Saturday, August 19, 2017

Do you love waterslides? Me too!

Something hit me today while we were at a local waterpark with the kids.  Our four year old daughter Elly was playing in the kiddie area when my wife pointed out how quickly she found a friend.  

It was as simple as "Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!”

And I mean it was literally that simple.  My daughter didn't care that this girl was a different skin tone or that her English was accompanied by a cute little accent a little different than her own (southern girls never lose that accent).  Within a few more minutes the two of them were joined by a diverse group of other girls.  

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"  

They didn't care about anything but playing together in the water.  They didn't look at each other any differently because they found the one thing they immediately had in common and that was all they were concerned for.  

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"

Hatred is a part of our sinful nature (Romans 3:23; Matthew 5:22).  But specific hatred towards others because they are of a different ethnicity, language, culture, socio-econimic group, etc. is something that is taught.  It's either taught by an immediate authority figure or by the environment into which we are raised.  At some point when we embrace that specific sinful teaching we disregard the fact that every human being has been created in the image of God.  We embrace superiority of self and elevate our supremacy above everyone else.

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"

But this group of little girls had not experienced such hateful teaching.  They held hands, danced in circles, and waited for each other at the bottom of the slides.  They laughed and splashed without a second thought of how different each of them looked or spoke.  Could it really be that simple?  With the Gospel...yes...yes it can be.  

Do you love Christ?  Me too!  Let's be friends!

For His glory,

Adam

Saturday, May 27, 2017

When it's time to leave a good church

Many of us agree that it is very hard to find a "good" church.  It's even more difficult for a military family that moves every few years.  Sometimes though, you do find a good church without having to search around for months.  You settle in, participate in the ministries, sit under Christ-centered preaching, and look forward to regular worship with the saints.  But then time passes quickly, military orders are issued to move you and your family, and you find yourself having to leave a good church.

When we moved to Tennessee we initially planned to make this our home by retiring at the end of this tour of duty.  Plans change and God showed us that He providentially had a different direction for our family.  We sold our budding homestead, the chickens, goats, and finally the beehives we spent years building up.  The saddest point wasn't the letting go of that part of our plans but the realization that we would have to leave our current church family.

Cornerstone Community Church in Drummonds embraced us before we even moved to Tennessee.  I came here a second time before we officially moved, without my family, to look for a home and visited the church after finding them online and communicating with the Pastor through email.  Within the first few days of moving here, the church had already setup meals for us.  Mind you, they had never met my family and only spent a few hours with me on a single Sunday.  Not long after getting settled in, they even planned a surprise baby shower for my wife.  They wholeheartedly showed us what the "one another" principles of the New Testament church really looked like. 

But their devotion to being the local church did not stop there.  Pastor Jody was wrapping up a second evangelism training in the small groups of the church and was very receptive to ideas of evangelistic outreach.  We planned the church's first outreach at the local Munford Celebrate festival and continued to do so each year following.  We also planned for a float in the local Christmas parade where we handed out hundred of tracts along the parade route.  

When I wanted to setup an abortion clinic outreach Pastor Jody reviewed the material I used and my ideas.  After carefully considering what I had planned he not only supported and participated (when possible) but he weekly promoted it during the church announcements.  I found myself joined by several church members during these outreaches.

The following year I asked for assistance in setting up a community garden as a part of another church's outreach in Memphis.  Take note, it was another church's outreach and it was over an hour away from our church.  Several members of the church came out to help and were not concerned at all about whether anyone of those we reached would ever darken the doorways of our church gathering.  Their primary concern was that the Gospel was preached and that they were blessed enough to partner with another Christ-centered church to reach out to others.

As a family-integrated church Cornerstone welcomed children into the worship service.  No one batted an eye when a baby cried, kids shuffled in their seats, or when a parent had to take their child out for disciplining.  Some preachers have problems preaching over the sound of children, while others consider it a reminder of Psalm 127 and joyfully accept it as a blessing.

Pastor Jody dedicates himself to the Word.  Every Sunday the message he brought was evidence to to his sincere study and devotion to expository preaching.  He would spend time giving the full context of each passage and the importance of the original biblical languages.  I was blessed to have several conversations with him during afternoon small group studies over his messages.

I have personally known fellow Christians who hop around churches whenever the wind changes and for no biblical reasoning whatsoever.  Someone said something that hurt their feelings, someone didn't say hello to them one morning, the Pastor didn't preach a passage EXACTLY the way they wanted, and the nitpicking list goes on.  Excuses like these are all too common and evidence of a lack of devotion to the local church.

When it's time to leave a good church because you are being transferred out of the area by the military it is never easy.  I thank God that he brought us to Cornerstone Community Church in Drummonds, TN.  We are thankful that God gave us a devoted and loving Pastor like Jody Duncan with a supporting wife like Michelle and a family that models family devotions/worship daily.

If you are ever in the area, just drive past those larger churches and find yourself on a few backroads until you come to little church building on a corner lot.  When you step into its doors you'll know what I mean when I say it's hard to leave a good church.

Thank you Pastor Jody, Michelle, and everyone at Cornerstone for making us a part of your local family.  May God continue to use you for His glory.

Serving the Savior,
Adam

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Semper Gumby

Have you ever planned a long trip, one which you have never undertaken before?  You plan, research the route, and develop a strict itinerary for how you will proceed.  You load up the vehicle with every item you can think of and are ready hit the road right on time.  Everything is going great...and then you actually pull out the the driveway.

"I gotta go to the bathroom."
"She's sitting too close to me."
"When are we stopping for breakfast?"
"How much further do we have to go?"
"Tell him to put his shoes back on...his feet stink."

Soon you find that your strict itinerary has become less of a plan and more of a "let's just try to get their in one piece" prayer.  As a 21 year active duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard, I've lived by our service's motto "Semper Paratus" which means "Always Ready".  We also have a lesser know motto that other armed services serve under:  "Semper Gumby"..."Always Flexible".  This motto is more prevalent to parenting the older our children get.  

So let me pause right here and eliminate any misconceptions that some of you are likely already formulating:  

1) I'm am not questioning the sufficiency of Scripture.
2) I am not insisting that parenting should be a "shoot from the hip" approach.
3) I am not negating consistency in parenting.

With that PSA out of the way, let me get to the point.  You can plan, read all the books, get all the godly advice you seek for (and a lot which you do not), and even be perfectly in sync with you spouse...then when reality sets in you find out just have uniquely designed each of your children really are.

Let that sink in for a second.  Your children are individually and uniquely created by God. There is no one like them anywhere else.  They do have much in common with everyone else (their sinful nature and need for a Savior) but they are not cookie-cutter kids who can easily be shaped into the same mold as others.  This means the nature and specifics of parenting each child may look a little different depending upon the personality, strengths, and weaknesses of that child.  This also means that despite the advice your bestie may give regarding how they have raised their 18 year old to be the most proper addition to society, their exact approach will likely not work for your child.

The principles of Scripture regarding parenting NEVER change.  No style of parenting is to provoke our children to anger (Ephesians 6:4).  No approach to parenting is to ignore the centricity of Christ in the home (Hebrews 3:4).  No book on parenting can ever stand without the Bible as its foundation (Psalm 119:142). 

But perhaps the journey we had planned needs adjusting once we actually hit the road.  Maybe we need a few more stops along the way to stretch our legs and just give everyone a little room.  Maybe we need to be a little more flexible in our personal approach and more biblical in our foundational understanding of the blessing of God's creative uniqueness. 

For King and Kingdom,
Adam

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bogus boycott of B&B

Say the word "boycott" and many of us Christians immediately perk up. There's something about
rallying behind what has been perceived as a sinful abomination against biblical principles that can sometimes bring out the worst in us...ME INCLUDED.

As a fan of the original Beauty and the Beast (B&B) movie I was initially excited for my children to enjoy this timeless classic as I had in its animated form in the early 90s. But my hopes were quickly dashed against the sharp rocks of liberalism as word of an intertwined "gay agenda" surfaced.  The director, Bill Condon, was quoted as intending to promote and recreate the character "LeFou" (French for "the fool") as homosexual.  A myriad of other quotes were posted including the idea that the film was a metaphor for AIDS. The latter turns out to be false and was an idea taken more from the story of the animated version's executive producer and lyricist Howard Ashman who died of AIDS.  This was slander though since Ashman was diagnosed as HIV positive after the B&B production started and died of AIDS well after it was completed.

Still, the idea that the director would add a "gay scene" to this beloved classic sent many of us in a frenzied, blind boycott (blind being the key word).  More time was spent critiquing the intentions of the director and the supposed inserted scenes than actually watching the movie. Despite my initial protests I decided that I would give the movie a chance so we took our entire family for an afternoon out.  I had heard a few reviews beforehand but was still prepared to wash my children clean of the attempted worldly indoctrination. What I witnessed was worse than I feared...I was revealed to be an overreacting fool!

We sat fully engaged in one of the most enthralling films I have seen in a long time. The cinematography was excellent as the backdrop of Belle's character was opened for the audience.  The development of her character as well as Gaston, the Beast, and the rest of the case was truly artistic.  The few liberties the writers took actually filled in a lot of questions the cartoon adaptation left open.  Belle's missing mother was explained, the Beast's missing family and upbringing were revealed, the tie between the servants turned enchanted objects in the castle were revealed, and even the reason why no one in the nearby village remembered the former prince of their realm was beautifully explained.

(SPOILER ALERT...TURN AWAY)
The most intriguing point of the film was the redefining of Belle's father who previously was the inventor of the family. In this production he was a protective father and artist. The reasoning for this was revealed as Belle's history unfolded. She, her father, and mother lived in Paris (where else would a French artist live) when at a very young age her mother contracted the plague. At her mother's plea to save Belle's life her father swept her up and fled to the country to prevent her from becoming ill as well. Belle was raised in a protective home but a nurturing one which instilled creativity and compassion by a loving father.

LaFou's character development should have accompanied a name change as who he was in the conclusion of the film was not the same character of the animated screen. He had instead realized the folly of blindly following Gaston and fought alongside the castle servants at the climax of the film precipitated by a brief admission of guilt to the teakettle Mrs. Potts.

But what of the "gay scene"? Well...it wasn't there.  I know some will say that the scene in which LaFou is seen dancing with another man or the scene where one of the castle assailants readily accepts his redresseing by the enchanted wardrobe as a woman would be the crux of the protest, I would heartily disagree.  The supposed cross-dressing man lasted about 2 seconds and LaFou's dance was less than that.  But what about the director's intention to promote the gay agenda?  If this is true then he failed miserably.  The only thing he may have accomplished was to rally some of us Christians behind a baseless, fruitless boycott which showed just how easily swayed we can be.

I have absolutely no negative artistic critiques against this movie.  It is one of the few that I can fully give 5 stars to without reservation.  There were numerous redemptive qualities revealed in the Beast, Belle, the castle servants, and even LeFou.  No, I'm not going to allegorize the movie into a Bible study so don't even try to do so yourself.

Go see the movie, don't see the movie...whatever you decide please ensure that it is not because of the overinflated boycott against it pushed by misinformed brothers in Christ like me.

In service of the reigning King,
Adam