Category Archives: Culture

What did you expect?

Expectations come in all shapes and sizes. Expectations can be too high or too low, realistic or unrealistic, and everything in between. Two comics I saw this week illustrated these facts for me.


Calvin has the expectation that he will inherit his dad’s wealth rather than have to earn money the old fashioned way–working for it. Calvin is the embodiment of our sense of entitlement.


Jeremy wanted to fly under the radar and not be noticed. Instead, he made the mistake of doing something responsible and now people expect him to do it all the time.

As a person, a parent, and a pastor, I’ve encountered these two expectations many times over. I’m seen them in my children, our schools, church members and attenders, and in my own heart as well.

Rather than go with the flow and float along with the norms of culture, we need to ask ourselves the question, “How does God want me to live? What are his expectations for my life?” The apostle Paul certainly raised the bar of expectations when he challenged the Christ followers in the city of Ephesus “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).



Moral Dilemmas

How can/should a Christ follower vote in the upcoming presidential election? Here are three recent news articles that make it difficult to support either candidate.

Speak Truth to Trump: Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality, by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today. While the title of the article aims at Donald Trump, the author also points out Hillary Clinton’s pursuit of “unaccountable power through secrecy.”

Dear Beth Moore: Thank You For Calling Out Male Church Leaders On Donald Trump and Sexual Assault, by Jenny Rapson in

A friend posted the above article with this note, “Still… we speak. It pains me that our two presidential candidates actively engaged in the destruction of women by sexual assault. Trump by perpetrating it and Clinton by standing by while she knew it was happening and then covering it up. The sentiments in this article should apply to all people who disregard the conduct of the presidential candidates.”

WikiLeaks Dump: Top Clinton Aides Mock Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity

As Christ followers, we have a very difficult choice. Much to pray about.

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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Politics, Prayer


“Lord, Have Mercy!”

Reading the newspaper headlines over the course of one week leads one to pray two distinct prayers—“Lord, send justice!” and “Lord, have mercy!” Both are desperately needed in today’s world. These twin requests are contained in Daniel’s prayer for Jerusalem in Daniel 9:1-19.

If the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7-13 is the New Testament model for prayer, then Daniel 9:1-19 is the Old Testament model for prayer, so writes one author. I tend to agree with that assessment. I also believe that these verses in Daniel 9 provide a model for how to pray for a city, a state, and a nation. In my case, it gives me ideas how to pray for where I live in the USA, the state of Massachusetts, and Chicopee in the Pioneer Valley.

Verses 1-3 explain what prompted Daniel prayer. He understood the Scriptures and the time in which he lived. Together, they moved him to pray for his hometown, Jerusalem.

As Daniel read the scrolls of Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 25:8-14; 29:10-14), he discovered that the exile was to last 70 years. Comparing today’s date (Daniel 9:1; 538 B. C.) with the date he came to Babylon (Daniel 1:1; 606 B. C.), he realizes he has been in exile for 68 years.

The exile is almost over! But it won’t end until God’s people repent and turn back to God. That realization prompts him to seek God through fasting and prayer.

Daniel’s prayer (Daniel (9:4-19) consisted of three elements—Adoration (4), Confession (5-15), and Petition (16-19).

In his adoration, he praised God for being great and awesome, for being trustworthy, and for demonstrating unconditional love. The more he focused on God’s majesty, the more he was aware of his own shortcomings. This led him to confess his sins.

In his confession, Daniel identified with his people, Israel. Four times (9:5, 8, 11, 15), he said, “we have sinned.” This is significant because Daniel is one of the few people in Scripture of whom no sin is recorded. Yet he says, “WE have sinned.”

He is specific in his confession and names their transgressions. We have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned aside, not listened, not obeyed, transgressed, refused to obey, and not entreated you. He feels so terrible that he is ashamed to admit it (9:7-8). As a result, Jerusalem is a byword, a laughingstock, the punch line for the jokes of all the surrounding nations (9:16).

After confessing the sins of his people, Daniel asks God for mercy. He asks God to turn away his anger (9:16) and to demonstrate grace and mercy (9:17). Rather than convincing God that Israel deserves forgiveness, his argument is based solely on God’s character and Daniel’s concern for Gods’ reputation (9:19).

These principles prompted me to ask, How can I pray for where I live in the USA, in the state of Massachusetts, and in Chicopee in the Pioneer Valley?

1. Acknowledge God’s authority and majesty

2. Confess our sins—the sins of the city/state/nation and the sins of the church. As I thought about this, I put together a chart of sins and how they are seen in our region. (I made the list with a certain of trepidation, knowing that I would offend some/many people. Some will consider me legalistic and judgmental, others will think I’m tolerant and don’t go far enough, and still others will criticize me for sticking my nose in private matters.)



Pride & Arrogance We take pride in our technology, our education, and our financial resources. We are self-sufficient and think we can solve any problem. As a church and Christian community, we take pride in our Bible knowledge and our financial resources, as well as the size of our churches. We too consider ourselves to be self-sufficient and able to solve our problems.
Tolerance We have made tolerance the ultimate virtue. We pride ourselves on accepting any and every lifestyle. We are open minded and do not pass judgment. In an effort to avoid offending anyone or being perceived as judgmental, the church has stopped talking about sin.
Disrespect We distrust authority. We believe we have the right to criticize elected officials. We demand a “voice” in every choice. This distrust of leadership has crept into the church. We won’t follow leaders. We also demand a “voice” in every choice.
Pervert & flaunt sexuality Marriage is not permanent. Divorce rates are climbing. Rape is prevalent. The LBGTQ agenda runs rampant. We promote and accept alternative lifestyles. Our entertainment objectifies women and makes us laugh at what used to be considered private matters. The divorce rate is climbing in the Christian community and is not much better than the secular community. Not wanting to appear judgmental, we accept alternative lifestyles, or at least don’t speak out about them. We take pride in our “open and affirming” atmosphere in church. We laugh just as hard at movies, TV, and theater. We are no longer ashamed of sin.
Ignore the needy When it comes to the homeless, AIDS, education, or other social issues, we would rather throw $$ at issues than get involved. The church takes the attitude of, “Let the government do it.” We are too busy with “church” to get involved.
Self-centered We pursue personal affluence and comfort. My private life is no one else’s business. The church has bought into consumerism. I go where they will meet my needs. Churches divide over personal preferences.
Reject God Massachusetts is high/low on the list of “least churched states” in the nation. Churches have become Bible-based, not Bible teaching. Christians easily become hearers of the Scriptures but not doers. We no longer practice what we preach. Many Christians live as functional atheists.
Laughingstock Over the past decade, our politicians, sexual practices, and political campaigns have become the punch line for late-night comedians. Evangelicals have been labeled as “haters” and “right wing” fanatics. Christians are known more for what they are against rather than what they are for. Truth be told, we are no longer evangelical because we have made sharing the good news of salvation an optional exercise.


This exercise revealed to me that the church is guilty of the same sins as the city/state/nation. Rather than acting smug and “holier than thou,” we need to confess, “WE HAVE SINNED!”

3. Seek forgiveness and revival

Since we live in difficult times, we need to confess our sins and seek God’s mercy.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 9, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.



Of cellphones, churches, and preaching

cell-phone-collectionA family we know in Russia has people leave their cellphones in a basket during meals and small group times. I’m guessing it removes distractions and promotes conversations.

Maybe we should ask people to leave their cellphones at the door of the church. That way, they wouldn’t ring while I am preaching, as they have done weekly for the past 4-6 weeks. Of course, people would need to bring a physical Bible since many use the Bible app on their phone.

This past week, I vented to our staff about cell phones in church and proposed buying a cell phone jammer for the worship services, that is, until I learned they were illegal. Oh well, we’ll just have to remind people to silence their phone before the worship service starts.


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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Church, Culture


Where is America headed?

America at the CrossroadsBook Review: America At The Crossroads: Explosive trends shaping America’s future and what you can do about it, by George Barna

I have often turned to the Barna Organization for insights on trends in culture. They provide snapshots of what our country thinks and does regarding various aspects of life and culture. Barna’s most recent research is now compiled in book form in America At The Crossroads: Explosive trends shaping America’s future and what you can do about it.

The focus of the book is on helping Christ followers realize that “discovering and understanding cultural trends is both an assignment and a gift from God.” Like the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), “the key is not to simply know what is coming but to determine how to most intelligently and strategically respond to emerging circumstances.”

Barna divides his book into four parts. Each part contains several chapters. Each chapter follows a similar format—a Summary of the research, Key Facts which includes charts and bullet points of the findings, and then an Outlook and Interpretation where he explains the significance of details. Part 1 discusses “Faith and Spirituality.” Part 2 looks at “Government and Politics.” Part 3 focuses on “Lifestyles and Perspectives.” Part 4 is on “Standing at the Crossroads” where he lays out an action plan of how we should respond.

The author is candid is admitting that the research does not paint a pretty or uplifting picture. “For those of us who aspire to be Christlike, it is outright embarrassing and heartbreaking.” That being said, Barna believes that our nation can be restored, but only by God.

So, the initial course of action we must take—our emphasis on commitment and wisdom-driven action—must be to ascertain God’s unique vision for us, to understand how that intersects His vision for His people, and to allow the Lord to transform us into the people He made us to be, people who will transform society by loving other people into His presence and ways.

Like all of Barna’s work, the book is insightful and thought provoking. You won’t agree with all of his conclusions, but he will cause you to think.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Books, Culture, Quotes, Scripture


You know you are in the south

After spending a few days in North Carolina, we started the following list.

You know you are in the south when …

  • You hear, “Y’all” a lot—How y’all doin? Have a nice day, y’all.
  • Men wear overalls everywhere.
  • People ride in the back of pickup trucks—road crews, teenagers, adults, children.
  • Billboards advertise for guns and ammo—the 2nd Amendment is alive and well.
  • A hardware store at an outlet mall says it provides “daycare for men.”
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Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Culture, Fun


Another non-apology apology

The exploits of Ryan Lochte have been well chronicled over the past week. Unfortunately, he became more infamous for his behavior out of the pool than famous for his accomplishments in the pool.

In reading his apology, I was more surprised by what he didn’t say than what he did say. He led off by stating,

Lochte apology 1

He apologized for “not being more careful and candid.” He didn’t apologize for vandalizing a service station, lying to cover up his actions, leaving town to avoid facing the consequences, or waiting to come forward until his teammates were able to leave the country.

His apology went on to say,

Lochte apology 2

Lochte didn’t apology for creating the traumatic situation. Instead, he shifted the blame to the security guards for stopping the vandalism and for the station attendant asking him to pay for the damages. He played the victim card and called it a “traumatic” situation “with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.”

He closed his apology by stating,

Lochte apology 3

His last paragraph sounds curiously like, “Stop calling attention to my sins and let’s go back to talking my athletic achievements.”

While he said, “I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons,” it has the feel of when parents caught me doing something wrong and asked, “Are you sorry for what you did or just sorry you got caught?” His apology has the ring of the latter rather than the former.

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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Quotes, Sports