“The Wolf of Wall Street” and a Vanishing Conscience

506.

According to Variety magazine, that is how many times a movie-goer who sees the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” will hear one particular curse word.

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You read that correctly. In the three-hour (exactly) movie, just one curse word is used over five-hundred times. It averages out to 2.8 occurrences per minute over the course of the 180 minute film.

I have seem some Christians on social media mentioning this “extreme” use of language. Thankfully, they are not people who have seen the movie, but those who are just reporting–as I am in this post–this awful use of language.

Listening to the radio the other day, we heard a dj mention this as well, and say that several of his friends had walked out of the theater, due to the language.

But it got me thinking. Why does it shock us that a movie would have this much language in it?

And that led me to another question: where is “the line?”

Why are we shocked and appalled by 506 curse words in a movie, but we will justify a movie that “only” has a hundred or so?

We are quick to point out a movie’s “clean” nature, but think of how we talk.

  • “It was great, and it only used a few bad words.”
  • “There were a few cuss words, but it’s still worth seeing.”
  • “I guess there were a few bad words, but the acting is great.”

I am not going to be Pharisaical about this, but I really think Christians should take stock in what they are supporting when they pay money to go to the theater. Further, we need to be very careful about how we talk about our entertainment choices. If we aren’t careful, we can end up justifying seeing nearly anything, simply because it’s “not as bad as” some other film.

…that could lead down a very dangerous road!

And that is just what Hollywood wants. It won’t be long, I’m sure, before a movie sets a new record for curse words. With the moral sewage that regularly emanates from the movie industry, 506 curse words may be old news in just a few years.

But, if (when) that happens, will some of us talk about “The Wolf of Wall Street” as “not as bad as” this new record-setter? That should be an eye-opening question.

So, what will you be watching over the next few days? Will you allow whatever is in the news or the latest blockbuster to be your determining factor, justifying it as “it’s just entertainment?” Or, will you think in Biblical terms about holiness and the need to guard your heart and mind as holy instruments to be used in the service of the Lord?

“O be careful little ears what you hear…”

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Photo credit: Goksan Ozman on Creative Commons

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Tears of Faith

Recently, I had a wonderful visit with an aging saint. He has been through quite a number of health issues, and is a widower of a little more than 10 years. He is fairly quiet, but we enjoy each other’s company.

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On this day, he had great news from his doctors and was wanting to talk. It was a joy to hear his good news and then just to “shoot the breeze” for a few minutes. To say the least, we had a great visit.

However, during the course of our time, this man shed tears.

Twice.

But he taught me so much in those moments that I pray I do not forget anytime soon.

This could be a post about keeping a tender heart or about how it’s okay for real men to cry, but that’s not what he taught me through his tears.

He taught me about what is really important.

His first tears fell from his face as we were just sharing memories. He had told me that his heart doctor had given him good news, and that he took that news very seriously. This wise man said something like, “That heart will get you if you aren’t careful. And often without warning.”

Then, he sobbed. Why? Because, through the tears, he said, “Just like it did my wife.”

She died from a sudden heart attack over 10 years ago, but that memory still floods this good man with emotion. He showed me pictures (she was beautiful) and talked about some of their family traditions.

Our conversation continued for a little while on various subjects, when he turned the talk to Lebanon Road and what a good place it is. Part of the pain this man has been through for many months is that he has not been able to drive. And, even if someone could bring him to worship, there have been very few days when he could come. The pain was just too much for him to bear.

As he talked about that, tears began to flow again.

As they did, he said, “I sure miss church. I’ve wanted to go to church.”

Here was a man who has been through so much for quite a long time. His pain is unthinkable to me, and he has been able to do very little for himself. He has faced frustration and pain that I would not wish upon anyone, and has done so with a great attitude.

But what brought him to tears?

He missed his wife and worship.

Talk about a wake up call for all of us.

When you are thinking of returning “that” phone call to “that” girl, or chatting with that “old flame” on Facebook, think of my friend, who built a marriage that shows what love and dedication is all about.

Or,when the beach or “the big game” seems more important than worshiping God, picture my friend sitting at home where he can watch whatever he wants on TV, but would do anything to gather before God in worship.

If his tears didn’t remind me of where my priorities should be, then I’m not sure my emotions can be touched. What will touch yours?

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Photo credit: Alisha Vargas on Creative Commons

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We Homeschool, But You Don’t Have To (or, “Why a Lot of Homeschoolers Give Homeschooling a Bad Name”)

Yes, we homeschool our children.

Yes, we have since they started school. We are in year 3 now.

Yes, we think it’s what is best for our children (at least at this time).

But no…we do not think you have to in order to be faithful parents.

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I saw it again very recently. I was scanning my Facebook feed and noticed an article someone had linked to. It was about some controversial matter in another state in a public school (by the way, the person who linked to the article doesn’t even live in the state where the event happened). It was one of those matters that is good to know about, and I’m glad this person linked to it as a sort of “f.y.i.”.

Then, however, I read it. It was the comment on the link which said, basically, “This is why we homeschool our children.”

Then, this person added…

“…and you should, too.”

I groaned.

We love homeschooling our children. We love what it gives both to them and to our family. When people ask about it, we try to be enthusiastic about what it means to our family. If they are considering homeschooling, we try to tell them that they can do it, and we strive to show the benefits.

But we do not try to tell people (1) that’s is a utopia, or (2) that it’s the only answer!

Let’s be honest: a strong argument could be made against homeschooling. That whole “salt” and “light” idea comes to mind, just for starters.

Are events like the one I read about on Facebook a reason why we homeschool? Absolutely. But that drift in many parts of our country away from Biblical morality is not the only reason we made this choice.

But far above that, way too many of us who homeschool talk about it as if it is “the only answer” for schooling children. The fact of the matter is, that’s just not the case. We plan on homeschooling throughout our children’s “school years,” but we also are honest enough to say that we need to evaluate that decision each year. Is this decision the right one for “this” child at “this” time?

We are very enthusiastic about our choice, and we think it works for us. A lot–I would even say, a vast majority–who homeschool feel the same way. They love it, and it works well. However, my job as a dad who homeschools is not to tell you that you should choose the same for your children. I don’t know your children like you do. I don’t know your home situation like you do.

But I do know this: no matter what choice you make, you must be involved! No matter how you choose to educate your children, you are still the steward of a life entrusted to you by God. If your children go to public or private school, you need to be involved in seeing that values are upheld. Remember, it’s not “their” job to educate your children. It’s your work to raise them in God’s nurture and admonition.

So, may I make an appeal? It is an appeal from a dad who homeschools to all the other homeschooling parents out there. Be enthusiastic about it. Go at it as best you can. Let this decision be one you are proud of and that truly impacts your children.

But please, stop trying to make it sound like every family should make the same choice. It’s a good choice. We think it’s a great choice…

…for our kids…

but we are going to pray that you make the best choice for your kids. And we’ll support your decision, and hope you’ll support ours.

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Photo credit: Jimmie on Creative Commons

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The Parable of Two Stained Shirts

two stained shirts

The First Shirt

A certain man was wearing a white-as-snow dress shirt for a date with his wife. He worked quite hard all day on the job, and though his job was boring, he worked with a smile, knowing that his effort was bringing in money to support his family. His home life was stressful, but pleasant, and he was so excited, because tonight was a long-overdue date night with his wife.

The sitter was actually a few minutes early, and the couple left for their date in the cold weather of winter. When they arrived at the restaurant, the man–being a gentleman–helped his wife take off her coat and get in her seat. Then, he walked around to the other side of the table and removed his coat.

As he did, he realized that his pen from work had been slowly leaking ink, and his shirt had a stain right at the base of the pocket. He was ashamed, because he wanted to look nice for his wife, who always was beautiful. Though the stain was small, he knew that her eye would be on it, because…well…that’s what people do.

Of course, she saw the stain. It was hard to miss on this crisp white shirt. And it was especially difficult for her to miss, since she had gotten up early that morning to iron this shirt, because she thought he looked especially handsome in it. Now, all that hard work seemed to be tossed aside by the ink that probably ruined the shirt.

But, the wife, bringing honor and respect to her husband, smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, honey. When we get time, I’ll do everything I can to clean it up. We can save the shirt, but it will take some work. You just need to get rid of that pen!”

The Second Shirt

Another man, who worked at the same office, was also going home that night. He didn’t know what he was going to see, because his life at home was chaotic. He had “checked out” long ago, and it was obvious that his wife was more interested in raising the kids than in falling in love with him again.

Still, he dressed well for work. Just by coincidence he also donned a crisp white shirt that day that he had ironed the night before while watching the game. He also worked hard all day, because they had to pay for all the cell phone bills, car payments, and cable packages that seemed to bring some entertainment and smiles to the house. They were the only things that seemed to any more.

As he got home, he saw his wife and went to the closet to take off his coat. Wouldn’t you know it? His shirt also had a stain from a company ink pen! Just as with the first man, it was small, but noticeable.

Just as he saw it, his wife came around the corner. As you would expect, her eye went straight to the stain. Her face dropped and she said, “Just throw that thing out. It’s not worth the effort.”

Moral

Every husband or wife, just like the shirts, has stains. We will notice the stains, because that is human nature. The only question for each husband and wife to ask is, Am I willing to do all I can to help and work through the stains, or will I take the “easy” way out and throw my marriage away?

The choice is yours. Your marriage is essential, but are you treating it as dispensable?

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Background photo credit: Robert Sheie on Creative Commons

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Playoffs vs. Piety: Where Is Your Mind During Worship?

I love sports. If you know me at all, you know that college basketball is my favorite, and I follow it quite closely. Time (or maybe maturity) has a way of causing me to not follow it as closely as I used to, but I still enjoy it. Over the past couple of years or so, I have enjoyed the NFL more and more, and other sports are fun to follow, too.

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It is just a couple of weeks until the annual time for the jokes and questions about Sunday night services on Super Bowl Sunday. Probably every preacher gets asked about shortening the sermon on that night. Thankfully, I have been asked by people who I knew were kidding, but for some, the question is serious.

Then I came across this video. Please watch it before continuing to read. It’s scarcely over a minute long.

(Trouble viewing? Click here to watch on YouTube.)

Without getting into all the denominational stuff of the video, I want to say this: as a religious person, I am ashamed of this video.

Does this man really think that this was good for religion? In whatever faith he belongs to, the pastor wears robes that set him apart as a type of religious leader. Of course, I do not agree with that practice, but what does it say when “the man of the cloth” is ready to watch a football game instead of helping the worshipers…oh, I don’t know…worship?

But I want to make this personal. As I said in the opening paragraph of today’s post, I love sports. It is playoff time in the NFL, and we are just a few weeks away from March Madness. Maybe you don’t care about these sports, but it’s your own child’s softball team or your local college football playoff.

Maybe you don’t like sports at all, but you love sales at the local mall, or there’s a TV show on Sunday nights that you just “can’t miss.”

Where is your mind when you are assembled for worship? Is it asking the question, “How long until we get out of here?”

I heard a parody of the hymn “Trust and Obey” one time that would be funnier if it weren’t really the mindset of a lot of people gathered in worship.

Rush and hurry,

For there’s no other way

To get out of church early,

Than to rush and hurry.

Think of the discussions that often happen at lunch on Sunday. They are about “how long” the prayers went, or how the song leader led all the verses of every song. “The preacher seemed to go a little long today.”

Now, there is a sense in which we need to be efficient in worship. I’m not advocating a longer worship service just to prove a point.

But I am asking us all to think about where our mind is at during the time we are worshiping God. Is it on the playoffs, or is it on piety?

Quit watching the clock and focus on the Creator.

Stop thinking about lunch, and consider the Lord.

Don’t dwell on sports, meditate on the Savior.

And get your mind off that power nap, and put it on the Powerful God of the universe.

Your team may win, or your team may lose, but what really matters is if your mind is focused on the Army of God, in which you are a soldier. Where is your mind during worship?

QUESTION: How do you focus your mind during worship? Share suggestions or stories in the comments!

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“Fit for the Pulpit”

Some months ago, I received a message asking if I would consider writing a chapter for an upcoming book for preachers. It was one of those emails that is both an honor and extremely humbling at the same time. After some thought and prayer, I agreed, and I am so thankful I did.

The finished product is now available, and, having gotten to read it already, I commend this resource to you. The book is called Fit for the Pulpit, and the basic idea behind this volume is that it provides some “ministering for the minister.” Chris McCurley, who preaches for the Oldham Land Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas selected the topics and speakers, and also wrote the introduction and final chapters of the book. Michael Whitworth, who runs Start2Finish books, served as the editor, and Start2Finish published the volume in both paperback and digital (Kindle and iBooks) formats.

The list of those contributed chapters to the book is wonderful. The writers are Chris McCurley, Neal Pollard, Jacob Hawk, Jay Lockhart, Jeff Jenkins, Dale Jenkins, Kirk Brothers, Michael Whitworth, Steve Higginbotham, and myself. Subjects covered in the nearly 150-page book include “The Preacher and His Finances,” “The Preacher and Discouragement,” and “The Preacher and Laziness.” I was honored to write a chapter called “The Preacher and His Family,” which proved to be a soul-searching exercise.

Though the book is obviously aimed at preachers, I think that others would love this book as well. It truly gives some insight into the thinking and relationships of a preacher that others might be interested in learning. Though, as the saying goes, no one knows the mind of a preacher better than a preacher, a book like this one can give some good insight to others who are interested in better understanding those who strive to preach the Gospel for a living.

Since release, I have seen several reviews of the book. My favorite comes from brother Wes McAdams, who wrote these words:

Make no mistake, this is no light, fluffy, feel-good book about ministry. This book is like being in a locker room at halftime, having several star players grab you by the shoulder pads, and explain to you—in no uncertain terms—what you need to work on when you get back on the field! You’ll put this book down, saying to yourself, “I can—and will—be a better man of God!”

As I said, this was a project that was an honor to be part of, but it was completely humbling, as well. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this book to give to a preacher, or that you’ll get a copy to learn more about the life of a preacher. You can get a paperback copy from Amazon here, or download it to your Kindle for just $9.99 here.

[Note: This is NOT an affiliate post. I am not making any money off the sale of the books from this post, other than a tiny percentage from Amazon for "click-throughs." I simply wanted to let my readers know about this exciting new resource, and I hope you'll pick up a copy to enjoy.]

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Lebanon Road in 2014: The New Bulletin Design

With the transition to four ministers, we thought it would be a good time to redesign our bulletin, as well. We do not change it often, as we’ve kept the previous design for over 4 years. And this was not a major overhaul. We mostly changed the fonts and laid the front page out a little differently. Even these small changes, we think, make the bulletin attractive and useful.

Here’s the finished product. Let us know what you think!

Lebanon Road Bulletin 2014

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Lebanon Road in 2014: Meet Andrew Pate

[NOTE: This week on the blog, we are sharing with you 5 posts about how Lebanon Road is starting 2014. We are excited about what this year holds, and we hope these articles encourage you.]

In our fourth installment this week, we want to introduce you to our new Youth Minister. Andrew Pate worked with us at Lebanon Road this summer as our youth intern, and we are grateful that he is now back with us full time. He and JD will be working together closely for the first few months, which will be a great asset to both Andrew and the youth program.

Andrew was kind enough to sit down with me for a few moments so you could get to know him. Enjoy the interview!

(Trouble viewing? Click here to watch on YouTube.)

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2014 at Lebanon Road: What is a Minister of Growth and Education?

[NOTE: This week on the blog, we are sharing with you 5 posts about how Lebanon Road is starting 2014. We are excited about what this year holds, and we hope these articles encourage you.]

As we mentioned some time ago on the blog, Lebanon Road decided to hire a fourth minister. (We’ll have more about that later in the week.) We are so thankful that JD Buckner is still with us at Lebanon Road, but he is transitioning from being our Youth Minister to being our Minister of Growth and Education.

What does that mean? JD took some time to sit down with me and give this short description. We hope you enjoy it!

(Trouble viewing? Click here to watch on YouTube.)

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Lebanon Road’s Four Goals for 2014

[NOTE: This week on the blog, we are sharing with you 5 posts about how Lebanon Road is starting 2014. We are excited about what this year holds, and we hope these articles encourage you.]

Like other congregations, Lebanon Road puts forward goals for each year. For 2014, however, the decision was made to reorganize the way we approach our goals for the year.

In past years, we would have 10-15 goals, covering a wide array of “church life.” Goals might include possible attendance numbers, emphasis on community involvement, changes to the physical facilities, or interest in a mission point.

In 2014, we still have very similar ideals, but we wanted to narrow down the goals to a much smaller number. We ended up with just four goals, under which we have set some ideas we want to emphasize. To re-enforce the goals, we made them into a small chart, and even passed out business cards to every person last Sunday with the chart on it.

Here is what they look like:

2014 goals circle

The idea for a circle is, in some ways, the most important part of our goals, because we want to emphasize that all of these goals actually work together and never end. As you can see, almost any specific thing we might want to emphasize fits well under these four, but it keeps us from trying to remember 10, 12, 14, or more items. Instead, we can all memorize four things, and always have them on our minds and in our prayers.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on having such a simple series of goals for a congregation? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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