord. The evidence for this is the focus in the news…everyone was talking about him and his smokin’ hot wife, not Jesus. His prayer revealed nothing of our redemption through Christ. Everyone in the stadium, Christian and non, could have lifted an ice cold Bud Lite to his prayer with a hearty “amen,” enjoyed the moment and never looked back.

Is it cool for Christians to be thankful for their spouses and voice it to God and others? Absolutely! In an age where marriage is demeaned and mocked there is great impact in highlighting and honoring this relationship, chosen by God to illustrate Christ’s relationship with His church. The key is making your declaration in sincerity, to the Lord, with no ulterior motives and doing so in the proper context.

Can Christians shake up the prayer time-slot when given a chance? Yes, but not for the sake of others. When we pray publicly, it should sound no different than our private prayers. Praying is the declaration of our dependence on God, not an opportunity to give the Christian faith the cool 15 minutes of fame we think it needs. If we have any other motivation than seeking the Lord, our prayers will prove unfruitful, except for a few laughs.

-Emily

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http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2011/07/25/pastor-defends-calling-wife-smokin-hot-in-prayer-before-nascar-race/?cmpid=cmty_email_Gigya_Pastor_Defends_Calling_Wife_%27Smokin%27_Hot%27_in_Prayer_Before_NASCAR_Race

Blomberg, Craig. The New American Commentary, Matthew. (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press), 1992, pg. 117-118.

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