Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Nativity Video for You

Merry Christmas!

It's Bohemian Rhapsody, puppet style.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tim Tebow and Taking Things "Down A Notch"

In case you missed it, Saturday Night Live featured a skit last week that involved Jesus making a visit to the locker room of the Denver Broncos.

 There are plenty of aspects to nitpick about how Jesus is portrayed here, and I won't even comment on the plug for Mormonism, but I want to focus on what I perceive as the main thrust: Tim Tebow needs to "take it down a notch." One of the more interesting things I've seen in a while is the YouTube video of Tim Tebow with a microphone recording everything he said during the recent game against the Bears, where the Broncos pulled off an incredible victory. It's about 10 minutes long, but I think it gives a lot of insight into the person. In many ways, he reminds me of what I've read in Brother Lawrence's book, The Practice of the Presence of God. It is clear that he tries to capture every moment as a type of spiritual formation, focussing on working as if for God, giving God the glory "win or lose", and looking at all of life through a spiritual lens. He even manages to be incredibly gracious in the face of his critics.

So what is it that people find so objectionable about Tim Tebow? I'm sure there are many answers to that. I think above all else, people hate being confronted with the truth that not all Christians are primarily hypocrites. Sure, we all have our shortcomings, as does Tebow, but there are a lot of Christians who live much better lives than most of our culture would want to admit.

 I was interested in watching who of my Facebook friends would pick up on the Tebow SNL video, and what they would say about it. At the risk of being judgmental, I was surprised how similar all the people were who said it was "FANTASTIC" or "SO TRUE!" These were all people I had known to be really nice, but who also had a strong edge, liking to party and drink hard, and not to attend church much. They would self-identify as "Christian", but would be what I consider the very definition of lukewarmness. "I like God and I believe in Jesus, but I still like to party, and I don't think God would want me being all in anybody's face about Him."

I posted a tweet as I was thinking about this: "If Jesus had taken it "down a notch", he would not have been crucified. Christ didn't bow to political correctness."

I think the real problem with Tebow is not a problem with Tebow; it is a problem with the rest of us. It has become so rare for people to experience a passionate Christian who is not ashamed to explain why they love so much, work so hard, forgive so readily, etc., that he's a true novelty. I really wish that among Christians, Tim was not so much the exception, but the norm.  "Why can't Tebow keep his 'private beliefs' quiet like all the other Christians?"  "I think it's great if you want to believe, but I don't think people should proselytize."

All we DON'T need is yet another Christian who is willing to stop talking about what he believes, and why he does what he does.

I have accepted that some people will never get it, and will always think that Tebow's faith is primarily about winning football games (as the SNL skit sort of implies). I have accepted that Tebow is going to make mistakes sometimes, and that people who have guilty consciences about their own moral shortcomings will attack him as harshly as they can muster.

In the mean time, I pray for Tim Tebow. I pray that he won't stop doing a lot of the wonderful things he is doing. I pray that he won't quit saying why he does them. I pray that I can have more courage not only to do right, but to talk about what is right. Even if most will reject it, our world needs to hear the voice of truth in a cacophony of lies. Those who are seeking need the chance to find.

I hope that this younger generation of Christians will have more faith and boldness than the last few generations have. We need more people to be like Tim Tebow, and we certainly don't need any more Christians to "take it down a notch." It's amazing how when people try and really live for Christ, it has a way of bringing the enemy out into the light.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I have taken far too long to make a post on here, so for any of you who still follow me at all, thanks!

I've seen a lot of my friends making daily status updates with things they are thankful for, such as family, friends, jobs, etc. I'm thankful for all of those things. I tend to like to add my own twist, so I'm going to list what I would consider my second tier of things for which I am genuinely thankful, assuming items like God, Family, Job, Country, etc. would be the top tier.

I'm also thankful for (not at all in any order):
  • Missionaries. These folks spend a lot of time in lonely places and aren't encouraged nearly as often as they ought to be. They have my respect and admiration. In fact, if it weren't for mission-minded people, none of us would have a church to call "home." Every congregation is in some way a result of a person/group of people dreaming, praying, and sharing. We need more people like this.
  • Remote Controls. I still think it's fantastic that I can sit on my couch, like a king on his throne, and command the television to do what I want, all without having to walk over and move anything. No, it isn't new technology, but I can't imagine life without it. It also still excites me to lock and unlock my car from a distance, especially in the rain.
  • Online Banking. I absolutely love that I really only seldom have to fool with balancing a checkbook or physically writing any checks. Using debit cards and tracking spending online has made my life considerably easier.
  • Fruit Tea. I don't know who came up with the stuff, but when made well, there's just nothing like it.
  • Erasmus. He put together the first Greek version of the New Testament, which enabled people to start translating it into their own languages. I'm also thankful for all the other people who were shamed and killed in the effort to get the Bible into the langages of common people everywhere. It has changed the world.
  • Experience. I'm thankful to have a few more years of life under my belt. I have learned much in the rise of social media about the importance of watching one's words. I spend more time on Facebook holding my tongue than I do anything else. I've learned that people do pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. The more I've given attention to these kinds of skills, the easier and more effective my life has been. And overall, I've gotten better at it, and I'm thankful to at least feel like I'm getting better.
  • Fair-Minded Criticism. I've learned that in all critics, there is at least some element of truth in there somewhere. When someone has been able to suggest to me how I can be a better person/preacher/teacher, and they've meant it with my best interests at heart, it's been good for me. There are often perspectives that I'm blind to, and when someone has pointed out to me another way to view things, whether on this blog, FB, or somewhere else, it's made me better.
  • Smart phones. I think the ability to use GPS on the go is especially wonderful. Smart phones have improved my life in tons of ways, and I expect they'll only keep getting better.
  • Goals. My dad taught me that you should always have something you're excited about and can look forward to. For him, it was crucial that we have a family vacation in planning every year so that we could always be working towards it. This mentality has helped me to finish school, to get books published, and to be a more optimistic person. Goals are good things. I try to always keep something in my future that requires me to work towards it.
Is there anything else you're especially glad we have in this world that wouldn't be in the usual lists of stuff you're thankful for?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Check Out My New Book!

My second publication hit shelves just yesterday. It is another contribution to the excellent FLEX series by 21st Century Christian publishers. The idea behind FLEX is that they could offer a variety of quality Bible studies that are available at any time, and not only at a particular quarter (which is how most curriculum is produced and rotated).

This one is called Watershed Moments: Pivotal Points in Church History. I tried to make a very basic collection of highlights that would be good material for discussion in Bible classes. I also have written from a Restorationist perspective. As many of our churches have historical amnesia to an extent, but are likewise suspicious of denominational literature, I hope this will give them a more comfortable way to encounter believers of the past. The material is about 1/3 pre-Reformation, 1/3 Reformation, and 1/3 Restoration Movement. It is by no means an exhaustive study of church history, but it would make a great first step if you are curious about it, but don't know where to begin.

They are priced so that you could teach it at church, and be able to afford a copy for everyone in your class. You can check out a free sample of a chapter, or purchase the book here.

I'm on TV again.

So for the 4th time in the last year, I am on TV again. I was at 21st Century Christian picking up my new book, and a lady was there making a clip about a new Bible translation. She suckered me into doing an interview. I got tickled that she bills me as a "Nashville resident", as if that alone gives someone all the credentials they need to critique a Bible translation.

But at least my statements were represented fairly, if briefly.

Here is the link if you want to see it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Amazing Wife

I wanted to brag on my wife, who has done well in her career. She was recently featured on Broadman & Holman's blog, sharing her journey to how she got where she is.

Here is the link.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Being Interesting 09 - Try On Some Different Shoes

I think there may not be a better way to get a fresh take on a familiar story than to view it from a different person's perspective, walking in their shoes, so to speak. I think this is particularly true when trying to see things from the perspective of a person who is lower in social standing, such as women or slave characters. Rather than talk about Abraham's life through his eyes, have you ever considered it from Sarah's perspective?

Can you imagine being told by your husband:
"We're going to be moving."
"I don't know. God'll tell us when we get there."
"How long will it take?"
"I have no idea."
"But what's wrong with where we are?"
"Nothing. But God's telling us to move, so we're gonna move."

Or when traveling through a foreign land, "Hey, I'm not going to tell anyone I'm married to you. We're going to tell them you're my sister." Imagine the fear of being taken away from your family to the royal palace where who knows what you might be expected to do; particularly as your husband denies being married to you.

Or what about the day that your husband tells you he's going to take your precious only child to a mountain and kill him to "worship God." Abraham got the benefit of an angel to stop him, but don't forget that Sarah was still at home, waiting for his return, expecting he had just murdered their first child...if he even filled her in on the details before he left.

It is quite a different point of view!

I wanted to share as an example of this approach in a song by a college friend of mine named Matthew Wright (a.k.a. "Fiji"). He used to perform a lot around HU doing mostly Christian-oriented acoustic rock. It's written about Jesus from the perspective of a Roman soldier. I think there's no better way to experience it than to hear him sing it, but the words still speak powerfully. Matt was kind enough to share the lyrics with me so I could post them here.
I'm just a Roman Soldier walking up this hill
I remember him coming up towards me in such pain and agony
Such pain and agony
I nailed his hands into the Cross
I nailed his feet into the Cross
And every time I pounded he cried so loud

But He knew and He loved and He wanted you set free from the sin like a cage that binds you and me

But I'm just a Roman Soldier standing on this hill
I remember He forgave us all
He said, "Lord forgive them. They know not what they do."
He forgave us all
And then He died
I pierced His side
He had no pride
He did not hide from the fact that He loved us all
He loved us all

And He knew and He loved and He wanted you set free from the sin like a cage that binds you and me

But I'm just a Roman Soldier looking off this hill
I remember they took His body away
And they rolled a stone right over the grave
And I watched that grave for three days and nights
I watched that grave with all my might
And I don't know what happened
Don't ask me what happened
I know just one thing
One thing
He rose
He rolled the stone away
He rose to live another day

I want to believe in you oh God
I want to go where your feet have trod
Give me a strength that is so true
Are you really the King of the Jews?

You know and you love and you want to set me free from the sin like a cage that binds me

But hey, I'm just a Roman Soldier

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Being Interesting 08 - Ten Minutes

Just a quick piece of advise:

Your listeners are conditioned by television to the point that they really only have an attention span that is, in total, about the length of a TV episode (22 minutes). Along with this, they are used to segments that are about 10 minutes long. This means if you don't do something about once every 10 minutes that jars them back to what you're doing (like a commercial break), they're going to be drifting off.

I was reading recently that the average American adult typically gets distracted at work about once every 2 minutes. What's worse (and I've found this to be true in my case), if they don't get distracted in 2 minutes, they will actually find a way to distract themselves. There were preachers of the past who could use lots of dry logic and long quotations, reasoning for hours and hours to a captivated audience. Those were marvelous times, but they aren't the times where we're living.

It is worth doing something to change directions or pace about once every ten minutes. This is also why I prefer not to make lots of bland introductory comments. I know that the moment I begin to speak, my clock is already ticking. It's better to engage them while they're still listening, rather than to use up their attention spans announcing what they already know about the weather.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harding's New Oglesby Preaching Studio

Harding University has recently added a new state-of-the-art preaching studio. It is a decent sized room, set up much like a contemporary church auditorium. I have personally been really concerned with the shortage of preachers in churches of Christ, though I know the problem isn't unique to us. This new studio was paid for by the Waterview Church of Christ in Richardson, TX, and it is named the Oglesby Preaching Studio in honor of Robert K. Oglesby, a long time minister at their congregation. I appreciate Harding trying to place an emphasis on this important area. It's good to communicate that preaching is something that is cherished and is worth putting resources into. I also commend the Waterview congregation for making this needed area such a priority.

Here is a link to the news article.

Here are some pictures that my dear friend Bruce McLarty, VP of Spiritual Life, sent to me when I asked him about it:

Being Interesting 07 - Reduce the Application Scope

When you are trying to really bring the point of your lesson home to be in the hearts and lives of your listeners, you should do it in ways that they can actually utilize. Too often, I have heard people overextend an application to the point that it's no longer applicable.

Here are some examples:
- In a lesson about being evangelistic, one guy made a lot of valid and motivating points, then concluded by saying, "We need to be reaching out to our friends and family, but it doesn't stop there. It isn't good enough to just be reaching to our city, or our nations...Jesus wants us to reach the entire world! We've got to be going for the whole world!" Certainly, reaching the whole world is our goal. I'm a big believer in churches using more than one worship service a year to emphasize supported mission works. But when your lesson is geared toward people who are presently living nearby, and thinking more about what they're going to do this week, it would be more productive to give them better insights for reaching their friends, rather than burdening them with a task that you don't realistically expect any of you to tackle in the next week.

- In a class that was supposed to be about drugs and substance abuse, the class started off discussing narcotics, and then began to spiral downward. "Well, really, a lot of things are drugs. If you want to get technical, nicotine is a drug. Caffeine is a drug. Chocolate is a drug. And for some people, power is a drug..." They went on and on ad infinitum to the point that there is absolutely nothing that isn't a drug, and therefore, the discussion became too broad to be useful. If we're all drug users in some way, then it relieves us of the burden to be an example or to hold others accountable.

I think your listeners find it much more helpful when the application of the message is brought down into achievable baby steps, chipping away at a larger goal, rather than just loading them up with an impossible task. Rather than guy #1 moving from friends and family to the entire world, he should have done it in reverse. "Christ wants to reach the whole world with the Gospel. We want to do our part in achieving His vision by reaching out with love to our own community. We want our friends and family to be part of God's family. We want lives to be changed here in our congregation, letting God work through our hands and our words."

If you want people to take your application seriously, make it something they can actually do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Being Interesting 06 - Don't Rush It

When I first started preaching, I was always trying to find weird and unconventional passages to look at. I thought everyone had probably heard the story of the Prodigal Son to the point that they were wishing the kid would run off again, just to make it juicier. And then one time I heard a preacher who said (my paraphrase), "You don't have to go hunting around the back half of Zephaniah to find a text that is helpful and refreshing. The reason that we tend to use and re-use certain passages is because they are so effective at speaking to us in meaningful ways. It's ok to preach from a familiar passage."

When I heard it, I heaved a sigh of relief. It really is ok to talk to people about something they've heard before.

But similar to this, I think there's a different fault that we often commit. That is, every time you reference a familiar story, you just say, "You all know the story of....", then you suck the point out of it. It's like the old poem about Little Jack Horner:
Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said 'What a good boy am I!'
When we go ahead and pull out the plumb we are wanting, we are robbing our audience of the experience of reliving the story.

I think another flaw in this approach is the assumption that all our listeners are biblically literate. I am regularly shocked at just how little most people--even Christians--know about the Bible. I think some of the most powerful stories in the Bible, such as the Creation narrative and Noah's experience with the flood, are often overlooked as kid stories. We think, "I learned about that when I was little," and we never give it a serious hearing.

I think good preaching is textually-centered preaching. We need to chew on each verse as if it were a high dollar steak from Ruth's Chris.

If we really help people to re-live and re-explore passages, whether they are familiar or not, our sermons will become more engaging. I would encourage preachers to slow down. Rather than referencing 3 or 4 parables as quick illustrations of a point, why not really live in one of the parables for a sermon? Even if they've heard it before, help them to see it through new eyes. As our situation in life changes, our perspective changes. This is why we can read the Bible through year after year and still hear it in ways that we've never experienced before.

So for now, slow it down. Spend time in the text and allow it to be your authority, whether it is familiar or not.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

For Mother's Day: Things Mom Would Never Say

"How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?"
"Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too."
"Just leave all the lights on ... it makes the house look more cheery."
"Let me smell that shirt -- Yeah, it's good for another week."
"Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I'll be glad to feed and walk him every day."
"Well, if Ron's mamma says it's okay, that's good enough for me."
"The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It's not like I'm running a prison around here."
"I don't have a tissue with me ... just use your sleeve."
"Don't bother wearing a jacket - the wind-chill is bound to improve."

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Christian Guide to Not Being A Jerk On The Internet

My friend Justin Lewis shared this on Facebook. It is well worth reading and thinking about. I see an awful lot of etiquette (and lack of it) that really bothers me some of the time. Christians need to be wise about both what we say and how we say it.

Being Interesting 05 - The Value of Mystery

There is an old bit of advice that I've heard from a lot of places. One surprising place was on Conan's show, where he mentioned that Jerry Lewis gave him this advice as the key to success in show business. The advice is this:
When performing for a crowd, (1) tell them what you're going to do/say, (2) do/say it, (3) tell them it has been done.
For a juggling or sword swallowing trick, this is probably just fine. But I've also heard people say this is what you should do with your sermons. Begin with, "My sermon is titled: _____. Today I will give you 3 reasons why ____." Next, give them your 3 reasons, clearly identifying each point, one at a time. Finally, recap all three reasons, letting them know you have done it. In other words: Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you've told them.

This method is clearly organized, but I also think it can become boring and predictable if the speaker doesn't have some good material to keep the listeners interested. I've really had to watch myself in this regard when I listen to other preachers. If you tell me what the title of your sermon is, I already think I know part of where you're going with it. If you give me point #1 and I agree with it, I tend to go ahead and shut my ears off, and often find myself reading through a biblical text or daydreaming until point #2 comes around. Depending on whether I agree or disagree with point #2, I feel free to tune in or tune out. If your audience is capable of mentally jumping ahead of you, a lot of times they will (or at least, INTJs like me will).

David Fleer once compared this approach to walking through a house, pointing out every time you encountered a wall, door, window, or stair. "This here is the living room door that we're walking through." "These here are stairs that we're going down." We don't do that in real life; we just go through the door, or walk down the stairs. It isn't necessary to always explain what you're doing because if you do it well enough, your audience will stay with you. There are certainly sermons more information-driven where clarity is imperative and this is the better approach. But much of the time, I'm convinced other approaches are more captivating.

I say all this to say that I believe there are few things more intrinsically interesting than mystery. At this point, I do not use title slides in my sermons at all. I do not introduce what I'm going to be speaking about, and I certainly don't tell them what all to expect. I don't even spend 3 or 4 minutes on the niceties of "So glad you're here today," or "Good to see so many visitors." I try to get down to business fairly quickly, and it is often my goal that for about the first ten minutes, my audience is thinking, "Where exactly is he going with all of this?" Hopefully, by the end of the lesson I have succeed and they can see how it all fit together (I do eventually try to make some clear points). But I want them fully engaged with me during the entire process.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in Fred Craddock's inductive method. Rather than giving a point and saying, "Here are a few reasons I believe it to be true," like a lawyer, it is better to work like a detective. Gather clues as if you are encountering them for the first time. Think out loud. Let them discover the reasons with you along the way, and by the time you get to making your point, they'll be wanting to help you make it, because they have discovered the same thing in the process. Fred Craddock is even bolder than I am in that he often never even states his main point, trusting the audience to reach it on their own.

If you can give people something to try and figure out, you'll hold their attention. Don't be too quick to lay all your cards on the table.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Meaningful Life

Marcus Borgman, quoted by Randy Harris, lists a few statements that you should be able truthfully to say often. If you can't say these things much of the time, it is likely you could be doing much better with your life:

There’s no other place I’d rather be.
There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.
There’s no one else I’d rather be with.
I’ll remember this.

Being Interesting 04 - The Excluded Middle

There is a classic missions article from Paul Hiebert called, "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle," that I think has some real value for Westerners. In our Western mindset, we have categories for things that are transcendent and we have categories for things that are empirical. Religion speaks to one, and Science speaks to the other, and never the twain shall meet.

But in much of the world, along with having these two categories, there is also a middle category. Many peoples of the world still believe actively in ghosts, evil spirits, and in supernatural explanations for things we would explain scientifically. When a missionary from the West is approached by a tribal African to use prayer to heal their child's disease, the missionary often doesn't know what to do. The end result is that many Christian converts in non-Western nations still consult witch doctors to help with a number of pragmatic things, because the missionaries will either have no response, or will deny the existence of whatever the convert feels is a threat or problem. (There are no ghosts...the sickness isn't because of a spirit...etc.)

I'll quote a couple of paragraphs from Hiebert about this middle area of experience:
On the middle level, a holistic theology includes a theology of God in human history: in the affairs of nations, of peoples and of individuals. This must include a theology of divine guidance, provision and healing; of ancestors, spirits and invisible powers of this world; and of suffering, misfortune and death.
On this level, some sections of the church have turned to doctrines of saints as intermediaries between God and humans. Others have turned to doctrines of the Holy Spirit to show God's active involvement in the events of human history. It is no coincidence that many of the most successful missions have provided some form of Christian answer to middle level questions.
I think most of us ministering to Westerners don't have any people actively worried about displeasing the ghosts of their ancestors (unless you are ministering to Glenn Beck--ha!). But there is something to be said for reflecting on what the middle areas are in our culture.

We tend to talk about God entirely in theological terms. When we speak about history, if its biblical history, we see God hard at work. If it's U.S. History, we have no paradigm for how to speak about the involvement of God in any of what we're doing.

But I do think it makes for good sermons when we speak about God at work in our time, in our lives, and in our communities of faith. In your sermons, don't separate the "theological" from the "practical". Theology, if it is done right, ought to affect everything else. If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord of all parts of our lives. If God is not at work in our churches, then what are we doing anyway? Let's embrace a worldview that God is active now, and not just in the ancient past or in the distant future. I've found that people feel really empowered when you as a leader will stand up and boldly proclaim the actions of God in the world, and envision what else God can do in your own setting through your own hands. If that isn't relevant, then what is?

Incidentally, Patrick of Ireland was great at ministering to the middle area. There is an old Irish prayer for just about every aspect of a person's life, from getting up, to working, to eating, to laying down at night. If you've never had a look at the Carmina Gadelica--a collection of old Irish religious prayers and poetry, it is worth your time (and it's cheap on Kindle!).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Being Interesting 03 - How To Order Multiple Illustrations

This is a practical piece of advice I got from David Fleer. If you ever have multiple illustrations for a single point, you should always order them from smallest to largest. What happens is that when the ear has heard one illustration, whenever you start into another one, the brain says, "This will be at least as long as the previous one."

If you start out with a really long illustration, then go into another, people's ears will instantly shut down. They'll be thinking, "I don't want to sit through another one of those just yet." But if you start with the smaller one, then move to the bigger one(s), it will work better for your listener.

So if you had a good quick joke, a one-line quote, and a short story, the best order would be (1) one line quote, (2) quick joke, and (3) short story. It doesn't matter which is the best of the bunch, because if your quick joke is your best one, but it is after a longer one, no one will still be listening to hear it. And if they are listening, they'll feel tired.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Being Interesting 02 - Tension and Release

I'm an avid lover of music. I think what makes really good music are the dynamics of a song. When the music builds or falls along with the content of the lyrics, it just feels right. Most any good melody somehow ends on the root note of whatever key of the song is. Everything up until the root hits is the anticipation of that resolution. Sometimes we know what note is supposed to come next, even if we've never heard the song. Think of all the dynamics in "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. There are the varying types of music, there is the loudness and softness, the fastness and slowness. It all weaves together into an experience that leaves you feeling satisfied.

Likewise, every movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat has some sort of tension that needs to be resolved. The greater the tension, the more satisfactory the conclusion. Or at least, the more potential for satisfaction the conclusion will have available.

I have found that creating tension in the progression of a sermon works just as well. If you have a really good story that illustrates your main point, rather than tell it all at one point, try splitting it in half. Tell enough of it to let them get attached to what is going on, but don't give them "the rest of the story" until you've finished working through the other material. Even better, don't tell them there is any more to the story. It is difficult to restrain yourself from giving away the rest, but if you can hold on to it, it will pay off.

I did this several weeks ago, and was amazed how effective it was. Long story short: when I was teaching at Harding, I had a student who was a new Christian, and wanted to study the Bible with his dad. He was short on cash, so I helped him purchase a Bible for his dad, shortly before we moved to Tennessee. About two years later, I got a Facebook message from this student, telling me that he had just baptized his father, having studied with him using the Bible I helped him purchase. It was an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world, and I am still moved to tears thinking about it.

The way I used this was to tell the story up until the part where I bought him the Bible and we moved away. I talked about my regret in having to move, but my trust that God would continue to work in that situation, even if I couldn't be physically there any more. After I was done making my other points, at the very end of the sermon, I said, "Do you remember the student I told you about? I got a message from him I want to let you hear..."

What was cool was how so many people came up to me and said, "I just KNEW there was more to that story!" That tells me that it kept them plugged in, but it also told me what a terrible blunder it would have been to create the tension without giving them the resolution.

If used properly, I think sermons that utilize tension and release can provide extremely engaging experiences for the listeners.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Positive Comments from a Methodist about Churches of Christ

Dr. Oster from the Harding Grad School shared this article on Facebook. For obvious reasons, I absolutely loved it. I think we have a lot of positive things to offer, and I personally don't get the zeal I'm seeing in my peers to throw away a lot of the aspects that make us unique among Christian movements.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Being Interesting 01 - Sensory Language

In telling a story, I think a primary goal is to get your audience to feel connected to the situation. I think a great way to do this is to specifically talk about what the audience would gather through their senses in the encounter; particularly the sense of smell, which is a very strong memory device.

A good example would be John 5.

A bland way to describe the Pool of Bethesda:
Bethesda was a pool of water located near the Sheep gate. It was surrounded by five columns. There was a large number of invalid and unhealthy people who always stayed around the pool. They believed a legend that when the pool waters stirred, presumably by an angel, the first one into the pool would be healed.
A more interesting way to describe the Pool of Bethesda:
As Jesus and his disciples walked the roads of Jerusalem, then ended up near the Sheep Gate, at a pool called Bethesda. If you were to go to Bethesda, you could smell it before you could see it. It was a place of sickness and sadness. Walking past each of the five columns around it, you would see people huddled in their shade, trying to avoid the scorching sun. There was the constant tension, pushing and shoving. Countless people who were blind, lame, and paralyzed laid there trembling with anticipation that maybe, just maybe, today would be their day to get in first. You see, they were clinging to a legend that when the waters stirred, the first one to get in would be healed. But with eyes that couldn't see and legs that couldn't carry them there, what hope did they have of being first? Even more, was their hope in this pool an empty wish to begin with?
In this particular passage, there is some great stuff you could do with the details about the man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Look at current events from 38 years ago, and walk a person through all that someone would have lived through in our own history in 38 years time.

But I think the story really comes to life when they can smell the stench, when the heat burns their skin, and when they experience the hopelessness of never being first.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Being Interesting

I don't pretend to be the world's greatest speaker, nor do I think I'm even in the running. But I do a lot of speaking and presenting, and over time, I've found certain approaches that have helped me to improve at connecting with my audiences. It's been a while since I've done a blog series, so I thought it would be worthwhile to make a few small posts about some things I keep in mind as I speak and present. These will certainly be applicable for preachers, but I think many will have uses beyond the pulpit. As always, I'll welcome your input.

Monday, March 14, 2011

James Frey's Final Testament of the Holy Bible

There really isn't anything that new or innovative about this, but I thought it would be worth mentioning. Lots of authors/artists/singers/movie makers think they're being really edgy when they try and picture Jesus with a decreased set of personal standards. James Frey has a new book coming out on Good Friday which is a supposed third and final testament for the Bible.

He's tried to imagine Jesus living today in New York, going by the name Ben Jones. Frey's Jesus lives with a prostitute, performs gay marriages (he even messes around with guys some himself), smokes pot, and is an alcoholic. Though Jesus is radically different, Judas is the "same as he was two thousand years ago", a "selfish man who thinks of himself before the good of humanity, who values money more than love."

Frey is known for his controversial, heavily embellished personal memoirs called Million Little Pieces, for which he ended up taking a lot of flack. He published them as true and accurate, but as people began fact-checking, other than the fact that Frey was actually a criminal and drug addict, not much else can be verified. Oprah was particularly displeased with him.

I bring this up to say/observe:

1. Many of my readers are Christians, and I think it's prudent of us to be aware of cultural trends on the front end when we can. This book may not make too much of a splash, but if it does, let's be aware of it.

2. I am always amazed how that when people try to re-imagine Jesus, he ends up looking exactly like them. This is certainly true of the Jesus Seminar. They have even published their own version of the Gospels with color coded texts. The colors indicate the level of certainty that the words present are actually the words of Jesus, or are historically reliable. The amazing thing is, if you only read the passages that they have voted--yes actually voted--are truly attributable to Jesus, he only teaches exactly the things that they happen to think and believe. We all wrestle with the aspects of Jesus and his teaching that call us into obedience to him, and rather than submit, it's more convenient to trim Jesus down to fit our comfort levels.

3. Frey's Jesus is no better than his Judas. The obtuse irony here actually made me chuckle to myself. Judas is a "selfish man" who thinks of himself and loves money, but Jesus here is a selfish man who thinks of himself and loves sexual indulgence and alcohol. Not much of a point to following this messiah...he's no better than we are, and certainly in no place to instruct people morally.

4. I wonder if Frey's next book will be the sequel to the Quran. Perhaps he can call it "The Great Satan Strikes Back," or , "Mohammed Rides Again." Seriously, though, I'm so bored with people who think they are being edgy by attacking or mocking Christianity. They only do it because Christians won't do anything to endanger their health. I'd like to see someone with the guts to try this approach to interpreting Mohammed's life in a modern setting, especially the part about his six-year-old worries, he waited until she was at least 9 to consummate it. Of course, in all honesty, I think that such a creation would be a thoroughly unproductive thing. I'm just noting the huge discrepancy about the way in which Christianity gets mocked and slandered without fear of retribution, as compared to Islam.

Friday, March 04, 2011

How Can Churches Move Forward On The Gay Issue?

I make this post with a good deal of hesitation. My goal is not to stir things up, but to push all of us Christians to be the kind of community that Christ envisioned. These thoughts are my own, and if you have anything to add, I'll gladly hear yours. I just think we've got to be deliberate about how we move forward on this.

Several months ago, I was still having my blog feed to my FB account. Ironically, though my blog is much more accessible publicly, I get a lot more response to my posts by people on FB. I wrote one article, speaking out against Obama's efforts to promote and celebrate homosexuality, which I see as the deterioration of morality. This led to a very involved discussion among me and my friends, and in the end, it left me feeling unsatisfied. Since most of my blog readers are a good deal more civil than some of my FB friends (sadly, it's the ones who agree with me with whom I've had the most issues), I opted not to share my blog on FB any more. I don't regret my stances, but there are several things I wish I would have worded differently. Sexual preferences are an intensely personal issue. I had made up my mind not to post any more on the subject, yet it keeps on being a very relevant issue that I'm thinking about.

Just this week, a group of anonymous people claiming to be current and former Harding students published a work called The State of the Gay at Harding University. For several reasons, I'm convinced that there may have been some outside organization involved in this (it is both too professional in some ways, and too out of touch with Harding's environment in other ways). I decided to bite my tongue about the whole thing, until I got a call from a close friend at Harding who asked a challenging question: "Mark, I understand what the Bible teaches. I agree that it's unambiguous about extramarital sex being against the will of God. But we've also got to be realistic. There are going to be gay people around us. There just are. What should our churches be doing? How do we move forward?"

Now there, in my mind, is a productive conversation to be had.

What I want to do with this post is to try and explore some ideas about what Christians need to be doing in a world that is increasingly accepting homosexuality as normative. Let me first reference two things:
1. Albert Mohler's excellent article on the cultural factors that have produced the current mindset.
2. Cole Yoakum's post that really started helping me think about this in some ways I hadn't before. I don't agree with Cole on all aspects, but he's moving in some good directions with his thinking.


I invite anyone and everyone to weigh in on this conversation, but based on how I see things, here are my suggestions for what we should do.

1. The Church needs to understand Her own identity as a redemptive community.

We should be a place for people to find rest for their souls. A place where broken people find a better purpose. I know that God delights in displaying his strength through our weaknesses.

When you read of Paul's experiences in Corinth, he says in I Cor. 6:9-11:
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Roman culture embraced homosexual practices, and even considered male friendship to be the highest form of love (See Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, p.70-76). In every culture, the church has to articulate and embody Christ's vision for a better community. In Corinth, this vision certainly incorporated those inclined towards fornication, homosexuality, greed, alcohol, or dishonesty. Paul says, "That's what some of you were!"

I think in approaching the issue, we should begin with the question, "How can God take what is broken in this situation and use it for his glory?" Our goal for everyone should be redemption, because redemption is what we seek for our own souls. The Church should be a place where everyone has a chance to use what they are for something better than their own empowerment.

2. We should spend more energy promoting virtuous living, rather than merely condemning sinful living.

If there's anything I've learned from my dialogue with people on gay-related issues, it's that we have been loud and clear about how Scripture condemns homosexuality. Gays know we believe they are doing wrong. Though there are some efforts on the fringes to reinterpret Paul's writings, these are very recent and innovative approaches that have arisen because of a cultural agenda. Billions of Christians over thousands of years have had no trouble understanding the text to mean what it says.

That having said, we all have passages that make us uncomfortable. As I watch Blu-rays on my nice HD television, sitting on my leather sectional, I personally don't enjoy reading passages that suggest I should not be so worried about accumulating earthly treasures. Why? Because I'm guilty of materialism. In America, we hardly even consider passages about fasting or self-denial. Nobody likes being confronted with their own shortcomings.

If our only approach to homosexuality is to say, "It's a sin!", then can we blame them for not wanting to show up? We don't preach against materialism or gluttony with nearly the passion that we do against homosexuality. Why? Because it's easier to condemn what we don't struggle with.

Though I'm fully convinced that all sexuality outside of marriage is sin, I think we can make the sinful aspect a component of the larger message, which should be about virtuous living. Jesus did this.

If you read through the sermon on the mount, Jesus will repeatedly address an issue, but rather than sticking with the legal right/wrong component, which he doesn't neglect, he takes it in the direction of "What kind of people should we be?"

Rather than merely not murdering people, we shouldn't even be overly critical of them, or call them names.
Rather than merely not cheating on our spouses, we should be people who don't even think about that sort of thing.
Rather than looking for 'Scriptural' reasons to divorce, we should be people who work actively to keep our vows and enrich our marriages.

You get the idea.

In terms of sexuality, rather than saying, "We're the 'Not Gay' Community!", wouldn't it be more productive to be a community that works hard at having self-control? That's relevant, whether you're gay or straight, and it targets the very same areas. Pornography and lust are huge problems in our culture, and all sexual temptation comes down to self-control. Am I wrong?

I am not suggesting we take the Osteen approach of refusing to talk about sin. I am suggesting that we acknowledge sin for what it is, but focus more on what it is to be like Jesus. Let's be truly virtuous people, rather than people who just sin a little less than the world does. It shouldn't surprise us that the world doesn't live like Christians, because they aren't Christians.

3. Let's think more deeply about how a person's non-attraction to the opposite sex might be used in God's service.

With homosexuality, many people just can't get past the 'gross' factor. Whether people are gay because of nature or because of nurture is really irrelevant. Some gays have changed their preferences with treatments, but others have tried treatments without successes. The fact is, like it or not, there will be some people whose attractions are only to their own sex.

Paul spoke candidly in Romans 7 about his own struggles with his body's inclinations. No matter how much he wanted to be one way, he discovered that he was another way. If you read these verses through a variety of lenses, whether it be sexual preferences, gossip, greed, etc., they ring very true, don't they?

Rather than ostracize people with homosexual urges as thoroughly unfit for service, could God use them for something nobler?

Cole's article really caught my attention on this point:
Their same-sex attraction might even set them in a very good position to do work and ministry in the Kingdom that straight people would have a problem with. Housing for young women, prostitute ministry, strip club ministry, really reaching out to single moms. These are works that are 1) neglected, 2) rocky terrain for married men to walk on and 3) especially hard for single straight men. An area where there is no temptation is the place you need to be!
Those were some entirely new ideas to me, and you may or may not care for those particular ones. But could there not be some merit to looking for ways to turn a weakness into a strength?

4. We need to reclaim a worldview that values single people.

After all, this is the clear teaching of I Corinthians 7. Ideally, everyone could stay single, dedicated only to God. Paul is happy for people to be married, and sees the value in the marriage relationship, but in the end, he really does consider it a more virtuous thing to be single.

I've felt badly for so many young people I've known who didn't have much luck or interest in the opposite sex. I've seen them berated by friends and family, "What's wrong with you? Can't you find a husband/wife? When are you getting married?" They'll set them up with random people on dates. It's as if we're ashamed of single people, or something is wrong with them.

On a side note, I think it's ridiculous how many churches will refuse to even consider hiring an unmarried man as a minister. It's a sad state of affairs when Paul himself would have a hard time getting a job at a church. Yes, they may be susceptible to temptation, but could you honestly tell me that lots of married men are not every bit as susceptible to the same temptations?

What if a lack of desire to be married was viewed as an inherently virtuous thing? What if our singles were treasured, rather than pressured? If we are going to expect gays to live a celibate life in order to be part of the church, it is important that they can feel loved, cherished, and respected in this way of living.


I don't pretend to be an expert on how to handle all of this. What I do know is that sooner or later, we're all going to be confronted with how we're going to work with the gays in our own communities. Let's plan well, prepare well, and be sure that all people have the opportunity to experience the love of Christ, regardless of what roads they have traveled to get to where they are.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Conversation I Overheard

I just overheard one of the dayschool children speaking to one of the teachers as they prepared to leave for the day:

"Mrs. ______, I love you."
"Well thank you, sweetie, I love you too."
"And I also love my mommy. And I love my daddy. But they don't love each other any more."

In divorce, it's always the children who suffer the most. Poor kid.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Help for Shepherds

In churches of Christ, we structure our churches based on what we believe to be the biblical model of church leadership. Namely, congregations are autonomous and each is governed by elders who live up to a set of Scriptural criteria. It's not a perfect system, but I'm convinced that there is much wisdom in it.

One of my greatest areas of concern for us is the imbalance in terms of training opportunities. Ministers, who are leaders but not authorities in our congregations, have many chances to learn and grow. I've just completed all the work on my MDiv, and I could not overstate just how much I have benefited from the classes I've taken and from the friendships I've made in these classes.

Elders, on the other hand, are expected to live up to a certain criteria, yet have very few opportunities for growth and learning other than what they get from week to week at the worship services. Some elderships study books together or have workshops together, and I think this is wonderful, but I have wished for a long time that there was more available for them.

The conflict that results from this situation is that sometimes you have a minister, who might have a vast education but no authority, working with men who have complete authority but often limited education (in terms of ministry...they may be well educated in their respective career vocations). I think often, the elders have a better sense of what the congregation is like because of their time invested in the congregation. Ministers move in with no prior relationship with the people, and push for this or that, based on what they've studied. I think each party has things that they bring to the table, but it is still often a recipe for conflict.

I am of the opinion that though there are some rotten eggs out there, most elders care deeply about the church and want to do a good job. I think they want their churches to prosper and they want to honor God with their service. It's a rather thankless job much of the time. I think most of them do the best they can, but often don't really know where to go to get information about how to be a better leader. It was so difficult starting off as a minister with no experience, and I can only imagine how a new elder must feel with such great responsibility and high expectations placed on him.

And now for the purpose of this post...

There are some workshops for elders in other places, but there really hasn't been much in the Tennessee area that I'm aware of. At the Harding University Graduate School of Religion, I am so excited that Dr. Eddie Randolph is now putting together a group called The Shepherds Network.

Their first workshop is going to be March 25-27, 2011 at HUGSR. What I love about how it is organized is that it is NOT just a place where elders show up and a bunch of college professors tell you what you ought to be doing. Though there are some professors--some really terrific ones!--who will make some presentations, a large part of the workshop involves elders connecting with and helping to mentor other elders. They're even going to study some test cases together, which can be such a great exercise. In churches of Christ, we do not have nearly enough fellowship between our sister congregations, and part of what they are trying to do is to increase the amount of fellowship between us. For a movement that was founded on the principle of uniting all Christians, this ought to be a great fit for us.

Here are their "Core Values" as listed in the brochure about the workshop:
  • To provide encouragement for elders and their wives
  • To assist elders in networking with other elders
  • To provide resources and case studies to help elders address a variety of needs
  • To provide a network of relationships with elders in other congregations
  • To develop new and prospective elders
  • To provide renewal for experienced elders
  • To develop and facilitate elder-­‐to-­‐elder coaching
If you are within a reasonable distance from Memphis, I would encourage you to tell your elders and their wives about this effort. I would love to see lots of good Christian men and women finding encouragement and renewal from this effort, and I will be praying that it is a success.

You can download an informational brochure here:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bribing the Minister

Some dumb preacher humor for you:

During the wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the preacher with an unusual offer: "Look, I'll give you $100 if you'll change the wedding vows. When you get to the part where I'm supposed to promise to 'love, honor, and obey' and 'be faithful to her forever,' I'd appreciate it if you would just leave that out." He passed the minister a $100 bill and walked away feeling satisfied.

On the day of the wedding, when it came time for the groom's vows, the preacher looked the young man in the eye and said: "Will you promise to prostrate yourself before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life, and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?"

The groom gulped and looked around, and said in a tiny voice, "Yes," then he leaned toward the preacher and hissed: "I thought we had a deal."

The preacher put a $100 bill into the groom's hand and whispered: "She made me a better offer."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If Everyone Gets To Be Right...Then What?

I read a post by a friend recently who was wrestling with the idea that God could really prefer one religion over another. I've spent some time the last few days thinking about moral relativism. I have also been listening some to Randy Harris from some of the ACU Lectures speak on the subject, and as always, I came away with new and better perspectives.

My favorite line from the movie The Incredibles is when the mom and the son are talking about how he shouldn't use his super powers to be faster than everyone else at school. In the conversation, she tells the son, "Everyone is special," to which he replies (to the best of my memory), "If everyone is special, then that really means that no one is special."

The idea of anyone being lost makes me very uncomfortable. I'm a Millennial, and though as a Christian I accept the idea of a final judgment, as well as eternal rewards and punishments, it's not an easy pill for me to swallow. I accept that my actions, for better or for worse, affect others around me and that no action is truly an isolated event. Again, the individualistic, self-centered culture I'm a part of makes this hard for me.

Some scattered thoughts about the issue at hand:
- I've long been convinced of the idea that to throw out a higher moral standard is to completely throw out the ability to declare any specific action right or wrong. Some have said, "If there is no God, then there's no reason why I shouldn't try to be Hitler." I've seen several atheists respond, "I find it deeply disturbing that the only thing standing between you and terribly misanthropic behavior is your belief in God." I kind of get their point, but on the other hand, really, if morality is determined by a popular vote, then why can't we commit genocide, or anything else that strikes our fancy? Why be so interested in being a "good" person, or in making the world better for anyone else? If all I've got is from now until I'm dead, with nothing beyond that, why not do as I please? "It may be right for you, but that's not what's right for me." That statement opens up some dangerous doors! For there to be any meaningful morality, I think it is necessary for there to be a higher standard than popular opinion.

- Something I had never thought of before that Randy mentioned: If we throw out a higher moral standard, so that morality is entirely subjective to each person's situation, then it is impossible to make moral progress. You can't be a "better" person if nothing you do is ever inherently wrong. If we all get to be right all the time, then it's impossible to get any better.

- On the plurality of religions: My friend's post was an interesting narrative dialogue which basically affirms that all religions were God's idea and are pointing to the same thing. On the one hand, if faith exists to teach you to "be nice"--a view that I think falls short of what Christianity is all about, this idea might be more functional, but I think the conflicts between religious faiths run all the way to the core. Christianity's claim that Christ is the Son of God, and that this belief is an essential component of Salvation, is directly in contradiction to Islam's claim that Christ was a good prophet, but not the Son of God. (The old Lord, Liar, or Lunatic scenario.)

It's easy to make comparisons like this about religions that stem from Judaism, such as Christianity (which fulfilled it), then Islam (which was a variation on them both, combined with some other ideas). In these discussions, in my experience, no one ever throws in the Roman pantheon, full of sex-driven vindictive deities. Nor do we throw in the worshippers of Dagon or Marduk, or any of the religions that called for human sacrifices, or fertility rituals involving temple prostitutes; not to mention animism. Buddhism is atheistic at its deepest level, making it incompatible with most of the world religions. If all religion was just about, "Being nice to people," then these would be more compatible, but as they make demands much greater than this, they are terribly incompatible.

I think a high point of Christianity is that at its core, it is about knowing, honoring, loving, and being with God. The Christian view of Heaven is also about being with God. The Christian view of Hell is primarily about being apart from God. (After all, God won't make you be around him if you spend your whole life letting him know that you don't want to.) I view Hell as the ultimate symbol of God's respect for man's free will.

But what about other views of the afterlife? It's interesting that the goal of Islam in the next life seems to center around becoming Hugh Hefner, with lots of virgins to serve you, fancy jewelry, and waterfalls. Sure, there are the elements of peace, no hatred or tears, but the virgins are a big attention grabber. (I have never really understood what about the afterlife in Islam appeals to women.) But this view doesn't seem interested in being with God as much as "Getting anything you desire and more."

Many religions center around getting blessings, healthy crops, and possessions in this life. Some people professing to be Christians preach exactly these things, I'm sad to say. But this is a selfish tendency. Again, I think that properly understood, Christianity is fundamentally not about me getting what I want, but about me really knowing and having a relationship with the Creator of the universe.

- I also believe that the existence of counterfeits points to the existence of the real thing. That's true of currency. It's true of precious artifacts and artwork. We would never think of something being a "fake" if a "real" item didn't exist. I think the fact that humans seem to have this inherent drive toward the divine is an indication that there must be a real option out there. In other words, "If there is no God, why is it that I want so badly to know about him?" Every other appetite we have in life has something that can fulfill it. Food, music, art, communication, sex...these all meet things that feel like needs to us. I think the inner desire that most humans experience for knowledge of the divine indicates that something must be there.

If everyone is special, then in a sense, no one is.
If everything is true, then nothing is false.
If everything is good, then nothing is bad.
If everything is the real thing, then nothing is counterfeit.

I know from experience, though, that some people are special. Some things are bad. Some things are lies and frauds.

Surely, there must be more to life than the few things I can comprehend. But I do think it is incompatible to believe both (1) God is good and that (2) God deliberately confuses the people of the world into believing contradictory things about himself.

I'm interested in hearing what you think.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mothers of Monsters

It is easy to look at deranged behavior, such as that of the killer in the recent Arizona shootings, and label the person as a monster. And no doubt, what he's done is a monstrosity. As far as how everything pans out with bad intentions or mental illnesses, I'm not going to attempt to sort all that out. It's in God's hands.

But I was thinking about how we as Christians should respond to the situation. It's easy to pray for our "enemy", if by "enemy", we mean someone who annoys us. It's completely different to think about praying compassionately for someone who murdered our child. It's a good thing that God was good enough to love those who murdered his son, because otherwise we would have no hope.

I found an interesting article, talking about how Jared Loughner's parents have been reacting to the situation. Namely, with incredible grief and regret. Hindsight is always 20/20. I don't have any idea what the situation was like growing up in their household, but no doubt they probably feel love for their son, they feel humiliation over what he's done, and they feel great guilt for not being able to have seen this coming and prevented it.

Here is the article.

What I found especially interesting is how other parents of killers are reaching out to them. Even "monsters" have mothers.

I think this situation provides us with a reminder of our responsibility to seek and save the lost. Anyone can respond with hate for a killer, but I wonder how many will respond with loving concern for his soul. I don't diminish the suffering of those who've been injured and murdered. They certainly need our prayers, sympathy, and support. But in all of this, we should be praying for God's presence. To comfort the afflicted, and to reach out to the lost. And often, God seems to prefer being present through imperfect vessels like us.

I will be prayerful that Christians can be around to help the families, but also to help the family of the killer, as well as the man himself.

If there is anyone left who reads this blog, I'm curious what you think about this situation. Hearing from the mothers of people like this offers a pretty different perspective. Christ's law of love should be in effect in this situation, as in every situation. What does this look like here?