December 17, 2005

A Response from Arlington Assembly of God

On December 6, I posted a letter that Sharone Belt, a deacon candidate at my church, wrote to the Arlington Assembly of God. It was addressed to associate pastor Lynn Carter, and she was kind enough to send a very loving, thoughtful response.

This really struck me as the type of dialog christians should be having with one another regarding homosexuality, or any other topic for that matter. Ms. Carter's note was totally devoid of hate or anything except the love of Jesus. It was very refreshing and a true example of how people act when the love of God dwells inside of them and they don't beat it down with personal agendas.

Dear Sharone,

Thank you so much for your email. I appreciate your heart and am glad you understand that we as a church are attempting to reach out in love, to all people who do not know Him.

I am glad that you felt free to write and that you have such a sweet spirit toward other believers. While I may not agree with all your views, I am thankful for your relationship with Jesus and pray that you will continue to know His love and grace.

I, too, was saved at 6 and filled with the Holy Spirit at 12. Doesn't it make you wonder how people survive without knowing Him? His love and peace are the strength of my life. What a honored to be loved by the Father.

I pray your Christmas will be filled with His light and love.

Lynn Carter
Arlington Assembly of God

December 16, 2005

AFA Vs. Ford, Round 2?

The Ford Motor Company reassessed the direction the wind was blowing this week and reversed the reversal of its policy of advertising in gay publications. I haven't seen this much public waffling since the last time my wife and I visited a Waffle House restaurant.

The American Family Association took credit for Ford's initial reversal and they now say that the automaker reneged on agreements that Ford initially denied making in the first place. As a result, they are again considering a boycott of Ford.

On the AFA's website, they claim a membership of over 3 milion people and proclaim themselves as "America's Largest Pro-Family Action Site." They have taken on a laundry list of issues they feel threatens the american family, including "The Homosexual Agenda." Any orgainzation of their size has some clout, and they are not shy about trying to use it.

I am a big believer in the family, having grown up in one myself. A chrsitian based organization devoted to helping families can be a wonderful benefit to people in need and our nation's society overall. Think of how much good they could do! Helping feed hungry children, lobbying for better education in low-income areas, working against domestic violence, helping provide alternatives to abortion; the list of areas whare a group like this could help in is a long one.

To be fair, the AFA is involved in many of these types of activites and had helped a lot of people.

So why in the world are they taking up their time and resources worrying about what publications automobile advertising is printed in? When you compare that issue to the ones I listed above and others related to them, the car ads seem quite lame to me.

My issue here is not about the merits of Ford's actions. It is about prioritizing. Jesus demonstrated the importance of that during his ministry on earth. He knew a critical resource, time, was very limited so he did not let himself get distracted with activities that drew him away from the mission God sent him to do.

Jesus could have healed every sick person in the world if that was what God had wanted him to do, and it would be hard to find fault if his ministry had taken that direction. He did perform some healing and miracles, but only enough to support his top priority-saving mankind. He did not fall into the trap summed up by the old cliche "not seeing the forest for the trees." Jesus ministered to individuals, but he never lost sight of the big picture and allowed himself to be dragged into issues that, while important, paled in comparision to the reason he was sent to earth-to save mankind.

I have certainly had many occassions in my life when I allowed myself to get preoccupied with the trees and lost my focus on the overall forest. It seems that is what the AFA and organizations like it are doing when they get caught up in debates like the one with Ford's advertising. There are a LOT of bigger fish to fry and people to help.

The devil can indeed lurk in the details and use them to neutralize good intentions, even those of three million people. Let's all use this example as a reminder to keep our focus on doing the truly important work God put us on earth to do, just like Jesus did.

December 14, 2005


Many of us are obsessing about gifts as we approach Christmas. After all, isn't that what the holiday is all about? It's easy to think that way if you allow yourself to cave in under the avalanche of advertising in every form of media this time of year.

It can be very difficult to keep anything in perspective at this time of year with the pressure of preparing the holiday for children, fighting the hordes of shoppers at the mall, working toward the end of a semester at school, or being crushed by the pressure of year-end requirements at work. Here's some help.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

Especially at this time of the year, it is important (and often more difficult) to remember why we are exchanging gifts and gathering with our families. Christmas is all about giving, but remember the greatest gift of all was Jesus. God gave him to mankind to provide a path to salvation, to bless mankind with the gift of eternal life if we accepted him as our Lord and Savior. He didn't have to do that--he wanted to.

As He has in every aspect or our lives, God has provided an example for how we should give, as Paul wrote about in the above scripture. This applies to the gifts we give to each other, to be sure, but it goes well beyond that.

As we are preparing to stack gifts beneath our Christmas tree, we need to remember those less fortunate. What have we done for them? Do we have excess we could have shared with them? Is there one gift we purchased we could have done without and given those funds to a group or individual who NEEDED it?

Even more importantly, have we given what we can to God? Have we invested in electronic gadgets, jewelry, and toys and not given the Lord a part of our wealth? If we have given back, did we make a big production presenting our donation or did we quietly slip it in the collection plate or in the mail? Did we do it for His glory, or for ours?

When were're stuck in traffic driving to the mall or standing in line at a store, let's take a moment to think about that. By addressing the distribution of our funds, we can find our where our hearts are and where they need to be.

December 12, 2005

Keeping the True Spirit of Christmas

Several "fundamentalist" orgainzations, including "fair and balanced if you're conservative" Fox News and a group led by Jerry Fallwell, are pushing retailers to use the word Christmas and to prevent local governments from prohibiting manger displays.

John Gibson, one of Fox News' hosts, even wrote a book titled "The War on Christmas". Boy, that group sure doesn't shy away from a war of any type, do they? Falwell's latest organization, "Friend or Foe Christmas Organization," is raising money to pay lawyers to save Christmas. Is it just me or does that sentence seem like an oxymoron? In this article. Falwell says, "There's been a concerted effort to steal Christmas, to deny little children their right to sing Silent Night and Joy to the World."

I'm not going to address this by taking the obvious routes of railing against the commercialization of the holiday or the separation of church and state. Something more, dare I say, fundamental, strikes me about all this hubub.

I reread the most detailed biblical description of the birth of Christ, in the second chapter of Luke. There was no ceremony regarding the birth of our Lord and Savior. He was essentially born in a barn, and angels led the wise men to him to worhsip privately.

That's one thing we so often forget about Jesus. He came into the world with no fanfare, and left it in the same way. We are not obligated to buy expensive gifts and decorate a large tree to celebrate his birth. We only need to acknowledge in our hearts how this was a critical part of God's plan of redemption for mankind.

When we go shopping, who cares if we are greeted with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hollidays?" If I want to go somewhere to see religious displays, I generally go to church, not a courthouse or city hall. We all need to be a lot more concerned about what is in people's hearts, not what fancy display they construct or what store they shop at.

Do you think Jesus really cares about all of this? If he did, he probably would have been born in a five-star hotel and not a barn.