Author Archives: kog4jc

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Following Jesus till the Kingdom Comes

Undying Love



I’ve seen healing

and I’ve seen pain.

I’ve walked the wasteland

and He’s cleansed me in the rain.

I weep tears on the thirsty ground.

Such sorrow that cannot be voiced with sound.

I’ve seen so much taken from those I love.

All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers

and the flowers fall.

And I’ve felt the frenzied fear of frailty.

The knowledge that one day

we will have to let go of it all.

But the Lord

He spoke to me from far away.

He broke my idols before me.

He spoke into my Spirit and said His love is greater.

For he has loved us with an undying love.

Again He shall restore the breach.

Again He shall plant on pleasant hills.

He shall plant vineyards and he shall prune the vines.

And we shall drink of the Holy Spirit

And He will fill us

For His love is better than wine.

My heart cried out “Abba, Father”

and He filled me with His Love that transcends time.

For God is love

and all who are filled with His love walk in the Divine.

In Him we live and move and have our being.

His love reshapes the world

Like the potter molds the clay.

He gives us hope for tomorrow.

He gives us bread for today.

I’ve encountered His power.

And I’ve been overcome by His glory.

But His undying love is a deeper story.

I’ve spent my life in the shallows afraid of sinking deep.

But a shepherd must follow the Good Shepherd

to feed, lead, and feed his sheep.

I see a world divided.

But my heart shall not be deceived.

Oh death where is your sting.

For you will be brought under the feet of Jesus our King

For the Law of Love

and the revelation of His Word shall endure.

He shall restore all that is broken.

I know this for sure.





There are times it is hard to deal with the grief.

The loss that I am at a loss to define.

I don’t want you to be mine

but I miss you all the same.

And I wonder if I will ever find

the woman who will know me

beneath and beyond my name.


Donald Trump is My President






                 Donald Trump is my president. That is not something I ever thought I would say. But I think it is something that needs to be said. We who opposed his presidency must admit that it is hypocrisy to be up in arms when he said he would not accept the results of the election if he lost, and then ourselves to not accept the results of the election when he won. The Bible teaches us to respect authority and to pray for our leaders. We as Americans have enshrined the peaceful transfer of power. Though people have the right to protest the hashtag # notmypresident does not respect the Bible’s call to respect authority nor the American respect for a peaceful transfer of power. Neither does the gun culture that turns to talk about rebellion and violence against the government far too quickly. Neither does a candidate who nonchalantly claims the election is rigged and then quietly forgets he ever said such thing. These words and acts do not respect our nation or the Christian Faith. If there is one positive thing that has come out of the past three elections it is that after the election of our first black president and the election of a true outsider in politics who many thought had no chance of winning, we can safely say that the election as a system is not rigged. We may not like the electoral college system but we cannot say that system is corrupt like voting in Russia. May such charges never again be raised against our Democratic Republic. It is beneath us as a nation.

So though I hate to say it, though I do not have respect for Mr. Trump as a person, I have respect for the office and our system so I must say Donald Trump is my president.

This election has caused me to think deeply about my faith, the way I see the world, and my own biases. The Lord has shown me a few things in the process.

  1. We live in a deeply divided nation. Through my time as a pastor in rural Indiana and my time working in the inner city I have seen this up close. We are two different countries. I can feel the division in my soul and I can feel the hurt. Just looking at my friends posts in Indiana and my friends post in Richmond, VA, the difference was laid bare for me. The rural/urban divide. The black/white divide are far more profound than I ever imagined. I have found that despite my best reasoned arguments against both candidates during this election season that neither Clinton nor Trump supporters were willing to give an inch of ground. I think this reflects what Julia Galief would call motivated reasoning . We are far more concerned about winning than we are about morals, values, or character. We see what we see in a bubble through rose colored glasses. The words of the book of Judges rings true. Each does what is right in his or her own eyes. Truth has been abandoned. Principles have been abandoned. Character has been abandoned. This has been happening for a while now. But the election of 2016 is the fruit of ignoring the foundations that Christ sets for us, which by my reading of the sermon of the mount is basic decency and character.
  2. Character is Destiny. What the Lord has been teaching me in my ministry and in this election is that character is destiny. Leadership is essential. And the essential foundation of leadership is character. How many times have we seen how an essential flaw in character has undermined powerful people? Saying that we are all sinners simply doesn’t cut it. The word hypocrite is a composite Greek word. The prefix hypo means “under” it is where we get the term hypodermic (under the skin) needle. Crite comes the Greek word for understanding. So what the hypocrite means is someone who lacks understand of oneself. Someone who does not see themselves in a true light and thus can not deal with their faults and sin. For Secretary Clinton it was her arrogance in ignoring battle ground states like Wisconsin and her lack of transparency epitomized in her email scandal that undermined her relationship with the public. For Donald Trump I believe his show of strength is actually a sign of very low self esteem and it has resulted in bullying behavior that is vile and demeaning to many groups. We constantly say we are voting for a platform and we ignore significant character flaws. What has that gotten us? It has gotten us scandal, major blunders that could have been avoided, and dysfunctional government. 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. They will get control of the Supreme Court for a generation. But they will also lose any possibility of winning over younger more liberally minded youth to their positions on abortion, religious freedom, salvation in Christ alone, and traditional marriage, positions that I tend to agree with though many would think of me as a liberal in my views of the size and scope of government.
  3. Character and integrity are more important than winning. In Mark Chapter 8 Jesus tells his disciples he must suffer and die and rise again. Since this is not what he thought the Messiah should do Peter tells Jesus this must not be so. Jesus replies, “ Get behind, me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then he asks a question to the crowd surrounding them. “ For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Jesus had the power to preserve his own life and conquer the Romans. But it went against his mission. It went against his convictions. And he knew it wouldn’t be worth it. As Christianity Today argues something similar has happened with white evangelicals. Many commentators have made analogies with the imperfections of Ronald Reagan. But there certainly is a difference in degree and seriousness of the issues swirling around Donald Trump as a candidate such as sexual assault and fraud. Jesus teaches us to gain power and to be proved a hypocrite in doing so isn’t worth the price.

I was faced with my own choice in this regard. I certainly did not want Trump to win as you might be able to tell. And since I have been able to vote (two elections prior to this) I have voted for a democrat. And I tend to lean that way on issues of governance though not on social issues. But after living in Indiana for nearly two years and getting to know some conservative friends who I loved dearly, I came to see some critiques of Hillary Clinton to be valid. I even voiced publicly that I would abstain from voting for Hillary Clinton because I believed character was more important than winning. I made a very persistent argument online that the email scandal did show a profound lapse in judgment, endangered national security, and was something that Secretary Clinton should have been fired for, though thanks to legal precedent, and high powered lawyers, I think Comey had no choice but to not prosecute. And the argument that the Bush administration email scandal was far worse is just as bad as when Trump said of the access Hollywood tape that he may have said those things but Bill Clinton was far worse than he was, which by some twisted logic was supposed to exonerate him. This is grade school logic and we should reject it on both sides. Despite all my public statements  I was very much tempted to vote for Hillary Clinton. Despite the polls, I knew in my gut that Trump had a shot at winning, because I had lived where his support was the strongest.But in the end I voted for Evan Mcmullin because I respected him and his principles. Afterwards, I felt a great sense of relief. In an election seasons that has made me feel dirty and defiled, I felt clean.

  1. Many minorities are hurt and afraid at the election of Donald Trump. This article explains the perspective of many people though not all minorities. Trump devalued many with his racist and misogynistic rhetoric and his election now validates such behavior and rhetoric. Now I know people who voted for Trump who did so holding their nose, who did not do so with hate in their hearts, who truly believed the fate of the nation depended upon him winning. And just because you voted for Trump does not mean you support his vile words or race batting. But for the longest time I have never voted on the issue of abortion though I am personally opposed to it. And by not making that a priority in my voting I do give permission for abortion to happen. I can argue that there are more important things, or better ways to prevent abortion, but I do give permission and I normalize the practice. Voting for Trump, too many minorities, says to them their lives do not matter. And it has given legitimacy to White Supremacist.
  2. We must repent of Lording it over one another. In Matthew 20:25 Jesus warns us not to be like the world. Not to Lord it over one another. I think this means when you have power don’t use it to get everything you want but respect those who do not have power. Recently, I was listening to a Republican Congressman from Illinois who focused on the importance of getting bi-partisan buy in and how this was not done with the Affordable Care Act. We now see that many of the predictions of Republicans have come true. Now I don’t think the solution is to repeal it and provide unproven solutions like selling insurance across state lines . Certainly, Republicans were not super open to working with Obama on much of his agenda. But by pushing through something that enraged the Republican base President Obama wasted a lot of social capital that in my opinion could have been used to pass things with common agreement. And now it appears Republicans are positioned to Lord it over Democrats. This cycle must stop. There are more important things than winning and passing your agenda like having a functioning government.
  3. There is a Liberal Spirit and a Conservative Spirit. Both Blind us to the Truth. What this election and my time in Urban and rural areas has shown me is that we all live in our own bubble and this blinds us to well reasoned arguments. I have often thought in the past few days how different the facebook feeds of my conservative Trump supporter friends must be. Believe it or not it never occurred to me that people who I am friends with on facebook might be seeing completely different stories on their facebook feeds. But it has become increasingly clear to me that this is the case. What we see depends upon what we are looking for. What we see depends upon our inherent disposition. And it has become clear to me that there is a Liberal Spirit and a Conservative Spirit. At its worst the Liberal Spirit is associated with intellectual elitism. People refuse to see things because they think they know better. I think this has been proven true with the mainline media’s failure to predict Trump’s rise. The Bible would call this the curse of worldly wisdom and being puffed up by knowledge.

On the other side the Conservative Spirit can blind one from knowing the difference between true strength and false strength.  Respect for authority and tradition can lead to a lack of questioning and people looking the other way when they see character flaws if a person is powerful and authoritative. I am struck by Jesus’ questioning in Matthew 11. “ What did you come out in the wilderness to see ? A reed shaken in the wind?  What then did you come out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?” A “reed shaken in the wind” gives us the image of grass that blows in the direction that outside forces take it. This is symbolic of populism. This is symbolic of someone saying what you want to hear and riding a wave of emotion. Someone who wears soft clothing speak to the desire to be successful in the eyes of the world even though that success is not what it seems.  The conservative spirit with its focus on power and authority can easily be deceived by these things.

  1. I See some hope in a Trump presidency: As Paul Ryan said this is one of the biggest political upsets he has ever seen. And I think it shows Donald Trump’s inherent skills as a salesman and a populist. I see the potential for Donald Trump to do a lot of good if he turns out to be more of a pragmatist. He certainly has disrupted the system and has a great opportunity to change things for better or worse.
  2. I see great peril . While I like President Obama want Trump to succeed I see great peril. And as I think of possibly outcomes many of them don’t seem good. In my mind here are a few possible outcomes to a Trump Presidency.

-Trump Does everything he says and Makes America Great Again. Though I don’t particularly agree with Trump’s vision of America or his plan to get there I didn’t think he would win either and I am eating crow now. So who knows. Maybe he will do everything he said he would do and there will be no negative consequences for the majority of Americans ( though there will be negative consequences for immigrants regardless).

Trump Does Everything He Promises and things go poorly.  Actively hunting down and deporting illegal immigrants, establishing Tariffs and starting trade wars, deregulating Wall Street, appeasing Russian aggression, passing tax cuts that will further drive the national debt, destabilizing the Middle East by locating the American embassy in Jerusalem, abandoning the nuclear deal and increasing hostilities with Iran, I don’t think it is too much to say that there is much risk in doing these things.  And it is hard for me too see how such policies will not produce a great deal of suffering, economic recession, and injustice.

That being said I see the driving motivation to reestablish manufacturing in the midwest. It just doesn’t seem anti-trade policies will accomplish this goal. Instead, we really must grapple with the implications of automation Within twenty years 11 million truckers will be put out of work by self driving trucks. Is that something we want? Should we put limits on technology? Or do we accept that if we don’t we must restructure the way we do work and assign value to that work? Neither candidate has been honest about why people have been put out of work and what is to be done about it.

Trump was acting and does not fulfill his promises: It may turn out that at his core Trump is a pragmatist who has no set principles or policies. He is willing to “make deals” that go against his campaign promises. This may relieve many who were concerned about his campaign. But it will further alienate his supporters and may give rise to even more extreme candidates.

Trump gets co-opted by the establishment: Trump’s business record shows that he is a great salesman but not the best manager. And his lack of experience could easily cause him to be co-opted by the establishment. I think this would greatly upset his supporters and lead to similar results as the last point.

A flaw in Trump’s character leads to his impeachment:  I think this is a distinct possibility. We still do not have his tax returns. With so many bankruptcies in his past it is likely that no American banks will lend to him. So much of his investment may be from foreign nations, most likely Russia. This creates inherent conflicts of interest. Then there is his history of sexual harassment and assault. If such behavior got Bill Clinton impeached than it is a good possibility that Donald Trump might face a similar fate. Perhaps if Bill Clinton had run today he would be unelectable or should be unelectable .


  1. We should pray for our leader’s success. What struck me about Trump and Obama’s meeting this week is that Obama talked about wanting Trump to succeed. The Bible often commands us to pray for our leaders. But how often do we actually pray against our leaders or pray for God to deliver us from a particular leader, instead of praying for that leader’s success even if we don’t particularly like what that success would look like? In Indiana I was often angered when people prayed for President Obama that they were actually praying against President Obama. I certainly don’t want to do that for President Trump. I have expressed great reservation about President Trump. But as Obama and Clinton pointed out he deserves the chance to lead and I should not wish or pray for his failure in hopes of my beliefs being vindicated. The worst part of me wants his presidency to be a disaster so I can say I told you so. And as I have said I see great risk and am very concerned by the implications of his campaign. But I believe the Bible teaches us to respect authority and to pray for our leaders. I was inspired to see Obama show grace to a man who shamefully questioned his legitimacy to be President in the birther movement and then blamed the entire thing on Hillary Clinton. And I sensed that Trump sensed that grace and the responsibility of the office. Maybe he even feels sorry for some of the things he said and maybe we will see some form of repentance from him. I hope for the best and I have great fear for the worst. But in the end, despite all his faults, despite all the vile things he has said, Donald Trump is my President, and for all our sakes I hope he is able to bind the wounds of division and be successful as our commander in chief.




I wear a bracelet around my wrist

to remind me that I am blessed.

I am blessed in the mess.

When I feel favored

and when I feel alone.

I am blessed when the Spirit

Separates flesh from bone.

Who I am is amplified by the great I AM.

I find myself hidden in the riches of Christ.

As I look to the future

with all its successes and failures

I pray Lord you remind me

that I am blessed.

Using The Sword of The Spirit

Using the Sword of the Spirit.

Thoughts on The Bible as a Weapon


 Recently, I have been thinking about a phrase. “Using the Bible as a weapon.” This term is often used in a negative way. You are using the “Bible as a weapon,” is often not a statement that is meant as a compliment. But scripture does say that the word of God is a weapon.

Hebrews 4:12 says,

“ For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and the spirit, of joints and of  marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.”

The word for “word” in this passage is Logos. And in the Greek Logos can refer either to Jesus the Logos made flesh or the written logos of God, the scriptures.  From the context of the passage I think it is clear here that the author is referring to the scriptures. So the Bible itself compares itself to a sword, it seems that scripture approves of using the Bible as a weapon for that is what it is. Some people by the very nature of the message being preached will be made uncomfortable, distressed, and even hurt, as the Spirit convicts people of their sins through the Word of God. That being said, we know weapons require training. They require wisdom to use. So if the Bible is a weapon how is it to be used? The fancy term for this is hermeneutics, how we study, interpret, and apply the Bible. From this and other passages I would like to present some key principles for using the Bible as a weapon, which seems to me to mean using the Word of God in a way that convicts people of their sins and leads them not just to feel bad about themselves but leads them to repentance and new life.

  1. The Truth cuts both ways. Isn’t it interesting that this scripture in Hebrews says the Bible is a double edged sword? That means it can cut in any direction. Left or right. So in our hermeneutics if the Bible only cuts to the left (the liberal or progressive church) or to the right ( the conservative or evangelical church) perhaps this is a sign that we are not using the Word of God correctly. If our reading of scripture causes us only to confess beliefs that we are comfortable with perhaps this a sign that we are not open to the Holy Spirit who is the one who guides us in all truth (John 16:3).


  1. We will be held to account. The justice of God requires the judgment of God. It requires some form of Hell/judgment and not everyone will escape this judgment. Scripture tells us that even Christians will be held to account, that though we are saved by grace through faith there will be some reckoning of our works and our words. Jesus is clear that we will be held to account for every careless word we say (Matthew 12:36). And that we as teachers of the Gospel will be held to an even higher standard (James 3:1). As a preacher, I, like many preachers, have a big mouth. And I have been more than guilty of my fair share of careless words. But as I have come to take seriously the judgment of God that belief has slowly tempered my speech. Generally, I make it a discipline to prepare sermons a week in advance. And I pray before each sermon that what is of God embed in hearts and bear good fruit and that which is not fall away and be forgotten. The weight of preaching the word and administering the sacraments has fallen upon me since I have been ordained. It is a great weight. I don’t feel worthy of it most days. The idea that frail and feeble people can stand up and speak from an ancient text and somehow speak something that is beyond them, that is of God, seems crazy at its face, but it is why we gather, it is what we hope to hear on Sunday mornings. How many of us who preach the Gospel genuinely consider the idea that we shall be held to account for false teaching whatever our theological or political persuasion may be? We may not always know if our interpretation is correct but believing that we shall be held to account for false teaching will help us accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit so we may speak the word of the Lord for a particular situation.


  1. What Will it Cost You? When deciding whether or not to preach a message on a hot button subject I think we as ministers must count the cost (Luke 14:28). What will this cost me if I say this? Am I willing to pay that cost? I think this can work in two ways. First, if bringing up a subject that is a hot button issue in the wider society costs you nothing, you may want to consider the possibility that this is not a word from the Lord but you simply playing to your audience or you getting up on your “soap box”. And if that is so perhaps you might want to ask yourself if you are preaching on this subject just to win the approval of your congregation? Does the text justify the example? Have you chosen a text to complain about something going on in the wider world? Or does the text you are preaching on somehow mysteriously relate to current events even though you did not plan for it to happen? Choosing a text to address a particular event may be appropriate especially in times of tragedy. On the other hand, it may be your flesh just wanting to argue with people who are not there to defend themselves.

Likewise, a message may cost you very dearly in your context.  If you don’t make a habit of riling people up and yet feel convicted nonetheless that you should preach on a controversial subject, this could be a sign of the Lord speaking to you

  1. Do you have the spiritual authority to do this? Spiritual authority, in my opinion is hard to define. Part of it may be due to your position. Part of it may be due to your calling and the grace/anointing/ spiritual gift that the Lord has given you. But much spiritual authority is based on your personal relationship to God and to people. In Acts 19 we are told about the Sons of Sceva were Jewish exorcists who thought they could cast out demons simply by using the name of Jesus. It didn’t work out so well for them. The demonized man attacked them and sent them away beaten and bleeding. The message here is that spiritual authority isn’t just about a title or the right words. It is about relationship. Relationship to God and relationship to people.  If you can bring a difficult word from the pulpit depends upon if you have developed respect and trust with your congregation and if you have a good personal devotional life so you can correctly hear from the Lord.
  2. Do you have scriptural authority? Does the scripture you are preaching on deal with the subject or do you have to stretch the scripture to make the connection?
  3. Do you have personal authority? Have you experienced the subject you are preaching on in your own life?
  4. Do you have wider knowledge on the subject? Personal experience can be selective. If you are preaching on a controversial subject have you done research? Does your research come from only one source? Are you ignoring information that challenges your viewpoint? Does the truth you are presenting cut both ways?
  5. How would you preach this sermon if those you are critiquing were in the room? Often it is easy to talk about people who are not there or subjects that are distant from you. Would you be as confident in what you plan to say if the people you were critiquing were in the room and could respond to you?
  6. Do you care about people and not what they think? As I have talked with pastors and reflected on my own experience as a pastor I have come to see that many pastors are afraid of their people. Part of ministry is being called. And part of being called usually means we do not end up in a church that fully agrees with us theological or politically. Thus we are afraid to preach the courage of our convictions. Recently, I was deeply moved by an opinion article in the New York Times entitled, “Congregations Gone Wild”. The basic premise of the author is that pastors burn out not because of long hours or low pay but because we sacrifice the courage of our convictions. While Paul did say ministers of the Gospel deserved a wage for their work (1 Timothy 5:18, Galatians 6:6) I think he refused to take a wage because of this very problem, that his witness might be compromised. Indeed, many a minister, myself included are guilty of the sin of being a “people pleaser.” We go against Jesus’ command and we fear people over God (Matthew 10:26-32). Surely, congregations may like a pastor who never stirs the pot, who is entertaining, and makes them feel good. Maybe even we pastors if we are somehow rewarded for such behavior with a growing congregation will come to enjoy it as well. But slowly it eats away at our Spirits. I have been in so many pastor groups where shepherds admit to fearing their sheep and I have envied pastors in congregations where that was not the case.  Whatever theological or political stripe we may be do we respect our shepherds enough to give them space to preach their convictions? If we don’t we are not a church we are a social club.

That being said even if we as shepherds come to a place in our lives where we do not fear what people think about us we can fall into the opposite trap of not caring about people. We don’t care what people think and we don’t care about people. I have fallen into this trap. Maybe you know a pastor who has as well. They are so confident in what they believe that their response to you when you bring a concern is, “well that may be your opinion,” or “well we are just going to have to agree to disagree.” Maybe that may be the ultimate outcome. But should that be where a pastor starts? Should that be where you start? Even with someone who by objective standards is in the wrong should we as pastors treat people that way? My experience is when I have said such things it has only produced a spirit of offense. What may have been an ideological, theological, or practical difference, becomes personal very quickly. The majority of church splits people claim are about ideology or theology but I believe at their core many are about personal offense.

I have come to see that there is a difference between true and false unity. I do think the scriptures call us to some sort of unity in belief, spirit, and behavior ( Philipians 2:1-11). While I believe that a loving community can stay together for a time ending a debate with “let’s just agree to disagree” will eventually not end well. There are some things in our relationships, core values, that we simply cannot agree to disagree about. May it be issues of interpersonal behavior or theological differences there are some things that will eventually divide us if not dealt with and resolved. And maybe resolving such issues means we do part ways and maybe that is not a bad thing. If people leave a church I pastor because they disagree with my teaching I think that is appropriate. But I mourn as a shepherd if they leave because they are unheard or hurt because I have not heard them.  We as believers are called to live in peace if we can (Romans 12:18). We don’t always have to have the last word. We must be wise as serpents and gentle as doves ( Matthew 10:16). Not every fight is worth having. Not every word will be met with receptive ears. Being slow to anger and slow to speak is an essential quality for a teacher of the Word (James 1:19). But so is preaching the truth is love (Ephesians 4:15). If we are not slow to anger and slow to speak we may not be very good pastors and teachers. But if we continue to sacrifice the courage of our convictions our ministries will become whitewashed tombs, appearing to be clean and put together, but empty and dead on the inside.




I am home

but I am not at home.

For the things I carry leave me feeling alone.

I see my friend in his new home,

and I see the American dream that has eluded me.

Friends marry and their children grow

and I am not there to celebrate with them.

Part of me wants a home.

But I know I have been called

to serve Jesus alone.

I fear no man

for I am in the grips of His Divine hand.

His way is dark to me.

And the magnitude of his majesty terrifies me.

But he promises all I have lost

He shall repay.

Not my hands but His grace paves the way.

I am thankful for enough bread for today.

And I am hopeful His Kingdom shall break through

and I shall see His glory in a new way.

After He has tested me I shall come out as gold.

After he has humbled me

I shall be ready to lead.




Today I turn 33.

I am no longer the man I used to be.

I have preached the truth in love

and I have suffered for my flock.

I have known joy and I have known sorrow.

The Spirit guides me into His hands.

The one who feeds the sparrows

holds my tomorrow.

I am no longer a boy.

I am still becoming a man.

I’ve stepped onto the water

and I know I can’t turn back.

I’ve suffered loss

hoping that Christ shall be my gain.

Hoping that the gifts he placed within me

will be set aflame.

So that I may never be the same.