Finding the Common Ground

It is plainly evident that our country is not headed towards, but already engaged in Culture War. Many will use the words “Liberal vs. Conservative” or “Tolerant vs. Intolerant” and even “Loving vs. Hateful”…. But none of these are correct… Not really.

Can we just call it what it is?

Good vs. Evil? No …

Right vs. Wrong? No…

It’s Human vs.Human… Here is why.

With  the onslaught of so-called “Human Rights Issues” at the center of this war, one view or belief opposed to another  are the grounds for battle and words are the weapons of choice (for the time being anyway). One group believes one doctrine or philosophy, while the other believes differently and by and large the conflict, no matter how large an convoluted it has become really boils down to one single point of focus –

Conform to my way or you are  “_____________________”

Agree with me or you are “__________________”

If you believe “_________________” then it means “____________________”

You fill in these blanks with whatever misdefined words you’d like, they all fit – Bigot , Intolerant , Hateful or my personal all time fave is when you take the beginning of any word to indicate behavior of a person and then just add “phobic ” to the end of it to imply that in some way I am terrified of this person or the implications of what accepting this behavior would mean.

(I began to type “childish” next, but I don’t want to insult innocent children.)

Ridiculous. This term is more fitting. It is absolutely ridiculous that we reduce human beings down to a label by using a word  targeted to  affect them and essentially  provoke the reaction. A ridiculous part of that formula is that fact that in almost every case these words are used incorrectly when doing so!

Example – “Bigot”

big·ot
ˈbiɡət/
noun  –   a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions
So, if logic is applied  – wouldn’t a person labeling another this for having a different view or belief than his own also be guilty? 
 
Example – “Intolerant”
in·tol·er·ant
ˌinˈtäl(ə)rənt/
adjective  –   not tolerant of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.
So again, if logic is applied  – wouldn’t a person labeling another this for having a different view or belief than his own also be guilty?
One more..
Example – “_________phobic”
phobic – See phobia
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.
Again, apply logic…. Would one who vehemently names some as phobic not also be guilty of being phobic to the view of the other?
Surely, you see my point.
For every misuse of these misdefined words(and so many others not listed) , we perpetuate war that will ONLY PUSH US FARTHER from the “so-called ” goal that is touted by both sides in this-
UNITY will NEVER be reached.
PEACE will NEVER be attained.
HUMANITY will be LOST and NOT GAINED.
 
You see, we are failing to see the common-ground we all share, and prefer to use it for a battle-ground – We are all human.
Each of us are human and whether you are like me , a believer in God as creator and lover of the creation or a devout Atheist that believes the opposite  – the one thing neither of us can escape is the common ground we both possess – We are BOTH human and both valuable.
The point of this article is not to try to convert you to my beliefs. While that is what I will always do for someone who is searching  , I can also recognize that  many are NOT searching and no matter how much my heart may ache for you, I can not and should not force MY faith on YOU. Doing so negates free will and the very premise on which I act and believe.
However, believing something differently than me doesn’t require me to hate you.
 
No, truthfully  – If I really care like my beliefs teach that I should , hating you would be counter productive.
However  – not approving of your actions is completely acceptable and by fair contrast – also acceptable for you to not approve of mine! The mind-blowing part of it all, is that neither of us has to hate each other for it!
Whoa – what a concept!
The freedom that this country grants us in part is the freedom to believe what we choose. For me  – my standard is the Bible because I believe it is God’s word and therefore, I want to follow it through and through.
You may not.
So rather than label you, provoke you, or malign you  – I will recognize that you are human and prone to error – just as I am and maybe someday, some way – we can meet in the common ground of humanity and have an intelligent conversation about our differences and behave like … Well, HUMANs.
I’ll be praying for us all.2015-06-05-bigot6
Photo credit – Adam4d.com

 

 

 

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Why I don’t preach

I get asked a lot of questions. I do my best to give answers … Appropriate, correct, to the best of my knowledge etc… The truth is, I don’t have ALL of the answers. Yet, the questions will continue to  come, and I will continue  do my best to answer.

I suppose if I could answer one question to the best of my ability and to the best of my knowledge, then I could answer any question the same way , albeit – sometimes that answer would be “I don’t know “.

You see, my job demands me to question everything, to look for the truth in every situation and to examine it to the ultimate standard of truth and then compare and share it as it is proper to.

This often gets me into trouble with people.

It gets me into trouble because many of the societal and cultural push for the acceptance of immorality have inherently a built-in  biblical truth that is completely opposed to it. When the answer is given to the best of my ability and from the standard of truth  I have used to arrive at this conclusion, it is most often not received with the warmest of welcomes. Following quickly behind my answer are responses that are usually sharp and often used as a weapon would be to insult me, deride and berate me and to ultimately hurt me.

Now a new line of questioning begins as a means to divert me away from the original topic and turn the focus on me and my motives. These questions are filled not only with spite and maliciousness, but they are also loaded  with suppositions and assumptions. The problem with  the suppositions and assumptions is that others incorrectly place motives about why I do what I do  , rather than work from an informed opinion or even better – to allow me to answer their question without jumping to conclusions.

“Why do you preach? – to steal people’s money? To spread your hatred for people who aren’t like you? Because you think you’re better than everyone else?

“No” is all I can usually get out before I’m cut off , but in fact there are many reasons, some more important that others, but all are deciding factors  that played out when I considered choosing this  life.

The first thought that comes to mind is “why would I choose a life that will bring me such hatred and uncomfortable moments  such as these if not for an incredibly good reason?  I mean, after all – where is the tolerance FOR me,  that everyone is demanding FROM me?

That being said, It might be easier to tell you why I don’t do what I do.

1. I don’t preach for money.

2.I don’t preach to be self-righteous.

3. I don’t preach because I want to prove others wrong.

4. I don’t preach because I hate anyone.

5. I don’t preach to make you feel bad about yourself.

6. I don’t preach to make you feel good about yourself.

7.I don’t preach pretending that I am a Psychologist.

8. I don’t preach for popularity.

9.I don’t preach for praise.

10. I don’t preach pretending to have all the answers.

il_340x270.735632362_ngu5

I preach because God is real. And just as he is real, so is his love, his grace, and his mercy – and ALL of these things have been extended to ALL people. This is completely visible in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, taking the death that we deserve, so we don’t have to…

It’s just that simple.

Because man chose to sin (Genesis 3) , he separated himself with God because God is Holy and cannot have fellowship with sin.It is completely contrary to everything he is. So  from the before the beginning of time, the part of God that is Jesus said, ” I’ll go, I’ll die, and I’ll make a connection possible again.

Why?

Love… True love. REAL love – not the selfish gratification of our desires we often attribute to love – but sacrificial love  as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

While his love knows no limits – his acceptance, however -DOES. This is probably the primary reason that I preach. I preach to share the love mercy and grace of God through his son, but not so we can continue on in sin – but so we can turn from it in repentance.

2 Corinthians 5:9-11 says “ So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.”

Knowing that the judgment day will come and that it is as real as today is, then knowing the Gospel of Christ and keeping it to myself is not an option. I MUST persuade others as Paul so eloquently states and to not do so will condemn me for being hateful.

Hateful? Yes… IF the Gospel of Christ is in fact  “The power of salvation to all who believe” (Romans 1:16) and to die without it means to be eternally lost – THEN HOW COULD IT NOT BE HATEFUL? 

How much do you have to hate someone, NOT to share the gospel with them?ITs not just the GOOD news – It is the BEST news , and like Jeremiah in Chapter 20 verse 9, he said If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,”there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” 

And I will not…

SO – that’s my answer. That is why I preach. And I fully realize that many men do, in fact, preach for the wrong reasons  – maybe even some of the ones I listed above – but I know many more that do it for the same reason as I do.

So , extend to us a little of that tolerance demanded from us , and maybe not be so quick to judge us as you are shouting “judge not”, no matter how poorly you are misusing  that passage. We are human too, we have families and we have feelings, and BOTH get hurt when we are not extended the same courtesies you expect from us.

We are not your enemy . We actually love you more than you know, but would love an opportunity to share with you the love that someone died to give you.

“I was naked and you clothed me…”

So many understand the Gospel, that is the Good News concerning Jesus the Christ and have been baptized into him. So many do not  understand and have not been. In either case, there is no excuse for people to walk by as a boy shivers in a plastic bag… Ever.

Basic human needs met with simple acts of kindness can have monumental results.

Neglecting those can also have dire consequences.

Which will you choose?

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

hand-reaching-out 

A Letter to the Stoneharts..

This will be brief since we are about to leave for vacation – but it HAD to be shared…

Last year I was approached by a young man named Andrew Gass about coming to stay with us for the summer for a Preacher internship of sorts , and excitedly  – I accepted. I had known Andrew from serving as a counselor at a summer camp that promotes the very college where he and so many other young Christians attend. We had developed a strong friendship and so I was very much looking forward to the time that he would spend with our family. About a week before he 296010_10201410510293115_2000112982_nwas to arrive , I received a message from another young man  named Jon West who I had met briefly  at  Lectures hosted by their college and  had spent a few days with during his spring break. He also expressed his interest in staying with us  , so we welcomed him in also… Needless to say , they brought a very well received charge to our congregation that was for lack of a better term -infectious. Not only that , but an incredible example to my son of what I young man should act and look like -humble , faithful , sincere and strong in their character. They both brought an electricity to our home and needless to say , we were blessed… It has truly been a great summer.

Andrew left a week ago to serve at yet another camp and then head back to college and as my family prepares to head to the beach for a few days , Jon also heads back home to Florida to also prepare for Grad school… This was waiting on me in my inbox –

August 5, 2013 

 

Dear Keith & Kelly, 

 

They say all good things must come to an end, and now such is the case with this summer. It seemed like a strange situation: a young man you knew only slightly coming and living in your house, eating out of your fridge, playing with your kids and tagging along everywhere with you, for nearly three months; and my mom reminded me frequently of this strangeness before I made the drive up. She couldn’t believe that anyone could be so kind, so hospitable, so patient, so loving, but if ever there was a couple who meets these marks, it’s you.  

 

At a time when I needed a break, a getaway from stressors that were weighing me down, a change of scenery to help me refocus, you came to my aid and gave me a place to go. You introduced me to a whole new group of Christians, and so many of your friends have become my friends. You showed me  a city I had hardly been to, and helped me to love it. You fed me, gave me a place to sleep, and invested innumerable assets into ensuring my comfort. Words cannot describe the gratitude I feel, and I could never hope to repay you. All of these things, though, are just a small part of the blessings you’ve given me this summer. 

 

Keith, you showed me a passionate faith, one that shouts the grace of Jesus loud, from the rooftops. You showed me a life that has truly been transformed by Christ, a man who loves his Savior and His God and truly wants to see lost souls saved. You showed me a thankfulness that tears up when we sing about heaven. You showed me a love that is unconditional, that forgives, that acts. The way you work with the kids, whether local or at camp, is incredibly encouraging. Not only has your work helped many of them on their Christian walk, but will continue to help them, and others, in the future. I know this because spending time with you this summer has absolutely helped me to grow closer to God, and to my fellow man, in ways I couldn’t have predicted when I first decided to come up here.  

 

Kelly, you have shown me a wife who loves her husband dearly, one who is impeccably responsible, who cares for her children and husband, house and guests, with skill but more importantly with love. The way you manage the housework with so many people in and out is extraordinary. In you, I see a worthy woman, like Proverbs 31 details, and I know everyone in your house sees what a blessing you are. You have given me an excellent example to consider when I begin to look for a wife. Both of you are doing such an awesome job of raising your kids, too; Kiah and Kole are two of the best kids I know, and I can’t wait to see where the next few years takes them. With your guidance, I know they will do great. 

 

You have a beautiful family, and I am honored to have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of it for this brief window of time. You have given me a home away from home, made me feel welcome in a strange place, and loved me from the minute I walked through the door. Amazing is the only word for it. Although I leave, I will forever carry with me many memories and much joy from my time with you. Thank you for being the people you are, and for showing me true hospitality and the love of Christ. Wherever I may be, I will always be proud to say that I know the Stoneharts. 

 

In Christian love, 

Jonathan West 

Jon  , from all of us  – we love you right back , for all the reasons mentioned above and more. You and Andrew both have meant a great deal to me personally this summer and I cant imagine spending it any other way.. Not only are you my younger brothers in Christ ,but you also are my friends.. You both have a great future ahead of you and with God at the helm – the possibilities are endless. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives!

Agape –

Keith Stonehart

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

 

Lessons From My Son …. “No Enemies”

robins_of_batman_by_vvvviola-d387yglMy son and  I read a lot together.. I think if you are a dad , the second most important thing you can do for your kids is read to them -(I will address the MOST important thing in a later entry here 😉 … There are many reasons for this  ,but mainly , for me – it’s just something he and I get to do.  = Father/son time… You can’t replace the value of the time you give your kids , trust me I know this first hand … There will never be time for “make up time” in the future ,  if you don’t make the  time now. Being a preacher , I get pulled in a lot of different directions at odd hours  – not only do you work all week on sermons ,class lessons and bibles studies with others , but you are also a counselor to those who need it , a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.. Its’ the most demanding job I have ever have  and I love it  –  but I would never trade being “The Best Preacher in the World”  for “Worst Father Ever”… Balance is key and so reading with him is that balance .It does me good ,and it does him good – Therefore if one plus one equals two – it must be GOOD.

One of the things we really enjoy reading is comic books. For the most part we stick to The Batman story lines , especially The Robin story line.. We love that there are 4 of them who have all become heroes in their own right , trained by  the “Best of  the Best” – which also serves as a great metaphor for fathers training their sons to be men . For this reason ,among others ,   I’m convinced ,boys need heroes.  As a growing boy , your imagination plays a primary role  in developing your own identity . It helps shape your ideals and perspectives – to help the weak and stop the evil of the world.. I realize full well , that this is also what the bible teaches so couple that knowledge with the imagination of  a 6-year-old boy ? What you get  then is an unstoppable force  that will grow with him as he grows  , and becomes his character. Heroism or Altruism is what is at the core of every good hero – it’s selflessness personified .. and it flies in the face of all who promote humanism  and the survival of the fittest. If  survival of the fittest were true , there would be NO HEROES… Think about it.

A world with no heroes would be hard to imagine…but what about a world with no enemies?  That’s actually how life is in the beginning – we aren’t born with enemies.. They are something we create over the course of our lives due to our beliefs , our convictions  and what we are willing to fight for.. To you and I ,this makes sense…This is the world we live in because it is the world we have chosen to allow to exist. We have allowed it to exist because  ultimately , we are SELFISH. This might be a little oversimplified but it goes kind of like  -” We want what we want  …and we want you to want it too.. and if you don’t ,then we are enemies” … So how can we know what want is good or not? How can we know if what we want is right or not? How can we know if we are standing up for the right things? ISN’T THERE A STANDARD SOMEWHERE ,WITH THESE THINGS WRITTEN IN IT?… (Maybe you have picked up on my sarcasm?)

But to a 6-year-old boy , the only enemies he worries about are the ones  he battles in the backyard and the ones we read about our comic books. .. The idea of enemies actually being real was completely foreign to my son until recently..

One night  while we preparing dinner , the news had been left on and while I don’t remember the exact topic of discussion , there was an angry mob burning  The American Flag and screaming “Death to America”. Like most things with Kole , he thought about this for a while before saying anything but  that night at comic time  , he brought it up.  “Why do those people hate us Daddy?”… “What people”?… “You know on the T.V”… After a few moments of thought , I finally remembered.  The fact that it took me that long to remember what he was talking about should speak volumes to us all just how numbed we are to much of the evil in this world ,but not Kole..it clearly bothered him.. “Oh , those people”  I responded , “They think we are wrong about a lot of things”  … “What things” he said…  “Like what we believe about God ,the Bible  and Jesus… and the way people act in America “… after a very short pause for thought he asked the $40,000 dollar question.  With total and complete sincerity he asked me –  “Are they RIGHT?”…  A few seconds pass… “No , son , not about everything. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bible is the Word of God , and I believe everything that is said in it. So no we are not wrong about  what we believe about God”… What about the other thing? you know they way people act in America?”… “They may be right on a few of those point son ,but we don’t live like that”…”but why doesn’t everybody else? – would that mean that we would have fewer enemies”… I don’t know all the “why’s” that people have for not living like the bible teaches us to live son , I just know that they have their excuses and for them that’s enough..” “But doesn’t that mean that they are also God’s enemy?”… ” It does” I replied quietly….

He waited for about a minute and then said “Well that’s not very smart… I don’t ever want enemies..especially not God , cause he could blow up your town  , or something!”…. At this point , all I could do was laugh!!!  “Yes indeed son , he could”…

I love my son’s heart.. I love that it bothers him when something isn’t right , and he wants to fix it… That he doesn’t want anyone to be enemies with each other or God..But  , I know  that very desire within him will create enemies in his life . Standing for the right  always will.. Jesus said in John 15:18 “that if the world hates us , it’s because it hated him first”… I hope these words will comfort my son as he grows into a man…and I hope he will stay true to his roots  – his hero boots – and remember the time of “No Enemies”