God doesn’t care about your hair

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Theology On Tap Longview, TX: Immigration

I have been a part of a great group of ministers who meet once a month at the Oil Horse Brewing Company in Longview, TX to have open and honest discussions about important topics that are affecting our community and nation.  This month I was on the panel regarding the Christian response to immigration. Below is a link to a local newspaper article about the event.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Lead with Faith, Not Politics in 2020

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


It is no secret that we live in an odd time in American history. With the advent of the internet, social media and the 24-hour news cycle, we are bombarded with information all the time.

With the increase of news coverage and news outlets, a polarization has taken place. Now the news is not just “news,” it is “conservative news ” or “liberal news.” As a result, we find ourselves gravitating to sources that only reinforce what we already believe, and this is a problem.

It’s easy to fall into these “echo chambers” and regurgitate the rhetoric we find in them. Critical thinking, analysis and the idea that we could be wrong have for the most part gone out the window. We only want to hear what we want to hear and throw the other stuff away, declaring it without merit or worthiness in our lives. Terms like “fake news” have dominated the last election cycle, and the 2020 cycle is seeming like more of the same.

I do not think we can survive another tumultuous election cycle unless we begin to name the problems we see, and not just in those people we do not like.

Luckily, Jesus the Christ spoke to something just like this. In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the infamous “speck and log” teaching. At the conclusion of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states, “Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First, take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 Common English Bible)

We fall into this trap far too often. We denounce an action as being against God or the teachings of the church, but when it involves someone we like or support, we find reasons to dismiss it. Surely there was a good reason why this accusation happened. Maybe it was the “conservative” or “liberal” media just looking for dirt. Increasingly, we seem to believe things should be deemed good or bad based on what political party the accused person happens to be affiliated with.

We don’t know how to have honest conversations about our political thoughts or beliefs without it turning into “one-liner theater,” where we lob bumper sticker-like sayings in an effort to derail the conversation.

Can I learn from someone who thinks differently politically than me? Absolutely. Should I listen more to the different ways topics are viewed and approached? Yes, I should. Can we as a society stop trying to tear each other down and start to see the logs in our own eyes? I hope so.

As a follower of Christ, there are standards of living, caring and loving humanity that are the foundation of my theological framework. All people of faith have a “lens” through which we see the world. These lenses are built over our lifetime and are informed based on where we grew up, our family of origin, and even our generation. Rarely is there a straightforward answer, but claiming we have it all figured out or that our party of choice has it all figured out has led us to this point.

When things are wrong, we need to call them as such, no matter what party might be to blame or how it will tip the scale of an election. When something needs to change because it violates our theological understanding of how humanity should be treated, then we must speak out. If we do not, if we allow “our side” to get away with things and hold the other side to another standard. Then we have forfeited our beliefs, our values, and morals and replaced them with the will of the political party of our choice.

The Epistle of James reminds us that “Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.”

Our faith should inform our decision, not our political party. If we lead with our faith and not trying to secure a win, then the message of Christ’s redemption, forgiveness and grace will be heard loud and clear.

If we do not, then 2020 will be no different than 2016, and our faithful witness to the redemptive nature of the Gospel will be watered down.

This next election cycle will be filled with mudslinging and social media debates and no one “wins” in those election years. Let’s do better. I know we can and the United States of America will be better if we stay true to what we claim to be most valuable in our lives.

Happy Fourth of July 2019!

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Happy number 243 to the United States of America!

 

Children Of God

Sermon: United in the Spirit

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On June 9, I preached the final part of the sermon series “United.” It was entitled “United in the Spirit” and was based on Acts 2:1-21.

Sermon: United in Christ

 

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On June 2, I preached a sermon entitled “United in Christ” based on John 17: 20-26. This is part two of a three-part series called “United.”

Sermon: United in Love

 

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On May 26, I preached the sermon “United in Love” based on John 14:23-29. This is the first part of a three-part series, “United.”

Doubting is not Unfaithful

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


 

Over the past few years, a new phrase has entered the American lexicon: “fake news.” This term is defined as any news that reported intentionally as false, or someone chooses not to believe.

We now live in a world of skeptics: satire and fake news plague our social media and news reports. People share fake stories and misleading information all the time. There are entire websites such, as Snopes.com and factorfiction.com, devoted to debunking popular memes, photos, or news stories.

Why do people share these unverified stories so quickly and readily on social media? The simple answer is that want to be right. They want to prove their point without having to listen to the other side, without having to consider that maybe (just maybe) they might be wrong. The internet is excellent for this. We have created echo chambers to confirm what we already believe. We return to the same sources of information to confirm our biases.

If we are so quick to do so with news stories, are Christians doing the same thing with the Bible? Are we just returning to the Bible to reinforce what we already believe about God, Jesus the Christ, the movement of the Spirit, etc.? I am not advocating that having constant faith is a bad thing, but we need to consider that our positions may be changing or that we have questions about the faith we hold so dear.

The Bible tells us that after the resurrection Jesus went to the disciples. They were amazed he had come, but Thomas was not with them. Upon hearing the news of the resurrected Christ, Thomas expressed doubt that the event had even taken place.

Thomas gets a bad rap in this text. He is forever known as the doubter. We forget that he was faithful and theologically alert in previous chapters of the gospel of John. No, that doesn’t matter. We treat Thomas like a basketball player entrusted with the game-winning shot to defeat the archrivals and win the championship. But Thomas just dribbles out of bounds as time expires.

Poor Thomas. He’s the eternal punching bag of Christians so we can try to feel superior. We puff out our chests and say we wouldn’t dare falter at the news of the risen Christ; we wouldn’t dare deny the Messiah after the Resurrection. Not us — no way.

No one ever mentions the disciples after the crucifixion were hiding because of the attention their faith brought them, but we remember Thomas. Thomas was not wrong for doubting, but this is. Unfortunately, it’s the tidbit people pull out.

Too many Christians focus on the ways not to be Thomas, but I believe this is the wrong avenue to take with regards to doubt. I don’t think Thomas should be our punching bag or the bad guy of the story. Doubting, questioning, and clarifying our faith is a natural process.

All of our lives, we are trying to connect our faith to the world around us. We begin to see how Biblical principles and teachings line up with what we know to be true. But there are times when things do not fit together as well as we would like; things just do not make sense.

I have worked with some of the most profound theological thinkers: middle school students. These students are trying to make sense of the world. They are critical of what has been taught to them in school and the church. This is a wonderful process to begin to establish roots of faith and theological thinking. They ask important questions like, “If Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth, then where did Cain’s wife come from?” and, “Is it OK not to believe that God created the world in six, 24-hour days?” What a beautiful step in faith these students take as they try to find what they believe and, more importantly, why they believe.

While faith is our foundation in our theology, Thomas’ story, particularly at the end of the gospel of John, sets up for us the notion that we all are Thomas.

At the core of the Thomas story is the understanding of faith; more specifically believing and seeing, faith and doubt. Questioning is not unfaithfulness. Doubting is not unfaithfulness. If anything, it is the most faithful thing you could do, because you are genuinely trying to ascertain what you know and begin to establish a faith that can withstand the storms of life.

 

To Love God Means To Love All