The god and country gospel

I have been searching for the right words to use for a long time. Thanks to an article in - of all places the Huffington Post - I got the title I was looking for, the god and country gospel.

Never heard of it? I bet you have but just didn't know it.

We've all heard about the prosperity gospel. The one that says God loves you too much for you to be anything other than healthy and wealthy and wise. It tells you things like just trust God and he will make everything o.k. for you, because he loves you and no loving God would ever let harm come to you. The key is you must 'have enough faith' in God and then God will take care of you. It's more than just off base, it's wrong. Yes, wrong. No matter who says it or in what venue.

This god and country gospel is one that worships America, it's one that worships freedom, worships “rights.” It’s a gospel based on the idea that Christians should have an easy existence. It - like the prosperity gospel - promises security through something other than Christ.

The preachers of 'this' gospel passionately shout generic references to God, call for fervent prayer and public pleas for “morality.” But their supposed top devotion is EQUAL to a devotion to the Stars and Stripes - as if the two were one in the same.

What is so dangerous about it is that it claims that God that’s in control, but in reality, it looks to those in power - government or 'man' - as the one(s) who are really in charge. Not God. Not our sovereign Lord.

The god and country gospel also says that living out and sharing your faith is dependent on having the freedom to do so. That one’s greatest source of identity and value can be found in one’s nationality. It bemoans the loss of prayer in schools, rather than the lack of prayer at home. This gospel says it’s better to silence opponents than minister to them. It asks for a pledge of obedience rather than a change of heart.

America, or at least your idea of it, has become an idol. Need proof? Look at the election cycle we just went through.

You had 'religious' leaders on both sides calling for disastrous results  if a certain candidate was elected. In other words, if someone was elected that didn't hold our values then we couldn't hold on to them ourselves.

What I believe is based in and on God's word and is not changed by who in the White House, who controls the House or Senate or if someone chooses to sit, kneel or ignore the National Anthem.

Our faith must be stronger than that and more properly rooted than that.

I do love my country, but my love for country comes AFTER my love for God and family.

I desire for a strong, faith filled, faith based America but as it turns away I am reminded of the words of Joshua, "as for me and MY house, we will serve the Lord."

Today is September 11, 2016...

Today is September 11, 2016, it was 15 years ago today and not too many minutes from now that a series of events unfolded that changed those of us who lived through it and changed the future of all those who came after it.

September 11, 2001, was a day for our generation, much like December 7, 1941 was for a generation before. On September 11, 2001, almost 3000 people died as terrorists attacked New York and Washington. There were also passengers - turned heroes that down a fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

Hero. That word somehow falls short in describing the actions of so many that day. The passengers on that plane, everyday citizens, the firefighters, port authority police, first responders, and bravest of the men and women in blue. On that day the color of our skin color didn’t matter, religion didn’t matter, backgrounds, social status didn’t matter. Politics didn’t matter. Everything that divides us now - didn’t matter then. Only humanity mattered. Together - despite our differences would we survive - or at least have a chance.

Today, as we look back and honor the sacrifices made by all and remember the heros. I want to share a story a different kind of hero that caught my attention and touched my heart - and still does today.

He was called the Fireman’s Friar. His name was Father Mychal Judge. He was most notable first victim of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. One month after Mychal Judge's body was pulled from the shattered lobby of 1 World Trade Center, and three weeks after his televised funeral, some of the friar's friends decided to hold a smaller memorial service - an evening of Celtic music and storytelling. Priests, nuns, lawyers, cops, firefighters, homeless people, rock-and-rollers, recovering alcoholics, local politicians, and middle-aged couples from the suburbs all streamed into the Good Shepherd Chapel on Ninth Avenue. Mychal Judge had a Clintonian talent for making people feel as though they were the only ones in the room and a bartender's gift for bringing strangers together.

Did you catch it? Those things that can divide us, did matter to Father Judge - that day or any day.

The firemen loved him. He had an encyclopedic memory for their family members' names, birthdays, and passions; he frequently gave them whimsical presents. Once, after visiting President Clinton in Washington, he handed out cocktail napkins emblazoned with the presidential seal. He'd managed to stuff dozens of them into his habit before leaving the White House.

Father Mychal Judge didn’t go without having his share of controversy surrounding his life, suffice it to say he didn’t fit the mold when it came to a shepherd of people.

He was killed on that day as tower one collapsed on him but not before connecting with and ministering to as many he could. He was reportedly last seen administering the last rights to someone on the sidewalk.

Reportedly in his pocket was a simple prayer card with these words:

Lord, take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way.

Good words from a good man to hide in our heart in preparation for the next day we’ll never forget.

May God bless us today as we remember the good father and other heroes from September 11, 2001.
Sometimes I write. This time, I share.

Spiritual Abuse

Every once in awhile, I'll come across an article that is too good not to share, so it is with this one.

Mary DeMuth is a writer, speaker and book mentor who helps folks turn their trials into triumph and with her permission let me share a little bit of this with you.

10 Ways to Spot Spiritual Abuse Ministries:

1. Leaders have a distorted view of respect.

2. Leaders demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ.

3. When leaders use exclusive language.

4. When they create a culture of fear and shame.

5. A charismatic leader who started off well but sliped into arrogance, protectionism and pride.

6. They cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information.

7. They demand servanthood of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives.

8. When they buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader.

9. When they hold to outward performance but reject authentic spirituality.

10. Use exclusivity for allegiance.

Read the entire article here courtesy of

Leadership vs. Leaders

Chuck Jones, who created Bugs Bunny,  used to have this phrase at the beginning of some of his cartoons and it said something like this, "Any similarities to anyone in this cartoon is purely co-incidental." I love that because what followed was a lampooning of anyone and everyone with such accuracy you knew exactly who the target was.

The same could be said for this post.  Any similarities to anyone you know in this post is purely co-incidental.  It is my hope that you will be reminded of people or a person in your life and who knows, it may just be the person I had in mind as well.

I've been reading again about leadership, specifically John Maxwell and it's got my brain going on the subject.

There are some who are leaders and then there are others who are in a position of leadership.  What's the difference?

Several years ago I was asked to coach (lead) my church softball team.  Anyone who knows me knows I'm not the best player, but I can and was willing to navigate through the meetings, the details and mundane tasks of line-ups, schedules and deal with officials.  After just a few practices, however, I realized that I was in a leadership position but I was not the leader of this team.  The leader was the third baseman.  The third baseman was a man much younger than I but who just had 'it' when it came to getting this team to play and play well.  I had a choice to make, do I stand my ground or do I do what I am good at and let him do what he is good at.  I chose the latter.  He was the leader but I was in the one in a leadership position.

I could have stood my ground and stated things like, 'I was chosen to lead!', 'I spend lots of time everyday reading over the rule book.", 'I've done this before so just trust me, I know what I am doing!' or 'Either you are going to let me lead or I don't need you on my team.'  Now, I could have said all those things and technically speaking they would be right because I was in a position of leadership but I would have been in the wrong because I was NOT the leader of the team.  Do you see my point? 

Unfortunately, over the years, I have seen just the opposite play out.  Someone who was in my position often will dig in an 'hold their ground', acting like a petulant child in order to keep their place as the leader despite the damage they create while doing so. 

What kind of damage do the create?  

Damage to people, the institution they serve and many times their own witness. 

Reminds me of Moses and Joshua. Joshua has had a special moment with the Lord in Joshua 5:15: "The commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, "Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.".

Because of his special blessing, he was appointed as one with judicial powers and responsibilities in Joshua 14:6-15. He had a special place. He was courageous as indicated by the spy scenario in Numbers 13:31.  In other words, Joshua, like my third baseman had 'skills'. 

Moses could have viewed him as a threat to his 'position' but instead, Moses brought him to the table of leadership because he was the best person for the job.   

Now before you say Amen too loudly, this is really an issue of pride.  Look into a mirror and ask this question about your own life.  Am I leading because I am in a position of leadership or should God be leading me because he's got the real 'skills.'

Be. Pray. Give.

God has a plan

Back in May I wrote about how God moved me (by force) out of a ministry role at a local church and how 'sometimes the bad news is the good news that leads to the better news'. I still believe that is true I was just unaware that there was even better new still to come.

For the last eighteen months (after the ministry position ended) I have been working back in radio full time as sales, marketing and research coordinator for Sunny 92.3, Hits 96 and Q973/993 - it's a radio family I have been a part of either full or part-time for the last eighteen years. This family has been with me through the highs of life like the birth of my daughter and the lows like the death of my nephew. After a slow(ish) start back in sales, I was happy, gaining success and momentum and simply content just to keep doing what I felt 'made' to do. I have been in radio since 1986 after all!

In October of last year I was approach with a chance to return to full time ministry. I resisted the call. I kept resisting. For two months I simply said to myself, surly God wouldn't want me to leave all this and go back 'there'? Would he?

In Judges Chapter 6 the Bible tells the story of Gideon and how he tested or confirmed God's call on his life...

Gideon set out a sheepskin, or a fleece, and asked God to make the fleece full of dew, but the ground around the fleece dry. That night the fleece was saturated and the ground was dry. Then Gideon asked for the opposite to happen the next night. The fleece would be dry and the ground wet if God wanted Gideon to proceed to mount an attack against the enemy (Judges 6:36-40)

...that is exactly what I did, THREE TIMES! Each time God confirmed His new direction for my life.

My wife and daughter confirmed the direction as well and together we said o.k. to God's plan and put things into motion the first week of January.

This past Friday was my last day (full-time) in radio on South Broad Street. I will remain at Sunny 92.3 (part-time) as host of CCM Sunday and part-time/fill in air talent . I am grateful and humbled by the blessing this family has and continues to be to me and my family. Thank you. Thank you for your 'blessing' on me as I begin this new adventure. 

Beginning this Monday, February 1st, I will begin serving as the Communications Director for Silverdale Baptist Church in Chattanooga and thus begins a new page in the never ending chapter of my professional life. It's a page I wasn't sure I would ever get to write but God had a plan, God ALWAYS has a plan.