Questions of Faith Podcast

If you’re curious about something in the faith-realm and would like to ask a pastor (but maybe have been afraid to some reason), please shoot me a question in this anonymous Google Form. In the next week or so I’m hoping to begin answering questions in a short form podcast. Your questions and help are appreciated. Thanks!

https://forms.gle/t8c1XSiJo94gS4389

Positive Intent and Peace Amongst Voters

Today is the first day for two early voting sites in Grant County, IN (courthouse and Westview Wesleyan Church in Jonesboro).

Please remember as you go vote, those who vote differently than you are not your enemy. In fact, those who are there voting are American which means we’re in this together. Diversity of thought is helpful for making sure we’re pursuing the best of ideas and ideals. We need to make a practice of assuming positive intent of others, acknowledging that we may be wrong in our own assumptions/thoughts, and that it’s better to help than tear down. And all of this is just being a decent citizen.

I happen to add faith in Jesus Christ and religious thoughts to this which compel me to treat all others with love, regardless of their mindset, thoughts, words, or deeds.

Ultimately, no matter who wins in a couple weeks – it will not be the end of the country or world and nor will the elected be the fixer or savior. It will just mean another talking head walking the balance of public service and personal enrichment while we average citizens are still left to make the best of our lives.

Let’s band together here and now, if not over politics then over simply helping each other through this thing called life. It’s hard enough without the simmering anger that seems to have set our society under siege.

Our enemies are not our neighbors

I have been asked to occasionally share a perspective or opinion piece on our local Channel 27 – WMTV news page. It is a privilege to be asked and an honor to actually be published! This post originally appeared on their website:

The Declaration of Independence openly states that all people are created equal and “endowed by their Creator” with inalienable rights.

The Founding Fathers were not foolish enough to specify which deity or creator was responsible for this. It was enough to pronounce that there was something bigger than each of us that had a hand in enabling and empowering us with these rights. The idea is that in our great melting pot of a nation, no matter which faith you subscribe to, we are all equally beneficial to and benefiting from each other through this Declaration and its subsequent nation.

From the outset of this pandemic, we have been quick to affirm, “We are all in this together,” while also nearly immediately devolving into camps of maskers vs non-maskers. This is only a microcosm of a far bigger problem that has been growing worse for decades through past elections, national tragedies, housing, and economic crises, and more, and only exacerbated by the rise of social media (check out “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix). Tribalism, loyalty to one’s own group, has been increasing as a sense of unity and diplomacy has been degenerating. The problem with this is that we were founded on some idea of a God-given unity.

I happen to be a Christian and love the Bible as a holy text. One of the key ideas in Christianity is to take seriously Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Rather than ignoring the wounded person on the side of the road for any reason, each person is implored to help to a generous extent those who are less fortunate than us. We are to love our neighbor. What I find fascinating is that in multiple places in each of the Hebrew Scriptures (Leviticus 19:18 and more), in the New Testament (Mark 12:31 and more), in the Quran (4:36 and more), and also in religious texts of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, and more, this verbatim idea is repeated time and again across all of the major world belief systems. Love your neighbor.

Regardless of what and how you believe, this Creator that the founding fathers acknowledged has spoken this same idea across all belief systems. Love your neighbor.

As the election season heats up it lays bare the disparities and differences that have been simmering and coming to a boil for years. It shows up in smaller, aforementioned ways about beliefs on the pandemic, but it shows up in more visceral ways in violent movements at both far ends of the political spectrum. Lest we think we non-violent adherents are any less to blame, though, we must remember that not all wounds are physical. As we divide ourselves along Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green party members or as well-intentioned non-party members, we must remember none of these things truly divide us unless we let them. We are Americans – all of us. In religion, politics, beliefs about science and research, and more – love your neighbor.

Because we are united under a Declaration of Independence, under this concept of inalienable rights by a Creator, and because loving one’s neighbor seems to be a universal truth across all belief systems, we are together and must be willing to fight for each other rather than against. We must help each other through this season and these struggles and see past such trivial, tribal divisions because we are ALL Americans and neighbors. Each of us are neighbors in this community, state, and nation. Our neighbors are not our enemies.

Voting: Choice for Life

As election season is nearing its fever pitch many of my Evangelical and Christian friends are reaching out and asking for voting advice while those who don’t find me a friend want to be sure I toe a party line. Let me be clear:

God has no political party. There are plenty of very fine people on both sides of the aisle who claim faith in God and plenty who don’t. But God is above and beyond things like political parties, neither of whom reflect healthy Christianity. But God transcends American politics anyways – His Church, the Body of Christ, is a global enterprise with people from all different tribes and tongues. It’s not that God doesn’t care for American politics, it’s that God cares equally for all His children and the places they find themselves in. Frankly, we’re not that special.

BUT some will try to tell you, dear Christian, that you MUST vote one way or another to please God. This is a lie. You have choices.

The Christian has vast choice in the voting booth. Some would like to suggest that one issue is more valuable to God or a Christian ethic so we must care more for that. I will say abortion is a tragedy with so many lives lost. Using the rubric of single-issue voting but being people with a wide Scriptural basis for ethics and values, it is a false assumption to say that God cares for just one issue above another AND even more presumptive that we could figure out precisely what God wants. But if we cared for all the ethics laid out in the Bible, even if we just focused on candidates who actually upheld the 10 Commandments, we should not vote for people who break each of these things, because each of them have worthy merit. They share equal weight in God’s eyes until and unless we arbitrarily decide which ones matter less… which is shaky ground.

So an appropriate Christian voting ethic should probably take a note out of our Anabaptist brothers and sisters’ book: not voting is more Christian because the Christian is then not complicit in what the elected officials do with our votes.

But if the Christian must vote, then we must have the maturity to apply a uniform and consistent standard of requirement to all candidates employing all Biblical ethics. Or we should at least acknowledge our bias and judgments in endorsing certain sins over others as we do vote, though all have eternal value.

If the vote is so powerful, then there is vast choice in the voting booth, and that shouldn’t be interfered with by Russian propaganda, malfeasance by officials, or guilt trips from supposed officials.”

Disunity is devilish

We have so many Biblical commands to unity that Christians must be bridge-builders. Politics? Denominations? Sacramental practices? Family styles? Handling money? Attempt to understand or at least agree to disagree, because if we believe and live with Jesus Christ as our Head then we have far more in common than apart. Unity requires intentional effort, and it is not simply being like each other – it is saying that although we do some things differently we can pursue common goals and efforts and life because we share in something as essential as being made in God’s image.


Any sort of intentional division (in the Church) is of the spirit of anti-Christ. Let’s be better than that and set positive examples in our culture rather than getting caught up in the worst stereotypes.

For more on this topic, check my most recent message here.

Unity – 9/20/20 – Year A Proper 20

UNITY (with God, in the Church, and out in the world) sermon
as part of (not What but) WHO IS THE CHURCH? series.

Looking for some spiritual encouragement and a challenge through Biblical teaching? Beginning at 36:37 is my sermon on UNITY as part of our “Who is the Church?” series at Level 13. It runs just over 30 minutes with some prayer thrown in. However, if you’ve got a little longer the praise music is most excellent here, so give the whole thing a listen if you can.

Used Matthew 20:1-16 and Jonah 4:2. Our series is based on Acts 2:42-47.

As always, if there are any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. May this benedictory passage stay with you through the week:

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:27-30‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Go with GOD,
Pastor Jeff

#RBG

Good bye, Justice Ginsburg. Your life of service and example of morality guiding actions will stick with me. Thank your for helping guide us for so long.

May we all take a moment to humanize and grieve her rather than look to any political implications/plans before she’s had the decency of a burial.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died at 87

No more outrage

Dear #Christian,
Please stop with the outrage. The only time Jesus flipped tables was when the religious elite preyed upon the pilgrims by charging exorbitant rates for money changing and purchasing sacrificial animals at the end of their pilgrimage. I’ve lived through the Satanic Panic, the boycotts of so many things, the burning of Harry Potter books in church parking lots, the purity culture while teen pregnancy and STDs rose…
Stop the outrage, I beg you. This will not save us or help our cause. Jesus Christ modeled love, forgiveness, and serving the less fortunate while teaching hard truths like forgiveness for enemies and praying for those who persecute us.
There is no room for outrage in Christian faith, especially if we take Scripture at face value and God is big enough to bring justice. In the meantime, we forgive, love, and serve.
These actions will reach much farther and help far more people than our outrage.
They’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Go with GOD,
Pastor Jeff

Vice and Blasphemy

I believe in the Triune God – the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and Holy Spirit – one God in three persons, Co-equal in majesty, Co-eternal in destiny, Co-operative in unity.
This is the root of my faith, and from this flows all belief and action accordingly. The “prime directives” by Christ are (simplified) to love God, love neighbor and make disciples of this faith. However, there are numerous references to emulating Jesus and obeying God’s will in perfection (an impossible task, but for the gracious help of the Spirit!). To speak falsely of God or not live up to the Holy expectations Jesus exemplified is blasphemy.

Of course this isn’t just experientially known; God has chosen in part to reveal Godself to us in the scriptures of the Holy Bible. The closed canon (approved make-up and selection) of our Bible has been agreed upon for multiple centuries, and far be it from any person to take, add, reduce, remove, or even re-write Scripture. To do so is blasphemy.

I spoke to this idea with the President’s stunt with the Bible in front of the church. However the problem is apparently spreading to his staff. Our Vice President, a professed Christian who knows better, twisted and replaced Scripture on national TV last night, replacing the name of Jesus with mere nostalgic symbols of Americana. The goal of the “freedom” passage clipped at the end has nothing to do with any concepts of any sort of American freedom or the usual attachment of images like eagles and aviators and guns. This passage is actually speaking about how believing in Jesus has freed us to “see and reflect the glory of the Lord” and be made into His image. Far be it from us to EVER trade such a glorious freedom to be released from our nature of hopelessness and sin into love, peace, and joy for something so base as “winning”. In the Kingdom of Heaven the first shall be last – winning is not actually desirable. It is only persevering to the end that God desires.

With the gross removal of the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the misappropriation of the patently obvious, true meaning of the quoted verses, our Vice President has blasphemed the name of our God in the pursuit of popularity and votes.

Friends, voting is a right of our country, should you choose to exercise it. Vote for who you will. I am a minister of the Gospel – dictating or recommending who should/shouldn’t receive your votes is something I will never do.
But however you decide to vote, know full well what you’re supporting with your vote. On the one hand you might vote for those who support abortion, sharing wealth around for medical coverage and food, and more immigration, among other things. Sure. On the other hand you might vote for blasphemy, dishonesty, and continuing to separate children at the border, among other things. Sure.
But there is no turning a blind eye. God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7). And God will judge us as voters and a country for the leaders we elect and the harm they cause, physically, socially, and spiritually.

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬ https://www.bible.com/bible/116/2co.3.18.nlt
“Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬ https://www.bible.com/bible/116/2co.4.1-2.nlt

Viral image, original source unknown

Truth to Power: Sacrilege and Heresy

There are many immoral things we must tolerate as “foreigners and exiles” who must submit to every human authority (1 Peter 2:13). The governments of the world continue to prize money over people, plundering the earth over caring for it, and craving power over well-being. We both pursue the righting of these wrongs and also must follow the laws of the lands we’re in. This is a sad form of tolerance.

However, as Christians we must NEVER tolerate sacrilege and heresy.

This evening, President Trump wanted to recognize a national landmark that was damaged last night. This is ok. In order to do so he forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the area with violence and chemicals (not ok) in order to walk to a church, the pastors of which had just been chased off with teargas (not ok, source:https://www.facebook.com/gini.gerbasi/posts/10157575422089624?hc_location=ufi), without reaching out to the church pastor (not ok) to take a photo op with a Bible (not ok) without praying, offering words of comfort and leadership, or helping the people he serves (not ok).

To use a church and the holy Christian Bible as props in a campaign of propaganda for personal adulation or gain is sacrilege and heresy. God will not be mocked or taken advantage of or used as a prop (idolatry).

Especially in a time when our world needs healing, reconciliation, leadership, and a reliance upon God, this is especially disgusting, and no Christian can be in support of this action. It’s a plot to rile a base and secure votes the night before an election, and we must see through the ruse to note the disgust of it all.

A godly leader must actually reflect godliness and Biblical character if they are going to claim Christian faith. Anyone who claims faith and doesn’t act godly is a charlatan, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And so is our President. That cannot be tolerated.

“11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”” – 1 Peter 2:11-17, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+2&version=NIV

Here is Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement on the matter.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement on President Donald Trump’s use of St. John’s, Holy Bible

P.S. Additional Biblical resources for the pastoral call to speak truth/judge:

We are not to judge outsiders who are not part of the Church. But the Bible says that if we claim Christian faith we must live out Godly actions (Matthew 7, 1 John, Gal 5, etc).

The President has claimed Christian faith multiple times since running for President, therefore we should expect Christian actions from him. Within the Church while trying to keep every Christian holy and obedient to God, we actually are to judge other Christians in accordance with good fruit (John 7, 1 Corinthians 5, Romans 15, Matthew 18).

And finally, as a pastor part of my job is rebuking Christians for sin that they may receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction to come back to God (1 Tim 5, 2 Tim 4, Titus 2).

There’s also a difference between judging (which is damning to hell) and exhorting to holiness (calling out sin in the Christian).
In general we should not judge. But there is much Biblical evidence for keeping Christians on the straight and narrow. I’m not judging, I’m expecting Godly fruit out of one who has claimed faith.

But this particular fruit is rotten. I’ve said little to nothing against his many indiscretions (don’t judge, expect a new Christian to still make mistakes).
Using a Bible and a church site for one’s own personal gain/adulation while harming others is absolutely unchristian behavior, and I will call that out every time. It’s literally my job as a pastor.

Prayer as devotion

Or works of mercy working in relationship with works of piety.

If you need a little quiet mental space today (I call this prayer), here are some Scriptural tips to help that happen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYHCVKbAS_I&t=5s