I’ve never really been a fan of religious verbiage. I especially hate it when people call me Pastor Steve. God doesn’t call me that. But the problem with the word pastor, in the English language, is that it means just about everything. Thus it sometimes doesn’t really mean anything. Anything specific that is. The problem with me is that I tried to do and to be everything associated with the word and it just about killed me. But maybe, in truth, the real problem belongs to all of us who call on the name of Christ.
Sometimes Boris would drive me nuts. I mean really drive me nuts. Ok, sometimes I suppose he just ticked me off if we’re being honest here. I remember well the afternoons that Boris would come into our office at the college we rented from in Moscow, Russia. We’d play chess and discuss everything from politics, to Christianity, to philosophy. I liked playing chess with Boris because he was just about the only Russian over the age of 12 that I could actually beat. The reason Boris pushed me to the edge sometimes was because he clearly had little interest in discussion for discovery, but rather just for the sake of being argumentative. Boris longed for the Communist to retake the government in the national elections of 96. Boris quoted Paul McCartney with as much reverence as the apostle Paul. Boris referred to both Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon with equal admiration while joking about Jesus. Boris would deny the credibility of the Bible while all the time never acknowledging the proofs I’d give for its inerrancy. Boris just liked to argue and I suppose that’s probably normal for a young man in his late teens and early 20s. I’m sure I’ve got my own history of annoying folks with my arguments as well. So if you’re out there Boris, please know that I really do love you and miss you.
One of the criticisms of Christianity that Boris would level at me periodically was the supposition that Christianity was simply not practical. “It didn’t do much,” he’d say. Maybe he was contrasting me to the Bolsheviks of old or something. But for whatever reason he had that idea, I tried to illustrate to him that Christianity is anything but impractical.
Are you ready for 2018? I sure am. One funny note about this next year is that it is the 30th anniversary of my High School graduation. Wow, I could not have imagined 30 years ago what the world, and my world, would have looked like today. Time sure does fly. How can we move into 2018 with more purpose? We certainly need to celebrate the glory from 2017. One big victory for me is the accomplishment of purposely setting my heart to writing the book, Confessions of a Preacher, and completing it. The book is now in the hands of a literary agent who is presenting it to publishers this week.
Were there down sides to 2017? There sure were. But with those, the best advice is to simply admit the bad and then bury it. Maybe it’s a mistake or blatant sin on our part. If so, then we need to own it, confess it, and then receive God’s grace on the matter. If the bad was a wrong done to us, then we also need to call it what it was. While doing so, we need to accept God’s healing and at the same time release ourselves from bitterness toward that person or situation. Failing to forgive and release will drag us down in years to come.
This past summer I was talking with one of my older friends from my hometown. In our conversation I discovered that she knew my 9th grade English teacher, Dan Johnson. My friend, Emadene, had taught school with Mr. Johnson’s wife and had nothing but good to say about the man. Likewise, when I think back to the year that I was in his class I have plenty of encouraging memories of my teacher. That year was truly an illustration of God moving in ways we don’t understand? Mr. Johnson was indeed a providential piece of the total equation for the man I am today.
Just over three weeks ago I launched a short Facebook Live program called Mid-Week with Steve. That’s the title of the program right now anyway. There were a number of reasons for the inaugural launch but a huge one was simply my desire to continue on with something similar to Sunday Night Discussions that Robert Tippet and I ran for a couple of years. At heart, the SND live webcasts were born out of the desire to answer hard questions about God and life.
After two years it was clear that because of life logistics, SND had simply run its adventurous course. It was a productive and fun program. In fact, we still have people viewing the playbacks of the shows today. However, we simply were not able to run SND any longer. The desire to address those big questions though was still in my heart.
So in the original spirit of SND, Mid-Week with Steve was launched. The plan is to do this live event every Wednesday at noon on my FB page. If you have not yet taken in one of the live shows, I’ve embedded the most resent one below. The program format is evolving but the time frame will probably continue to be around five minutes or so. Here is where you come in. I’d like your input. Will you give an answer to the following questions below? You can answer here, email me, or respond via Messenger or text as well.
Thank you and I look forward to getting your ideas.
- Is there a better name, title, for the show?
- Is there a better time for the show?
- What other suggestions would you have for the show? Topics or other?
The bottom line is that when Deb and I got married, she was a virgin and I was not. One of the modern myths about sex is that it’s just physical and no big deal. I don’t believe this and that is certainly not my journey. The emotions have been all over the place in my adult life. At one point I can experience the true forgiveness and redemption of Jesus with an understanding of grace that people with less checkered lives just can’t understand. On the other hand, there are still residual times when I ache for my choices of sexual activity before marriage. I don’t blame the girl. I know it was my decision and it pains me. If there was anything that I could take back, it would be those pre-marital sexual actions that I took during the dark ages on my high school years and young adult life. But I can’t.
I’m not a country western fan. In fact, I like to tell people that God created music and then Satan made an attempt at it which resulted in country-western. Really, there are so many different genres of music that I enjoy from classical to Christian hard rock. Head banger music is what our church admin assistant calls it. I’ve picked up a love for Irish, Scottish, and English folks music of late and sometimes old traditional Russian music will find its way to my Pandora stations. A seasoning amount of classic rock is threaded through my week as well. But I just can’t make the switch to country-western. Ok, maybe some John Denver once in a while. But that’s probably a bit more folk than western. No, country music and I just don’t do business with each other.
My wife however grew up on the country twang. Many of those songs bring fond memories to her and set her at ease. I don’t naturally like country, but she does. Thus the question of what do we listen to over the car radio.
This afternoon I’m at my home office computer watching the live stream Memorial service for one of the men who encouraged me in ministry. His name is Roy Wheeler and he served in Amarillo, Texas for over 40 years as the Senior Minister for Hillside Christian Church. (Known as Paramount Terrace Christian Church when I was growing up) My first two suits came from Roy and those are a necessity, at least back then, for being a preacher. Roy came up to Joplin, Missouri in April of 1994 to hear my senior sermon and participate in my ordination service for full-time Christian ministry. Later on that day Roy said he was so impressed with my sermon that he wanted me to come back to Paramount Terrace and preach it for all three Sunday morning services before Debi and I left for Moscow, Russia as missionaries.
I wanted to make the memorial service today but with all the Hurricane relief that our Houston area church is engaged in, I just couldn’t make it happen. I’m sure that among all the people who were in attendance, there will be a number of men, like me, who owe part of their journey in Christian ministry to Roy. While it was Jesus who truly called me to this task, it was Roy and men like him who confirmed it. For that I am ever grateful.
This afternoon is indeed one of those times in the race of our lives when we do stop and think about those who have been a positive influence on us. For me, I’d say that the “A Team” list of older mentors in my life, who have encouraged me in ministry, would be Eric Wolfram, Max Goins, Mark Scott, Fred Masteller, Dennis Platt, Bob Gerhardt, and Steve Sigler in addition to Roy. Maybe for you, today can also be a time to remember, thank Jesus for, and possibly reach out to those who have encouraged you.
Likewise, as we live in such a negative culture today, the positive power of the tongue is such a rarity. I often ask myself whom I might encourage like these men have done to me. What about you? The reality is that all of us will be at center stage of a funeral or memorial service someday. At that time, who will be stopping and thanking Jesus for allowing you to be a positive influence in their lives?
It had been a long day as Deb and I were dropping off our girls for youth group. We try to grab date nights whenever we can. When you’ve been married for just over 26 years even fast food has a romantic ring to it. So with a coupon that Deb was graced with from one of her students, we headed to Chick Fil A with the anticipation of not having to clean a kitchen and enjoy some time without teen drama. The problem was that the line was taking forever and the day was just getting longer.
I wanted to bolt, but Deb was much more patient. To encourage me she suggested a bet; which is something she hardly ever does. In her confidence, she offered a bet that if we were not through the line in 10 minutes she’d wear a corset that night.
What? A preacher talking about the intimate details in marriage? Well why not? Actually the Bible does speak about the subject in quite wonderful ways. The unfortunate deal is that our present Western culture has allowed Hollywood to highjack the subject. Yes, God really did create sex and preachers really do engage in it. So today and later in a second installment I’ll share 5 quick points on the subject that just might help us restore a truly Kingdom mind set about sex.