Monday, January 28, 2013

My Trip to Las Vegas, Part 3: Women as a Commodity

The hardest part of travel for me is being away from my girls.  While I was excited to see some friends from the other end of the country and to take a look at all kinds of outdoor and survival gear, even before I went to bed the first night in my hotel, I was already looking forward to seeing Jenny and Stella again.

One thing that made it even more challenging to be away from Jenny and Stella was the way women are treated in Las Vegas.  When you walk down the streets, you see what look like newspaper boxes, but in reality they are stacks upon stacks of small magazines offering you the woman of your choice.  As you stroll to the convention center, men and women stand on the sidewalks offering you business-sized cards telling you how to have women delivered directly to your home or hotel room.  Small pick-up trucks drive by with photos on scantily-clad women on them - again advertising young women as" available".

It's one thing to talk about men who view  women in magazines or on the Internet and saying that this is treating women as merely objects and not as human beings.  I whole-heartedly agree - it is.  But Las Vegas took this commodification of women to an entirely new level.  Here are the questions that came to my mind as I grieved this reality:

1. What does it take to be a woman who ends up thinking that selling one's own body is not only an option but possibly a good option?  How broken must this kind of woman's self-image be?  Where did her family or her community or her church or her husband fall short in telling her that she is beautiful and made in God's image?

2. What does it take to be a young woman standing on the sidewalk handing out the escort service's advertising to passers-by?  How does one reach the point where she thinks that promoting the sale of her fellow females is justifiable?

3. What must it be like to be the mayor of Las Vegas?  The darkness that pervades this town is what makes it tick, it is its very life-blood.  How does one go home at night thinking that you are a "public servant" when your political machine promotes what it does?

As I walked to the convention center each morning, I prayed for the women who were caught up in this sick and self-destructive industry.  I prayed for the local churches that they would be a beacon of light in a dark city. I cannot express how thankful I am to have my wife and daughter in my life and also how this trip re-emphasized my call to guide and protect my family in the ways of God. 

- tC

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Visit to Las Vegas, Part 2: Spiritual Darkness

(Susie B. -

My Visit to Las Vegas, Part 2: Spiritual Darkness

You may be wondering what I was doing in Las Vegas.  Well, I was there for a industry show.  It wasn't related to my day-to-day work as a pastor, but instead was a military, law enforcement, sporting, and outdoors show that is held every year.   When I am not with my family or working, I try to get outside as often as I can and in the past I have had the opportunity to hike and camp across the U.S. as well as be a wilderness survival instructor at Cornell University.  All this to say, I was out at an industry show where new tactical and outdoor products and companies are showcased.

So Vegas - wow.  Part of me wants to simply say that Las Vegas  is all that is wrong with society today.  But honestly, that is an over-simplification of a major American city.

When I first arrived in Vegas and was being shuttled to my hotel, I was struck by the boldness of the advertising.  It was nothing to drive past a billboard that stated directly or strongly implied that a certain lounge was a place filled with every possible way to meet any human lust.  Certainly, much of the life of the city comes from entertainment - comedians, singers, and others - and while some of it was wholesome enough (think: Donnie and Marie Osmond), much of it was base.  I'm probably not telling you anything you did not think or assume, but it was, to me, a totally different experience to know that there was a crassness to Vegas and then to see how it is boldly proclaimed. 

In Romans 1, the apostle gives us a sad and powerful picture of what it means to be far from God.   He tells us that though we know there is Creator who deserves our praise and thanksgiving, we don't see such knowledge as worth keeping.  Thus, we not only engage in scandal and evil, we boast and revel in debauchery. 

To be honest, being in Las Vegas helped me to pray more fervently.  This city needs the Gospel of Christ.

- tC

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Trip to Las Vegas, Part 1: The Desert


If you've read the blog for a while, you may recall my short series entitled "Spirituality at 35,000 Feet".  I wrote several blog posts a few years ago while I was on the 8 hour flight back from visiting my brother for his wedding in France.  Well, I am back on a plane so I thought I'd redeem the time and write a few more posts.

Rather than talk about the plane ride (which I don't care for quite honestly), let talk about the desert.  Almost all of what surrounds Las Vegas is desert - sometimes covered with brush, sometimes rocky and sandy, and often mountainous.  As I  was sitting here  gazing out the window , I thought of the Israelites and their life in the desert.  Certainly many of us know about the 40 years of wandering that the Israelites had to endure, but don't forget that even when they arrived in the Promised Land, most of the Middle East was and is desert or at least quite arid.

Have you ever wondered why God chose a desert-people to represent Him?   One of the reasons is likely because people in the desert are often desperately in need.  While the dessert can provide much of what a person needs to live, there are such dramatic weather and temperature patterns that the water, food, or supplies you need might not be available until after the next flash flood, or after the next rain storm...which might be weeks from now.  But these times of "how will I provide" are perfect for those who are called to walk any faith and not by sight.  Living in the desert reminded the Israelites that they, as the old hymn goes, need Him every hour.

So as we flash forward thousands of years to our lives today, do we live like that?  Do we need God?  Many live as if they do not, and sadly I am not speaking only about those who have chosen to not believe in God - I am speaking about many Christians.  Many Christians, particularly western Christians, have little sense of desperation for God because, to be blunt, they have all their daily needs met. 

But let me offer us all a challenge: it is one thing to say "Father" in a prayer and sound pious, and it is another thing to know God as a loving and caring father.  If we truly believe God is a loving and caring Father who will provide for us, even the desert does not bring us fear, for our God guides us to quiet waters.

- tC

 (For reading on the topic of trusting God, recommend you look at a short biography of Samuel Morris in the "Men and Women of Faith" series.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Goals for 2012

(FrameAngel -

So it's a new year.  I'm not sure if you are a fan of New Year's resolutions.  I personally am.  I like the idea of kicking things off at the start of a new calendar year, setting some goals to pursue over the next year.

But let me offer something to consider whether you are a fan of these resolutions or not.  What about the end goals of not just 2013, but 2014, 2015, and the rest of the years you are given?  When you and I breathe our final breath, God will not ask about us accomplishing our 'goals' (saving more money, getting in shape, visiting family more), but He will ask us about love.  However if we carry out all of our goals with the ultimate end of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we can honor Him whatever our short-term goals might be (as long as they are moral/ethical of course).

Keep this verse in mind as you look to 2013.

"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love".
- Galatians 5:6b

- tC

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

There Is Always A Way To Be Productive

(imagerymajestic -
One of the questions I hear often is, "How do I, as an average person who works a 9-5 job, serve God more fully?  How do I go and 'make disciples' when all I do is __________________ (fill in the blank - 'run a business', 'clean offices', 'live as a stay-at-home mom', 'program computers')?"  Ephesians 5:16 tells us to redeem the time, but to this point - how do we do this?  How do we redeem the time?

It's a fair question, and I often hear a follow-up comment as people say that this is easy for me (Tim) since I work in ministry "full-time".

Here are 3 quick thoughts.

First, we are all in full-time ministry, period.  It's just that some of us have it as both a calling and a form of employment.

Secondly, we must not think that 'making disciples' = evangelism = preaching and having people, in response to a message, pray the 'I accept Jesus' prayer.  Making disciples is a process of helping people become whole-hearted followers and students of Jesus Christ.  That said, we can all help people move forward in this process by...

Third - prayer.  We can always redeem the time and play a role in making disciples by praying for people.
Over the past few months I have had the chance to read several biographies of Christians who have made a significant impact on the world (Hudson Taylor, George Muller, etc.).  One of the most powerful truths I have gleaned from these books is the power of prayer.  It is not something that some special prayer warriors do - it is a calling for every person who names the Name of  Jesus Christ.  Thus, if you want to redeem the time but don't know how - pray for people you know.  Pray for those who don't yet know Jesus.  Pray for those who do know Him.  Redeem the time.

- tC  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mental Health, Prayer in School, Assault Weapons, and The Gospel

(My old reflecting pool from when we lived in Nottingham)

If you had a chance to read my last post, you may recall that I spoke about the notion of 'trite answers'.  Our culture specializes in short, trite, and oftentimes overly-simplistic answers.  If you aren't sure about this consider the following: the number of bumper stickers you see expressing political and religious views, the reality of that each 1/2 hour show on television is almost half made up of commercials (how does one expect to have meaningful dialogue in snippets between advertisements), and that Twitter by its very nature makes its users to share in only 140 characters.  Now before you avid Tweeters and bumper sticker-stickerers get all up in arms, I'm not saying that all of this is bad.  What I am saying that when addressing a monumental issue like the Sandy Hook shooting, we cannot think that we can summarize or even start to deal with it in a few moments.

Is Sandy Hook about mental health?  Certainly.
Was a firearm used in this massacre?  Clearly.
Does our culture (and perhaps most cultures throughout history) glorify violence? Yes.
Are broken families and broken communities playing some role in these mass killings? Again - yes.
Do we need to research why it is that young males from often upper-middle class families are the perpetrators?  Of course.

Does the Gospel speak into this situation?  Undoubtedly.

As I have listened to the pundits and politicians speak, I came back to the same refrain again and again in my head, "Well, yes...sort of...".  Many shared truths, but most shared incomplete truths.  And I do not attempt here to offer the whole picture of how to think about Sandy Hook - no person in his or her right mind would attempt that.  What I can offer, however, is a Gospel-centered worldview response to the tragedy.

While I realize that many who read this blog are not followers of Christ, I would be remiss to not be clear on not only my, but the stance given by the Bible: people, concepts, laws, health care - change in all of these areas fall short of what we need which is a life that is internally transformed by the saving grace of Christ.    We can pass laws to make the world safer, and  we likely do need to consider legislation in dealing with education, violence, firearms, and assistance for those with mental health issues.  Consider, however, that changing the external does not necessarily change the internal.  Consider that Martin Luther once noted he needed no scantily-clad woman to lust - his imagination was enough.  Consider the words of D.L. Moody that "If a man is stealing railroad ties, and we put him into prison and educate him, when he gets out - he will steal the entire railroad."  Laws that allow prayer in school or laws that keep prayer out of school - these do not fundamentally change things.  The Gospel of Christ changes things.

Changing legislation may help, but it is a band-aid on a gaping wound, the wound of a darkness that lurks within not only the heart of mass murderers, but in the heart of every human.  Many will read this and smirk or roll their eyes, but truth bears witness over time.  When people give themselves as whole-hearted, Spirit-led, transformed Christ followers, they become different people.  Not because Christianity is 'America's religion', but because a gracious God comes to abide within anyone humble enough to say, "God, I don't just need help - I need to be changed by You."

This transformation is exactly what our world often avoids because it is costly, time-consuming, and it does not happen overnight.  It is not trite, it cannot be wrapped up in a sound-byte, and I cannot be Tweeted, but it can and does bring lasting change in the lives of those who bow with the once Doubting Thomas and say to Christ, "My Lord and my God."

- tC