Redemption and a Rubik's Cube

This post was not written by me. It's written by a friend who would like to remain anonymous.

While we were at the conference I got to witness one of the most incredible acts of redemption first hand.

As a church we teamed up with another local church and one of the kids from their youth group desperately needed a win in life. He had been going through some major issues, and my guess is that outside of the youth group kids he didn’t have a lot of friends. I think it’s very safe to assume that in most settings he was a social outcast.

Well on Tuesday night the conference hosts what a talent show where kids get to show case what they do best for three minutes. There were some incredible acts. Between Taylor Swift-esque talent, humor, and poems the talent of those kids was incredible. Then there was the boy. He signed up to be a  part of the talent show and, if I’m honest, I thought, "Dude…don’t do that to yourself. All the eyes are on you, you shouldn’t set yourself up for failure."

His talent was the Rubik’s cube. He was a master; no one questioned that. The fact that he could complete the thing was impressive enough, but he could do it with ease. For the talent show, he wanted to do it blind folded.

I asked him, "How will you know how the colors line up?"

He said, “I just memorize the pattern."

I didn’t see how he could succeed.

He was the second act. The host messed up the Rubik’s cube, and the boy sat off stage studying it, tapping it, and staring at it.

It was his turn. He put the bag over his head, and then put his hands behind his back.

"No way!" people shouted.

It would have easily been the most impressive act of the night.

The audience watched in silence as his hands tapped and twisted.  The video camera zoomed in on his hands as he worked on it.

Time counted down, and he failed. The host even gave him extra time, yet he still failed. We tried to comfort him with our applause, but you could see the defeat in his body language.

After the talent contest was over, we walked back to our dorm together. I asked him, "How are you doing?"

He said, "Not good. I feel like that was my one chance and I failed."

It was one of those moments in a kids life that could have been a huge confidence boost to a kid who needed it. Yet he failed.

Fast forward to the last night of the conference. The director was on stage at the beginning of the night and said, “I feel like we need to set something right tonight. I feel like we were close to seeing something amazing and just missed it. Is the Rubik’s cube kid here?”

He was.

“Do you have the Rubik’s cube with you?”

He did.

“Of course you do. Come on up here. We want to give you a second chance.”

The director interviewed the boy and asked him what he needed to make it happen. The boy said, "Compete silence." The director and the audience obliged. But it got really awkward. The director asked the boy if he was close; he wasn’t. It got really awkward on stage. So the director transitioned to offering, and the boy just sat there studying the Rubik’s cube. After offering, the director asked the boy if he needed more time. He did, so the boy went next to the drums, center stage and sat cross-legged. He tapped; he studied; he tried to memorize the Rubik’s cube. Meanwhile the show must go on, and the director interviewed the main speaker for the night while the boy sat cross-legged next to the drums behind them. Tapping. Studying.

The moment of truth came up. The boy stood, turned around, put the blind fold over his head, and placed his hands behind his back. The video camera zoomed in on his hands holding the Rubik’s cube. On the big screen for everyone to see.

You could have heard a pin drop as we watched. 900 people completely silent. Everyone pulling for this kid. And he nailed it! In forty seconds, the boy completed the Rubik’s cube blind folded and behind his back. The audience erupted. Standing ovation. Clapping. Cheering. Whistling. High fives. We celebrated his success. We even gave him a slow clap. He became an instant celebrity.

He got high fives on his way back to his seat. He was given a second chance, and was redeemed.

That’s what the church is supposed to be as we work with Christ to redeem those who desperately need second chances in life.  

4 Truths The Church Should Be Teaching About Sex

Recently, Relevant Magazine published an article by Lily Dunn entitled 4 Lies The Church Taught Me About Sex. I read it and felt sorry that she had grown up in an environment that taught those things. It got me thinking about what a church should be teaching about sex. 

Evangelicals, like myself, should be able to teach about sex unabashedly. But it is scary too. I preached a sermon on sex one week and had fourteen people in the small church I pastor never come back. It's a touchy issue. But today, I have laid out 4 Truths The Church Should Be Teaching About Sex. I would love to hear your thoughts on this at my Facebook page. You can get there by clicking on the link at the right.

1. Sex is good.

If it wasn't so great, it wouldn't be abused so much. That's the problem with sex. It's so good that it even gives great pleasure when enjoyed outside of it's designed context.  This happens with a lot of God's greatest blessings.
CS Lewis wrote: 
"To be bad, he [the bad power] must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things - resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself (from Mere Christianity).

"Evil is a parasite, not an original thing." 

2. If you mess up and have sex before marriage, Jesus is in the restoration business.

Who doesn't make mistakes? 

It isn't over if you have premarital sex. As followers of Jesus, ours sins are no longer held against us. That doesn't mean that we won't sin any more. It means that Jesus' sacrifice makes us right.

Paul wrote in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome:
 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 ESV).
Jesus came to earth and restored fallen sinners like you and me to him. The good news of Jesus isn't great because it's for perfect people. The good news of Jesus is great because it's for imperfect people like you and me. You don't have to carry the mistakes of your past around with you. Jesus will be glad to get rid of them for you.

3. Celibacy is good too. 

This is often neglected in evangelical circles. If you try to get hired as a forty-year old celibate man, you would see how much the evangelical churches look down on celibacy. It's like there is something wrong with someone who hasn't been married. 

The Apostle Paul gave a different perspective on celibacy. There is something beautiful in living your life completely for Jesus without any sexual distractions. In his letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, who were a very messed up church, he wrote:
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:8-9 ESV).
There is a benefit to remaining celibate and not being married. 

4. Abstinence until marriage is God's plan.

Our society tells us to not teach abstinence, yet we must. We don't leave the decision of what we teach in church up to public education boards. They decide what the school will teach. We study Scripture to decide what the church should teach.

If we don't teach abstinence, then nobody will hear it.

God doesn't give us teachings to constrain us; he gives us teachings to liberate us. To free us from the shackles that destroy us, both emotionally and physically. To empower us to love Him and our neighbors as he intended.

When it comes down to it, sin is just a destructive force that prevents us from reaching our full God-given potential. It prevents us from accomplishing the things God has called us to. Some days, I would love to believe I am a puppet that God controls and nothing I do can toss me out of God's will and his remarkable plan, but that is not the way God has chosen to work. Sin destroys while love builds up.

Sin brings nothing but evil and destruction. A lot of pain. A lot of hurt. That is why Jesus uses the concept of a thief in the night come to destroy. Sin doesn't just cause pain to myself; it causes pain and hurt of those left in my wake. One of our society's greatest sins is abusing one of the greatest blessings that God gave us, and it does destroy when used inappropriately.

A Center of Disease Control study from 2012 reported, "10% of women and 13% of men 20-24 years report not having had any kind of sexual contact." You might look at those numbers and despair, but I like to look at them this way. Abstinence is possible. 1 in 10 parents of women are successful when it comes down to teaching sexual purity. And a slightly better percentage with men. Compare those percentages to church attendance numbers and we are doing pretty good.

Abstinence is less likely to happen by accident if we don't teach our kids to not have sex and save their sexual purity for marriage. 1 in 10 is actually good, especially if you remove all of the families who don't teach abstinence from the study. God has a different plan than conformity to our sinful culture with our sex life.

Sex was created for marriage. Let us enjoy one of God's greatest blessings the way he intended us to.

A Walmart Sized Faith

A while back I posted an anti-Walmart post on Facebook. A friend of mine said that he didn't think pastors should post such things. "People make a living at Walmart" was his argument.

I considered that thought many a times and haven't posted on the subject since. But it is because of my Christian beliefs that I have stopped shopping at Walmart. I am for everyone making a living wage. If it can't be done through the government raising minimum wage, it has to be done through conscientious shoppers. It is immoral to be against the government raising minimum wage combined with being an unconscientious shopper. If you claim to follow Jesus, choose one, the other, both, or come up with a better solution. But not doing anything is not a solution.

I understand people work at Walmart in management and make a living. I also understand that many scrape by trying to make ends meet. I am not against them. I am for them. I think they should make more money for providing the service we, as a society, expect of them.

So I am a pastor. I don't shop at Walmart. And I am for everyone who works a full work week receiving a living wage (from production to retail). People shouldn't have to work two jobs in our wealthy nation.

I also think that you should consider not shopping at Walmart until they change.


This was the story that initially caused me to stop shopping at Walmart and Gap stores (including Old Navy). Not only are they part of a corrupt system, they are actually fighting to keep it corrupt. This is more evil than most companies. Other companies, when this atrocity was brought to light, were willing to allow changes. Walmart fought them.
"Between December 2012 and May 2013, nearly 1,200 Bangladeshi garment workers were killed in preventable factory fires and building collapses while producing goods mostly for U.S. and European markets. Walmart has responded to the tragedies by refusing to sign the broadly supported Bangladesh Safety Accord and instead proposed its own alternative. In contrast with the accord, Walmart’s plan is a voluntary arrangement without any meaningful enforcement mechanisms, developed without consultation with workers" (from Walmart lobbied to avoid increased safety in Bangladesh)
It is not okay that people die needlessly so that I can have cheap goods.