Matthew Live: Session 7

After some technical difficulties I was able to have another session of Matthew Live. Catch up on previous videos by clicking here.

Lenten Devotional: Patience: Words are Important

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I was asked to contribute to a Lenten Devotional by Fig Tree Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). You can find all the devotions by clicking here.


Patience: Words are Important
Rev. Evan M. Dolive

Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife.
Proverbs 15:18 CEB

I can’t stand the cliché, “patience is a virtue.” It just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it is because there are times when I am not the most patient person in the world. I have been working on it, but there are sometimes when I fail miserably. I can be a loud mouth, a hot head and an overly opinionated person. On some levels I can’t help it or at least that’s what I tell myself; I find ways for the wrong doing to be someone else’s fault or I rationalize why whatever I said was in fact the truth and they needed to hear or that the hearer was just over reacting.

Words are important; the words we say and more importantly how we say them are of even more significance.
Patience is a skill that has to be crafted and often times re learned and that’s why its so hard. We actually have to work at it. Patience is not just something we remind ourselves to have when we on the verge of road rage but it is a key element in the Lenten journey.
In our society the concept of waiting or pausing or even inhaling is becoming a thing of the past. We want things and we want them fast. We want out internet to be blazing, we complain when it takes 10 seconds to download a song or a picture. Cell phone companies market their phones to show how a person can get things done faster or applications load faster than the competition.
Lent is not just a call to center our thoughts and minds on the life of Christ and the journey to the cross rather is one a deliberate patience. We want to get to the happy day of Easter but we don’t want to have to do the long way around to get there. There is something that we will miss if we do not take the time to journey with Christ in the Lenten season.
Take it from a fallible person who is continually working on patience, its not the easiest thing in the world, but I believe waiting for Easter will make that fateful day just that much more special.

– – –
O God help me to be more patient in my daily life. Grant me the strength and wisdom to slow down and breathe you in. Calm my soul as I wait for your realm to come. In Christ’s holy name, Amen.

The “Lumping” Of The Church

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


 

Being an ordained minister (and a Christian for many years), I am acutely aware of the perceptions of Christians in society, media and entertainment. There is a wide range of interpretation when it comes to the those who follow the teachings of Christ. Too often Christians are heralded as Bible toting, literalist whose sole God driven and directed purpose is to point on the flaws, indecent acts, immoral conduct and heredities that are being propagated in the world around them.  Christians are portrayed as “soldiers in God’s army” with the mission of conversion by telling others that they are not living correctly or by God’s standards. They come off as with a “holier than thou” complex because they have ridden themselves of such impure and un-God like things, thereby making them superior to those who have not heard the gospel message.  Every time I see a movie or TV show with a character based on this stereotype I think “is this what people think of the church?” “is this what people think being a Christian is all about?  No wonder the church is shrinking”. This isn’t the view of Christianity I proclaim.

To be honest, it makes me sad to think that this is the way that the Church and the followers of Christ are being perceived, thus it hurts all of us.  I get mad to think that other voices that do not believe that brand of theology are not being heard, by anyone.  Sure, it is easy to blame TV and movies, but it does not stop there.  Whenever there is a moral or social dilemma, news organization and outlets seek out the “Christian opinion.”  Everyone from Joel Osteen, Franklin Graham and Kirk Cameron, have taken to the airwaves to pronounce what the Christian response is for all of those who follow Christ.  Often I disagree with them because they simply do not speak for me.  Their answers filled with unnecessary political rhetoric and lack of empathy of the other is why, in my opinion, we see the basis for just crude and untrue caricatures of Christians.

Our society has become one of “lumping.”  We have decided to find one imperfection or stance that we disagree with and thus discredit entire groups of people. We see this in churches where entire denominations or theologies are cast as “immoral” or “non-Christian.”

We don’t have to look too far outside the walls of the church to see this in action. News commentators contribute to this by categorizing entire groups of people as “liberal” or “conservative.”  Social media is filled with generalizations of the “other” trying to discredit their thought pattern and belief system.

Sadly, in recent years this “lumping” has been applied to the religion of Islam. Followers of Islam from all walks of life in the United States have been subjected to misinformation passed along as truth. Because of this an entire religion is seen a harbor of evil and destruction based on the actions of a small number of people. Many Christians do not want to be lumped together with the hateful actions and speech of Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan, so why do we continue to propagate this false understanding of Islam?

The problem with “lumping” is that we only surround ourselves with people who think, look, act and believe that we do. There is no growth, no new learning rather there is an assurance that we are right and the “other” is wrong.  Churches that practice this limited theological practice only reinforce what they already believe; any outside or differing perspective is seen as an attempt to thwart the plain teachings of the Bible or the minister.

The denomination I am apart of (the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)), we have on essential of faith: Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.  That’s it, no creeds, no book of rules to follow, no swearing your allegiance to anyone or anything.  Just that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the world; “Persons are free to follow their consciences guided by the Bible, the Holy Spirit, study and prayer, and are expected to extend that freedom to others.” (taken from disciples.org).

Personally, it is a completely liberating and extremely powerful statement.  Fellow Christians are able with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, their relationship with God and the church community, to read and understand the teachings of Christ and God found throughout the Bible.

If you believe that Creation happened in six, twenty-four hour days that fine, but if you don’t that is fine too.  If you believe that Bible predicts the end of the world in 2017, that’s fine, but if you don’t that is fine too.  Just as long we are to speak with one another about our faith in a way that is constructive not destructive.  We learn and grow about God throughout our lives; we need others perspectives to help us see a fuller and complete picture of who God, what God is doing and what we are called to do in the world around us. We don’t have agree on every theological construct, rather we need a unity in Christ.

The point in the end is not who is right or who is wrong, rather its more about how are we living faithfully with each other and with Jesus the Christ; nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe if all the followers of Christ modeled this type of behavior, the opinion of Christians and Christianity will begin to change in the media and in the world.


 

Sermon: No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy

Today I gave a sermon at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, TX based on Roman 5:1-11.

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/fcclongview/2017-03-19_092801.mp3|animation=no]

 

Lenten Devotional: Love (1 John 4:17-19)

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I was asked to contribute to a Lenten Devotional by Fig Tree Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). You can find all the devotions by clicking here.


Love: Of Great Importance
Rev. Evan Dolive

This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.  We love because God first loved us.–1 John 4:17-19 CEB

During this time of Lent, we are on a journey to a destination that many of us want to forget; we want to jump to the end, we want the resurrection, the shouts of Hallelujah and angelic choirs singing.  This road that we are not now is dark and depressing at times.  But we can’t leave, we can’t jump ahead yet.  We need to stay and settle into this of uncertainly and self-reflection for a while longer.

We live in a world of uncertainty and fear; news channels use this to their advantage to promote their story line, politicians use it to promote their ideals and even the church uses it to bolster numbers and attendance.

The fear of the unknown can be so powerful that we are cemented in our own ways and in our own “comfort zones.”  We eat the same thing for breakfast, we take a coffee break at the same time and we like our TV shows at a certain time and on and on and on.

The fear we experience in our lives is normal and natural but so is antithesis, the love that we have.  Love is one of those things that we talk about all the time and strive for; in a nutshell, we love love.  Love is a wonderful feeling and emotion.  The author of I John is imploring the hearers to cast off fear not in a brazen way rather to settle into the notion of the abiding love of God.  The author continues and states that as followers of Christ we are called to a standard not of fear and contentment, but to a standard of love for all others.

I John 4:19 is one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible.  It is central to my theology of love for others; the only reason you have the capacity to love another human being (romantically or not) is because of the love that God has shown you.  We as human beings has been given a gift, a free gift, a wonderful and miraculously gift, unconditional love from God.  We then are to take this free gift and share it without hesitation to all people we encounter.  If we at any point start to put conditions on the love in which we give then we are squandering a free gift that was given to us.

Being bearers of God’s love is of great importance.  This cannot and should not be taken lightly.  Thomas Merton, a Catholic Monk, once wrote, “Our job [as followers of Christ] is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”

O God the source of all love, may we this Lenten season see you in the people around us; may we cast off our fear and open our hearts to feel what you feel, see what you see and love who you love.  In the name of the one who gave for our sins, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

Disconnecting in a Connected World

My latest for the Longview News Journal


I’ll be the first to admit, I like my cellphone. I have it with me everywhere I go. I use it to connect to friends, respond to emails and even pay for my groceries. For good or ill, I am accessible nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There are times when I receive a call, a text or an e-mail that I choose not to respond to immediately because I am in the middle of family time, dinner or even a movie. But more often than not, I at least check it and usually respond.

This is the world we live in, a world of fast-paced interconnectedness. If something happens on the other side of the world, within minutes our 24/7 news channels are reporting it. The internet has been a hub of information, true and fake. Places such as Twitter and Facebook have become less about networking and reconnecting with old friends, but a personal platform to push agendas and have debates under the wall of protection that we feel the internet gives us.

Social media is not evil per se. Rather, many good conversations and campaigns have started or gained traction through the wide casting net found on these platforms. Millions of dollars have been raised, and issues once hidden from mass consumption have been brought to life through this new form of media.

However, this connected nature we find ourselves in has a downside. I have said many times that if you want to see humanity at its worst, read the comments section of a “hot topic” news article; it will make your stomach turn. Debates are not happening in a way that for the most part are constructive.

People are finding ways to summarize complex and multi-layered issues in 140 characters or less. It is easy to say something to someone who is just a picture on a screen without giving a second thought about them as another human being. Generalizations are made to make the “other” look bad and our position to be right. It can be exhausting just scrolling through social media in hopes of seeing a funny video or update about a friend’s baby.

It’s easy to place blame on an attention-seeking culture or the ever-present news media or even our success driven society, but that is a bit unfair.

I am not saying that technology is bad. On the contrary, technology is wonderful and in some cases downright essential. But as with all things, there are limits.

In Christianity, we are currently in a time of reflection, prayer and sacrifice known as Lent. Lent is the holy time leading up to Easter where we journey with Christ on the road to Jerusalem. It began this past Wednesday with the imposition of ashes as a reminder of our humanness and sinfulness. As a practice, Christians from all denominations and backgrounds try to find something to give up as a spiritual discipline during these 40 days until Easter.

I believe that one of the best things that we can do is disconnect. We may not have to disconnect from the internet or TV or even caffeine, but there is something that is robbing our time with the divine, there is something that is a barrier between humanity and deepening our relationship with God.

This is what Lent calls us to do, to disconnect from the world and return to a place where God dwells. We don’t have to give up our cellphone; rather, Lent calls us to examine our lives and see where our relationship is being replaced with something else.

When I worked for a hospice organization in Kentucky, I learned this lesson the hard way. I was constantly bringing work home, working past my contract that stated 5 p.m. as the end of the work day. It was affecting my marriage, my health and my important family time. I had to shift my priorities around for the betterment of my family and life. I had to be intentional about my boundaries and my time. Work could wait and deadlines could be extended. There was something freeing about being able to “leave work at work.” I was spending more time with my wife and kids, and as a result my relationship with God changed, as well.

Lent is about disconnecting in a connected world. Our priorities need to shift from things that take us away from what is truly important and back to the basics of faith, life and family.

Followers of Christ are called to disconnect from the world around them and focus their attention on Christ. Whether it is through prayer, daily devotion or giving up something, the fact remains that our attention shifts from the world outside to the world of Christ. This is the essence of Lent.

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Happy Texas Independence Day!