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TV interview on Sutherland Springs shooting

November 9, 2017


I sat down with WSYR Channel 9 here in Syracuse, NY to give some reflection upon the horrible shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. It’s not often we pastors and ministers have a chance to speak into national news stories.

I was very thankful that WSYR wanted to seek out a minister to provide some spiritual and pastoral insight. Click below to watch the video interview:  Continue Reading…

Christianity

The Amazonification of Christianity

October 26, 2017

Amazon announced a new product and service to their line-up: Amazon Key. Amazon describes their new product as the way to, “get your Amazon packages securely delivered just inside your front door. Plus, grant access to the people you trust, like your family, friends, dog walker, or house cleaner.” This is one of many products that have taken over our lives by Amazon or also known as the Amazonification of retail… and life.

Amazon has started putting large retailers out of business. With their free two-day delivery with Amazon Prime, tablets that push notifications of sales, Echo devices that can order Amazon products, and other devices that can order via their website, Amazon has put their delivery method in the hands and heads of people around the world. Amazon has created a virtual e-commerce ecosystem that we can’t escape. Now, Amazon is testing drones to deliver products faster. Amazon not only sells products but now services of professional cleaning, installation, plumbing and more on their website.

This is a takeover of Amazon’s brand force. It’s the Amazonification of life: a total and complete delivery system of goods, services, and information. Amazon has disrupted the way people get their “stuff”.

Amazon’s virtual staying power taps into something that is happening in every facet of our lives: virtual delivery and engagement of life… including our faith.  Amazon shows us how Christianity has been disrupted by factors and forces of our technological and mobile connected world.

Continue Reading…

Christianity

Breastfeeding in church, a sin?

April 27, 2017

A breastfeeding mom in Virginia was told to leave her church’s sanctuary and go into a private room because “the church does not allow breastfeeding without a cover because it could make men, teenagers or new churchgoers uncomfortable.”

The Washington Post reported that Annie Peguero, mother of two, whose husband is on deployment, “posted her own livestream video on Facebook — with her baby, Autumn, at her breast — telling viewers what happened and urging women to stand up for breast-feeding.” Despite that Virginia law allows for mothers to breastfeed anywhere, the church clearly did not know about the mother’s rights. This isn’t the first time a mother breastfeeding became a national news story. A church in Dallas, TX in 2014 became the center of a social media debate about breastfeeding in church.

Currently, an individual can go into a church packing a gun in Virginia, but for some, a mother packing a nursing boob for a baby is just too much.

Continue Reading…

Christianity

Lazarus, not John, was the disciple whom Jesus loved

April 13, 2017

Traditionally, John the Gospel writer was the disciple whom Jesus loved. However, upon closer study, there is another follower of Jesus that is a stronger candidate that you have likely not considered: Lazarus.

The identity of the “beloved disciple” or the one John calls “disciple whom Jesus loved” is unnamed and has remained a mystery. Irenaeus and Eusebius both identified the beloved disciple as John as early as the second and fourth century respectively. Scholars, such as Raymond Brown, have written heavily upon John as the one whom Jesus loved.  Despite the fact John does not self-identify nor names himself as the writer of the Gospel of John or the beloved disciple, we have relied on tradition and church history.

If we are to rely on the tradition of the identification of the beloved disciple, what about the internal evidence of scripture? Surprisingly, scripture does offer dramatic clues to the mystery of the beloved disciple.

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Christianity

What the Bible says about refugees

January 31, 2017

Donald Trump’s executive order denying refugees and immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries entry into the United States has led to widespread outcry across the political spectrum. Despite promises, even Christian refugees have been turned away from the United States. Being a nation of immigrants, this policy is antithetical to the notion that America is the land of liberty and freedom.  Politically and morally, policies and provisions that exclude a religious group is ethically wrong.

For Christians, such rejection of refugees and those seeking safety runs counter to what we read in the Bible. Here’s what we discover in the Bible on refugees, strangers and political aliens:   Continue Reading…

blog, Christianity

Starbucks green cups ruins everything

November 3, 2016

jesusstbucks

Last year, it was Christians protesting Starbucks red cups. This year it’s Starbucks green cups and people are protesting again. What’s going on?

In the midst of this crazy election season, Starbucks released a green cup that was, according to the CEO, designed to “represent the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners (employees) and customers. During a divisive time in our country, Starbucks wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values, and the need to be good to each other,”

It seems people assumed this was some sort of holiday cup and the reaction was swift:

And it’s not just a few people complaining on social media, but opinion pieces reflect a supposed subversive agenda on behalf of Starbucks against Christians and Republicans. The truth is, those green Starbucks cups are not the holiday cups. And if Starbucks rolled out a green cup for the holidays, so what. If you need a for-profit company to promote Christianity through marketing a $5 cup of coffee, you’d better rethink what makes Christianity… well, Christianity.

As I have said before, Starbucks or secular culture are not the holders of our sacred traditions and beliefs. Secular institutions are not the keepers of Christianity.  We Christians are keepers of Christianity. We are the ones charged to be the messengers of the Christmas story. At the end of the day, companies are here to make money off Christmas.  Stores are decorated with Christmas displays to get you to buy stuff.  If Jesus were walking past a store during the Christmas shopping season, I’m pretty sure he would roll his eyes and place his palm squarely in his face… Or, Jesus would buy a Starbucks green cup, take a sip, and say, “And…?”

Freud supposedly once said, “Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.” I think we can safely say here, “Sometimes, a green cup is just a green cup.”

Let’s take a breath here folks and not insert our religious insecurities, political fears, and cultural anxieties into a little green cup.

blog, Christianity

Social media reactions to the Orlando shooting

June 15, 2016

orlando shooting

As I watched the news of the Orlando shooting unfold on television, CNN interviewed a man who came to the scene to try to find his friends. Although it was painful to watch, the man said something that struck me. He said, “Just pray for us.”  Here is a man, who identified himself to be a member of the LGBTQ community, asking for prayer.

What followed in response to the Orlando shooting on social media was a mixture of thoughts and prayers, internet memes, statements on guns, and statements on the LGBTQ community. Most social media posts on Facebook and Twitter was supportive, positive, and hopeful. However, many were hateful, negative, and very abusive. Some Christians expressed anger at the mention of banning of assault weapons.  Some even blamed the whole Orlando shooting solely on LGBTQ community. Many of the conversations online devolved into hate filled expressions of rage.

When faced with tragedy, especially with such politically sensitive topics of gay rights and gun ownership, most attempts to have a serious conversation online about cultural problems tend to result in defensive positioning.  I’m not referring to posting a prayer or a message of support. I’m referring to online interactions that are insensitive or tone deaf to the pain and suffering experienced in tragedy, such as the Orlando shooting.

Our response should include support, prayer, and positive action. However, not everyone agrees. Here’s some of the best and worst I’ve seen online (all comments were publically viewable at the time of posting): 
Continue Reading…

Christianity

10 most painful comments as a pastor

June 8, 2016

tear

I was recently surprised when leaders in my current church told me that they wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my ordination. 10 years? Has it been 10 years of full-time ordained ministry as a pastor? I am very thankful that my congregation that I serve took the time to mark the occasion. As I mentioned in my book, The Work of the Associate Pastor, churches help the longevity of their pastor with recognition such as of years of service or ordination anniversaries. Before I was ordained, I spent an additional 8 years in part-time ministry throughout college and seminary. A total of 18 years of ministry in congregations (including a stint in college campus ministry). Where has the time gone?

In the midst of helping and caring for hundreds or thousands of people, you can’t please everyone. Especially when pastors work within change and renewal, we sometimes are at the blunt end of  verbal contempt. In addition, we make mistakes. We are just as human as anyone else. We try our best to reconcile. When people are misinformed, we pastors try be sensitive to those who do not have all the information.

As I look in 10 years of ministry at my previous churches, here are the most painful comments directed to me (not in any order): 

Continue Reading…

Christianity

Do you know your emerging community?

June 2, 2016

emerging
When I was a pastor in a small town, there were a great sense of community. There were Memorial Day remembrances, firehouse breakfasts, ham dinners, the Holiday parade, the annual Day of Prayer, Rotary meetings, and community trash pick-up days. Many participated in community events regularly. However, there were also a segment of the community not at those events.  They were people from the emerging community.

What is an emerging community? Continue Reading…

blog, Christianity

3 things churches can learn from David Bowie

January 13, 2016

bowie

As the death of David Bowie, the provocative entertainer, artist, actor, and singer, continues to shock fans and the general public, his mark upon culture is undeniable. David Bowie’s work spans decades and touched millions of people. As musicians rise and fall with cultural tastes, Bowie was able to keep the attention of the masses. Bowie’s success is obvious. He sold over 140 million records.

Despite Bowie’s brand of suggestive visuals and content, churches have a lot to learn from this cultural icon. Though Bowie was mostly agnostic and didn’t really dive into religion, (some flashes of spiritual moments, though) his ability to stay relevant is unmistakable. As churches struggle to understand how to “be church” in the 21st century, Bowie’s life teaches pastor and church leaders how to thrive:
Continue Reading…

Christianity

Are social media thoughts and prayers helpful anymore?

December 23, 2015

In the wake of tragedy it has become an automatic social media response for many Christians: Our thoughts and prayers are with…  I know, I said it on social media after the shootings in San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, and Aurora. Maybe you were like me and wanted to express your grief and wanted to respond.

However, not everyone sees “thoughts and prayers” as a helpful expression of grief in the face of tragedy.

After the shootings in San Bernardino, The Daily News featured several Republican politicians’ Twitter posts expressing their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims with the headline “God isn’t fixing this”. The response from many Christians was sharp and curt.

It seems that mass shootings are growing. According to The Washington Post, there have been 351 mass shootings in the United States this year alone. That’s 351 “thoughts and prayers” to shooting victims on Facebook and Twitter feeds. To many observers, politicians who claim to be Christian and use “thoughts and prayers” on social media and yet do nothing about reasonable gun control laws, are seen as tone deaf.

As a pastor, I use my own Facebook and Twitter feeds to express grief, sadness, and lament in times of tragedy. I read the “God isn’t fixing this headline” and sat in contemplation. I wondered, “How does the world see Christian “thoughts and prayers” on social media? Is that all we are as followers of Jesus? Thoughts and prayers?  Continue Reading…

Christianity

Christians, stop protesting Starbucks red cups

November 10, 2015

starbuckks

Starbucks red cups are out to bring us holiday cheer but the response on social media has not been very cheerful.

Joshua Feuerstein, a former Arizona pastor shared a video on Facebook that went viral with over 12 million views. He stated in his Facebook post that “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” Feuerstein entered a Starbucks protesting the lack of Christian messages on Starbuck’s famous red cups while legally carrying a handgun. This social media protest is using the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks to encourage customers to fight back against Starbuck’s supposed Christian persecution.

It seems like every year there is some cultural Christian crusader protests that a company hates Christians or is too politically correct to reference Christmas.

The ugly reality of these holiday protests is that it makes us Christians look like a bunch of paranoid lunatics. The problem with Feuerstein and his video is that it smacks of a superior attitude that all people, business, and institutions must comply with our Christmas demains. Often, these cultural Christian crusaders do more harm than good. Feuerstein proved this when he waved his concealed handgun at the end of the video. Such displays of “freedom” in the name exercising Second Amendment rights only further to marginalize Christians into a gun-nut and anti-government stereotype.

That is a real good idea: Continue Reading…