Friday, October 4, 2013

Last night, the world shut down what it was doing in anticipation of the opening premier season of Scandal. I to was glued to the screen, but I soon became uneasy and uncomfortable.
The scene in particular was one of three persons with three motives and intentions. One wanted to tell the truth and suffer the consequences if it meant he could still be with the one he loved. The second wanted to "fix" it and protect the person she loved and the third didn't want to be embarrassed. We watched as they covered up, rationalized and minimized their bad choices. It reminded me of my own sinfulness, and bad choices. It reminded me of the things I did great and small that only God knows. It reminded me of the secrets I've kept to protect those that I love. It reminded me of the things I have thought, said and done that would bring me shame and embarrassment. I felt hopeless and dirty and hypocritical and then I saw something in the corner of the room. Someone in the shadow of my life. Someone who is greater to call then Olivia Pope. It was Jesus! The great fixer who reminded me that yes I do have secrets that I will keep to protect the ones I love. And yes I do cover up the past mistakes of others because I love them and because they are forgiven. Jesus reminded me that I can and have and will do that for others because He has done that for me. He took on my sin as if it was His own and the penalty that came with it. But not only that, He also dried my tears and gave me His coat and presented me in front of the world and ultimately in the presence of the Father, without spot or blemish. He told me I was forgiven, that I could move forward. Ultimately, in the words of Olivia Pope, He said ... "its handled"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On the Purpose of Punishment

Boy, try me! I wish you would! Do you know I will slap the taste out your mouth? I will knock you into next week! And my personal scary favorite … Don’t you know I will slap the black off you? That’s right, forget the Boogieman, Freddy Krueger or Jason, what every black man in the hood feared most was momma! In fact, many young observably white young men in the projects, are not white at all, they are just those who dared to test momma and got the black slapped off of them. Now while I do oppose violence and abuse of this kind, I want to suggest that the threat of punishment has a good purpose that we will examine in this episode of Aquinas In the Hood.

Now the word threaten is described as a verb; used in conjunction with an object, it is “to utter a warning or threat against.” Punishment is described by Webster’s Dictionary as “the Act of Punishing; A penalty inflicted on an offender.’ In common usage, the word "punishment" might be described as “an imposed deprivation.” In other words, it deprives the offender of some freedom, property, privilege, or good that otherwise would be expected or generally thought of as a particular right. This is very familiar to us all. We all know someone who was restricted from going outside to play as a kid, or maybe who had their favorite game, toy or privilege taken away. As adults, we learn how quickly our freedoms to drive, or even to live among our peers can be restricted or taken away as a result of bad decisions and behavior.

According to Aquinas, punishment functions as a medicine inasmuch as the fear of punishment restraints or discourages a person from behaving badly. Positively speaking, the threat of punishment acts as an incentive to do right, in that, one can continue to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that he has grown accustom to, such as, enjoying the taste of food or his or her blackness. In my case, it was the ability to enjoy the privilege of breathing and using my butt for sitting.

Now, I’m sure that you are wondering why such extreme threats? I mean, why would a loving mother threaten to knock her child into another time zone? I’ll answer that, it’s because she loves them and wants to beat the Hell out of them! In other words, she understands that her threats of punishment can help guide and restore right reason and order in her childs behavior. This is why the punishment is usually preceded by the question, “Have you lost your mind?” or “What in the world was you thinking?”

The reason she made her threats so extreme is that she wanted to make sure that the punishment your will opposes is greater than the pleasure your will desires. Growing up, I had many desires to do wrong, but my desire to taste food and stay black were of greater importance to me. The problem today is that our young people no longer fear the consequences of their actions and therefore indulge the pleasures of their will. Parents today tell little Johnny to go to his room and stay there, to which Johnny replies, “thank you,” After all, he has a computer, TV, cell phone and the latest Wii Play Station.

Now with the exception of Joe Jackson, most parents have not successfully knocked the black off of their kids (poor Michael), and I do not encourage physical abuse as a means of punishment, but what I am encouraging is that we restore and instill a healthy respect in our youth in the idea that bad ideas have bad consequences in this life and in the next.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Should Christians Listen to Secular Music?

I was having some fun surfing around Twitter and read a comment that sparked some great conversation that I want to share with you. A person asked the question: "Why would Any Christian be a FAN of Any Secular Artist or Any1 Who Does Not Sing about God? Well, the conversation went from the actually idea of being a FAN of a person who may sing or promote secular music to whether or not it is okay for a Christian to listening to or sing secular music at all.

My first thought and response was to point out that it seems to be the case that in an effort to be "in the world, but not of it" the church was too quick to trade off certain ideas like children playing marbles in the playground. You (the world) get the secular, we (the church) get the sacred; you get reason, we get faith; you keep love songs, we keep gospel. My problem is, I don't think the world should be giving exclusivity to sing about something they really know very little about. Who knows better about expressing true love and intimacy than God's people?

I believe that the proper object of our affection is God, but He has also given us an example and expression of love in the context of marriage. Did you realize that the Bible begans with a wedding and ends with one? and in between is a love story written in blood about God's love, trust and faithfulness, in the mist of our unfaithfulness. In fact, the imagery of God in the OT is one of a husband and in the NT Christ is seen as the Groom who will present his bride without spot or blemish. If we don't teach the world what true love, intimacy, faithfulness, and yes, is suppose to look like ... who will?

Here is the one problem I find: media and music in our world today (generally speaking) feeds our flesh and appeals to our appetites. So that (generally speaking again) the music today is creating (or helping to create) in young people and in single people, who have no "proper object of their affection" a desire that they cannot fullfill righteously. Hate to say it, but there is a lot of junk out there, that only promote clubbin, drinking, sex and bad behavior (whether you are young, old, married or single) and I believe it should be avoided.

The Bible instructs us to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1ff). Think about this carefully: What you are INFORMED by, and CONFORM to, will TRANSFORM your life. Be discerning in all things. Test all things, hold to that which is good (1 Thess 5:21), not all music is good music, but its not all bad either. Let us not only teach what it means to love God, but let us model that love in the context of marriage and I don't think it is wrong to sing about it either. My Mind, My Thoughts, My Heart, My Words

Your Thoughts?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Amen or Ahhh Man?

As I was getting ready for church Sunday morning, I turned on the T.V to listen to some word while I was getting dressed. As I scrolled through the channels to find something interesting, I came across the name Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith and the Agape International Choir. The Choir was jammin' and as he began to speak, I said Amen! But my Amen soon turned into Ahhh mannn. As Dr. Beckwith began to speak, it became clear to me that his message was one that was not Christian. Now, I defend his right to share his message and faith, but what I thought about was how many believers could discern the difference between a minister and a mystic. While Dr. Beckwith’s message might make you happy, if the Christian worldview is true, it will not make you healthy. Here is what he teaches:

Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith is the founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, CA. Complete with a Choir, Praise Dancers, Ministers, Counselors and Study time, Agape International boast of over 6,000 members including several of Hollywood’s top celebrities.

Reverend Michael Beckwith and AISC, teaches universal truth principles found in the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality. Through New Thought-Ancient Wisdom teachings, each individual can realize that they are a unique emanation of God.

“In Agape’s services and classes we refer to the world’s scriptures and sacred texts, as well as the writings of ancient and contemporary mystics, teachers, sages, philosophers, pundits, scientists, and even the enlightened person next door!”

If you have questions, Dr Beckwith and Agape do not leave you without clear answers:
(information quoted from his website:

Is Agape Christian? No, and yes.

“No, if by Christian you mean the acceptance of Jesus as the only savior and Christianity as the only path to God and eternal salvation.

Yes, in the sense that New Thought- Ancient Wisdom history includes the Gnostic teachings of the earliest Christian mystical sects.”

What about the Bible?

“The Bible is referenced in Dr. Beckwith’s services and Agape’s classes. However, the version that is used is a metaphysical, Gnostic-inspired edition translated and interpreted from the original Aramaic, rather than the Greek translation used in traditional Christian churches such as the King James Version, or the Saint Gregory version used by the Catholic Church.”

What about Jesus?

“Agape teaches that Jesus was not the great exception, but rather the great example. He is an enlightened being, one who attained cosmic consciousness or liberation from a sense of separation from the Source of all that is. Jesus is revered as a wayshower, as an exemplar of unconditional love, selfless service, and self-mastery.”

Can I still practice my Judaism/Christianity and become a member of Agape?

“Absolutely, many within the Agape community maintain their Jewish/Christian faith, while others continue to practice the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, or other spiritual master teachers of past or present generations. As a result, mixed-tradition couples and families often find common ground at Agape without compromising other loyalties.”

Does it matter what we believe? If you, a friend or family member was a part of his church, is there any reason to be alarmed? If you are a Christian and guardian of truth, do you believe you have a responsibility to tell that truth? Do you know the truth? Is there any noticeable difference between his church and yours? What are your thoughts?

Monday, March 23, 2009

I thought I knew, but I had no idea

Last Tuesday night the wife and I received the news that a dear friend of ours was not doing well and was rushed to the hospital. We lifted her up in prayer and was determined to visit her the next afternoon. One thing about Alicia is that her smile was contagious. Even now thinking about her she makes me smile. When we arrived at the hospital, we stood quietly with the family until the doctors gathered us into a bigger room and broke the news to us that Alicia didn’t make it through the surgery. At that very moment the screams and cries I heard faded into silence as I tunnel visioned. I just went blank. I thought to my self, I’m suppose to be a minister, I’m supposed to be praying and comforting the family, but I didn’t, I couldn’t. I sat down, closed my eyes and couldn’t look up. When my daughter called me and asked me how she was doing I broke out in tears and told her she didn’t make it.

At that point, it had become a very long week for us as we thought about her, informed others and tried to be there for some close friends. But heres the thing; I didn’t realize how much her passing would affect me. What I mean is, I can’t recall a time when we went out to dinner or even to the movies, but I also can’t recall a time that we were both in the same room that we wouldn’t be sure to greet each other with a hug and kiss before leaving. The wife and I have been members of Family Bible Fellowship for close to 17 years. In that time we have seen families come together, kids grow up and have called many people our brothers and sisters in Christ. But in many ways, I thought that I merely gave lip service to calling people my brothers and sisters in Christ. I really didn’t realize how much I love my church home and church family. Well, I thought I knew, but I had no idea….

Alicia will be missed as much as she is loved,

Her Brother in Christ,

Friday, January 16, 2009

What's Taller than Tall?

I'm in Portland, Oregon this weekend preparing to speak at a conference on the reliability of the New Testament. After getting my meeting room set up, Neil Mammen and I went to Starbucks for some hot chocolate. I've only gone to Starbucks a few times, but I think I'm begining to catch the bug. When I finally made my way to the front counter, I was greeted with a smile and asked the following question:

Starbucks Girl: "can I help you?"
Me: "Sure, can I please have a regular hot chocolate?"
Starbucks Girl: "What size would you like?"
Me: "I'll have a large one."
Starbucks Girl: "well would you like a grande?"
Me: "How big is a Grande?"
Starbucks Girl: "It is a medium"
Me: No, I would like a Tall one"
Starbuck Girl: "The tall is smaller than the Grande"
Me: "But isn't the Grande large?"
SG: "No it's a medium"
Me: "Well then, how tall is a tall?"
SG: "Small"
Me: "And whats Taller than a Tall?"
SG: "A Grande"
ME: "But that's only a medium"
SG: "Correct"
Me: "Well is there anything Grander than a Grande?"
SG: Yes, A Venti"

By this time I felt like I was being "Punked on Candid Camera," so I asked her to please hold up each size so that I can see which was which. By this time everyone behind me in line was laughing at me. The problem was this, until I was able to see the cups and compare their sizes, I was unable to determine what was tall, medium or large. I had to see the standard by which she measured the sizes. It's funny, in life, there are many things we call good, bad, right, wrong, crooked and straight. We say that one action or behavior is "better" than another, there seems to be a standard out there by which we are able to make those judgements and that ulitimate standard is God!

Just something to think about the next time you go to order your Double shot, decaf, extra hot, no foam, venti carmel maccioto, blended milk.