Michael J. Thom Christian. American. Musician. Geek.

23Mar/15

Indiana SB 101 – The “Religious Freedom” Bill

Oh, Indiana. Le sigh.

So here's the thing.

I'll start by addressing the aspects of this (overall terrible) bill that do make sense to me (don't worry, there are very few).

I do not want the government to tell me how to conduct my private business. That is indeed a basic tenant of a free market, free speech, and a free people. For the government to essentially force its private citizens and private businesses to conduct themselves a certain way is not okay with me.

However, it is SO NOT OKAY to say "oh, please, by all means -- discriminate away!" In effect, that is what this bill is saying and ensuring that all Hoosiers can (and should!) do.

We simply need no legislation on this topic.

Individuals who want to do business at a given company are already free to do so, or not. And businesses are already free to do business with a given individual, or not. That is our collective perogative in a free society.

Neither side needs to be coerced into action it otherwise would not have taken.

(Point of clarification: The unstated phrase in all these sentences is "by the government." I would, in fact, like to coerce my fellow Christians to stop judging and discriminating. I just don't want my government to do it, because it crosses so many lines, even if well-intentioned.)

The flip side of this law is bad too, so don't hear me wishing it was written 180° the other way around. I don't -- just as I have the right to walk out of any establishment I no longer want to patronize, I should also have the right to end a business relationship with anyone, anytime, for any (or no) reason (barring contractual obligations, of course).

Therefore this bill basically continues to solidify institutional discrimination. Oh and gives "religion" a bad name. A well-deserved one of late, if you ask me.

Ugh.

Addendum. This is particularly frustrating for the maybe-just-right-of-center among us (or the libertarian-leaning, if you will). This, just like the gay marriage issue, is so unfairly polarizing that it's hard to take a position on. You're damned if you do (support it) and damned if you don't. I don't support the bill, but it's not because of "gay rights" -- it's because I don't want the government having the power to tell me what I can and cannot do.

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4Jun/08

What Do You Think of Jesus Today?

Tonight was the first night of the NACCM's annual Campus Minister's Retreat at McCormick's Creek State Park in Spencer, Indiana.  The speaker (whose name is Don, but otherwise has not been fully introduced) explained that he would be speaking out of Hebrews this week, as God has been "messing him up" through Hebrews recently, so he thought he'd "mess us up" with Hebrews this week.  (Very funny guy, by the way... seems to be a terrific speaker.)  Don described how most people tend to focus on chapters 11-13, as they seem to be the most accessible of the book.  He also suggested that chapters 1-10 are largely all serving the same purpose - to basically shake up the "shrinking" Jewish converts (his audience) and shout to them, "Don't you know what Jesus has to offer you?!"  He likens the situation to a person who has a winning lottery ticket in their pocket, knows vaguely of this fact, but shrinks away from the idea of doing anything with it, perhaps even saying, "Eh, it was taking up too much space in my pockets anyway," as he throws it out.  The converted Jews were believers, they knew who Jesus was and what he offered them, but they were now ignoring it.  Don pointed to the first verse of chapter 2:

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. - Hebrews 2:1 (NIV)

Basically: WAKE UP!  You know all the right things; I have nothing new to tell you.  Just pay attention to what you already know!

Additionally, Don challenged us with two questions with which he was challenged years ago by a mentor.  1: What do you think of Jesus these days/this week/today?  In the midst of everything that's going on, just what is your perspective on Him?  And more so, how you should redirect your focus so that you once again have a proper view of Jesus?  2: Can we ever think about Jesus too much?  This one hopefully has an obvious answer: No.

Some interesting thoughts.  I hope to blog more as the conference goes on.

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23Mar/08

A Bridge or a Rug?

Unfortunately, today is the next-to-last day of the E91 devotional that I've been reading. I'll have to find something to take its place, and fast. But I wanted to share, yet again, a very short excerpt from tonight's reading. This one is by Scheduling & Records Director Vonda Gilley. Referring to the choices we have when encountering difficult or pushy people, we may occasionally get walked all over, as the saying goes. But the way we choose to handle these situations is key:

Think about it, both a rug and a bridge get walked on. A rug wears out eventually, but a bridge helps people get from one place to the next.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13 (NIV)

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22Mar/08

A Summary of Ministry

More from the E91 devotional. The words of Preaching Associate Dave Mullins (he'll be performing Natalie and my wedding ceremony! or at least he's the official E91 person involved; we're going to have Mark Pike do a majority of the ceremony). Anyway, I really like this summary of the ministry. While it may not be literally a complete, all-encompassing definition, I really like its perspective.

We have been called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We are ambassadors for Christ and let people know that through Jesus and Him alone can all men find peace with God.

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20Mar/08

His Grace Covers All

An excerpt from my previously-referenced E91 devotional, this one written by Senior Pastor Derek Duncan:

I want you to make a list of what you think God doesn't love about you. Look at it and ask God if He loves you in spite of these things. Sure, we all need to change and grow, but do you really think God would love you more if these things were not a part of your life? The answer is no. He loves and accepts you because of the grace of His son Jesus. So, that the list, write the word "grace" over it, and rejoice in the eternal love of Jesus Christ.

How great that is to think about. His grace, literally, covers our sins, shortcomings, errors, mistakes, and bad habits.

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17Mar/08

A Nation of Cowards

A Nation of Cowards

Oh my goodness, every American needs to read this article. It may be a bit old (Fall 1993), but it is absolutely excellent. My favorite quote, among many:

As the Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people.

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8Mar/08

Kingdom Dream vs. American Dream

I was just reading today's devotional entry in the 40-day devotional guide published a few weeks ago by my church in Indy, East 91st Street Christian Church. This week's study is from Matthew 6:19-34.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." - Matthew 6:19-24 (NIV)

Student Pastor Todd Holzworth, referring to our desire for material things, money, comfort, retirement, travel, and the so-called American dream, writes:

... recently God has showed me something bigger. I don't know what to call it. Maybe it is the Kingdom dream because it is so much bigger than the American dream.

I think that's a terrific name for what our "dream" should be. Furthermore, it reminds me of the Casting Crowns song entitled, appropriately enough, American Dream.

Casting Crowns
American Dream

All work no play may have made Jack a dull boy
But all work no God has left Jack with a lost soul
But he's moving on full steam
He's chasing the American dream
And he's gonna give his family the finer things

"Not this time son, I've no time to waste;
Maybe tomorrow we'll have time to play"
And then he slips into his new BMW
And drives farther and farther and farther away

So He works all day and tries to sleep at night
He says things will get better
Better in time

And he works and he builds with his own two hands
And he pours all he has in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are comin' crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

His American dream is beginning to seem
More and more like a nightmare
With every passing day
"Daddy, can you come to my game?"
"Oh Baby, please don't work late."
Another wasted weekend
And they are slipping away

'Cause he works all day and lies awake at night
He tells them things will get better
It'll just take a little more time

He used to say, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins"
But if he loses his soul, what has he gained in the end
I'll take a shack on the rock
Over a castle in the sand

Now he works all day and cries alone at night
It's not getting any better
Looks like he's running out of time

'Cause he worked and he built with his own two hands
And he poured all he had in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are coming crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

All they really wanted was You
All they really wanted was You
All they really wanted was You

6Mar/08

Wisdom from Bible Study

This evening's Bible study was a good time, both spiritually fulfilling and just fun. Kristen made a comment at one point that I feel like quoting here. This comment is a bit out of its original context (which is, at this point, irrelevant), but I think it has an even deeper meaning than how it was originally intended.

Everything that happens makes us forget what He said.

This is actually quite profound. If you think through our daily lives, we get very busy and preoccupied with things that worry us, concern us, frustrate us, even excite us, and just otherwise take our time and concentration. It is often easy to forget about the Bible and the words of Jesus. However, if we just remember His words, our everyday lives can be changed.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. - Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

How true it is that "everything that happens makes us forget what He said."

On a side note, I also told my group tonight that "'sup," roughly translated from the original Hebrew, means "peace be with you." 🙂

8Jan/07

More From Harold Best

I finally have had a bit more time to read. I'm really going to try to make that a regular occurrence.

Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. Excellent book. Every word he writes is so specific, so clear, so meaningful. As I've been reading, I have been trying to write down interesting portions, or quotable sections. I don't know how many times I've had to restrain myself, because if I wrote down everything I considered writing down I'd have practically made a copy of the book! Anyway, to a few of my latest specific thoughts.

Reading in the fourth chapter ("The Corporate Gathering and Authentic Worship") I came across this passage:

Specializing in the things of the faith should be so important to laypersons that they do the kind of reading and thinking that lead to the formation of a truth-centered world-view that informs the whole of their living. No believer should say that there is no time to do this in his or her "busy schedule."

So true. How often do we tell ourselves we are "too busy" to spend time "with the Lord" (Wait, shouldn't that be always? Thoughts for another posting...)? How many times have I not read even this very book, simply because I was too busy, too tired, too lazy. As a Christian, a desire to read and study and grow closer to the Holy Spirit should pour out from a life of worship, if I were truly living one. In truth, in the (unfortunately few) occasions in which I actually do spend this sort of time (like right now), I love it! I find it to be so spiritually fulfilling! In fact, when I had the opportunity last semester to preach at the Campus House, I found it very interesting that the best part of that whole experience was not the actual sermon delivery, nor any congratulations I received afterward. Instead, I found the Bible study (the deepest personal study I had done to date) to be incredibly rewarding and fascinating.

To take those thoughts a little further, let us first look at another excerpt from Best's book, just a little later in the same chapter:

Another way of stating this is that Christians should be amateur theologians and Scripture specialists, but in the older meaning of the word. Amateurs are those who love something (hence the Latin ama at the beginning of the word), enough to study and practice it as thoroughly as possible, to become skilled in it, without the need to call it a profession or a specialized calling.

Simply analysing this passage is easy; it makes lots of sense as an extension of the previous discussion. However, how might this apply to me, specifically? Well, I am honestly not sure how to take this. I could stretch it one way and say that I need not go into vocational ministry, I should simply be an amateur theologian. However, I am also quite sure that Best does not intend to imply that some people are specifically called into vocational ministry (he in fact says so just sentences later). So where do I fit in here?

For now, my plan will continue to be more or less like it has been, I just now have some new terminology for it: I will continue to become the best amateur theologian I can be, as I also continue my studies in Music Education. In the time between now and graduation (still a year and 4 months), I will seek the Lord's will and find out what he has planned for me.

Thank you Lord for your many blessings, even those we cannot readily see.

22Nov/06

Thank You Father

As we approach Thanksgiving I thought I would take a moment to talk about Thanksgiving. I have never actively participated in the time of thanksgiving that the Mayes family always has during our Thanksgiving gathering. It felt awkward. I didn't feel qualified.

Lord, I'm not qualified for your love. But yet you gave it to me. THANK YOU!

Some things I'm thankful for:

  • the breath of life
  • a loving Savior
  • a family who truly loves me
  • a beautiful loving girlfriend
  • the most amazing group of close friends I could imagine
  • more earthly possessions than I deserve
  • the Christian Campus House
  • music - and the ability to play and enjoy it
  • sub-freezing mornings with frost everywhere
  • the opportunity to live the life God has planned for me
  • lastly, a big warm bed. especially nice after not even going to bed last night. 0:-p

Lord, I want to specifically take time out of my busy schedule and recognize all that you have blessed me with. Thank you for life, family, friends, stuff, and most of all your Son.

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