September 28, 2007

Why I Left The Catholic Church (V)

So today's the end of the series and this has been a challenging one for me. Namely because people I care dearly for are still members of the Catholic church and attend it faithfully. Are they wrong for doing so? In some senses, I think they probably should explore the beliefs of the church deeper, but in other senses I'm glad that they are faithful church attenders.

And that's what makes this so hard to talk about. In the very core sense, recognizing that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father, Protestants and Catholics very much stand shoulder to shoulder. I have no doubt that the Catholic church recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died on the cross, was buried, rose three days later, and ascended into heaven where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father. Those are the core of the Christian faith and trust me when I say this, I'd rather have a Catholic priest right now than Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell or anyone else from Protestant liberalism.

But that doesn't mean I'd take a priest over Martin Luther, John Piper, John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, DA Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, George Mueller, John Calvin or any other solid Protestant biblical theologian.

I know those who have read this series this week have wondered how I can possibly leave out "justification by faith alone" as a reason for leaving the Catholic church. Truth be told, I can't but it's the reason Protestant even exists. So it's a given. One that has been written about more extensively than I care to cover in a blog post! I also have left out:

  • Confession of sins to priests
  • Belief in literal transformation of bread and wine into body / blood of Jesus
  • Repetitious prayers in the Rosary
  • Mandatory celibacy of priests
  • Mandatory celibacy of nuns
  • Belief that sacraments are more than actual remembrance
  • Additional sacraments outside of those listed in Scripture
  • The Apocrypha

And the list could go on. Let me also say here that we Protestants have our MAJOR flaws. No doubt about that. Someone could, and I'm sure someone has, write about why they left the Baptist church and would have valid existential reasons for writing such a series. I think Catholics have Protestants licked in the areas of:

  • Pro-life fervency
  • Birth Control / Procreation fervency
  • Reverence for God

One of the real things I still love about the Catholic church in the collective responses during the liturgy, the fact that they stay true to the Nicene creed and recite it in every mass, and that they kneel and genuflect when in church and leaving church. They show a reverence for the God they serve. We Protestants would do well to return to that. I fear that sometimes we have become too flippant in our attitudes and behavior in the sight of God.

So I bring this series to a close. I have left the Catholic church but like Luther long to see her Reformed. I also look to my own side of the chasm and long for the Protestant church to return to the roots that birthed her as well. That is why I'm in Acts29. And that's why I want to plant a church. But that is also why I can no longer be a member of the Catholic church.

September 27, 2007

Why I Left The Catholic Church (IV)

So far this week, my reasons have been:

Sola Scriptura – The Bible Alone
Near Worship / Extreme Veneration Of Mary
Praying To Saints Or Mary As Other Intercessors

All Biblical reasons, and all stemming from the first one. The Catholic church accepts oral tradition and early church father writings (other than the apostles) as authoritative for their religion and traditions that currently exist. But the reason I will talk about today I believe comes from the fact that the Catholic church has just flat out gotten its Biblical interpretation wrong.

#4 – I Do Not Believe In The Importance Placed Upon Priests And The Pope In The Catholic Church

As a Catholic, the most important human figures in your religion are your local parish priest, the Bishop of your dioceses, the Cardinal for your geography, and the Pope. You'll often hear a priest referred to as "Father so-and-so". He is the local pastor of the church. He is commanded by order of the Vatican to remain celibate. He is the main religious figure in the parish.

There's only one big thing wrong with that. These two passages (Hebrews 7 ; 1 Peter 2) clearly teach that Jesus is our only high priest now and that each of us as Christians are considered a royal priesthood and are to act as such. And too many times, and I speak not of ignorance here because I grew up in this environment, Catholics look at the priest as religious and themselves as not. There is a great disconnect because they think the priest is the PEZ dispenser of all things religious and they are merely receivers of that dispensation. To use a good British phrase here – RUBBISH.

Because Jesus is our high priest, we no longer need any other human to serve the priestly functions for us. Jesus perfectly and continually fills the roles of Priest, Prophet, and King. We need no human priest to absolve us of our sins. Jesus does that. We need no priest to go to God for us. We have access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no separation anymore between laity and clergy. As a Christian, we are all clergy. We are all priests. We are to be the conduits of all things Jesus unto the world. And too many times in Catholicism, that is left up to the parish priest. (To read more on the priesthood of the believer – click here or Google "Priesthood Of The Believer" and read to your heart's content both sides of the issue)

And the emphasis of the importance of the priest is drawn from the near cult status of the Pope. And I'll tell you, nothing is more controversial than the Pope when you're challenging Catholicism. He is the final authority on all things religious in the Catholic church. Did you see the news coverage of when they selected the new Pope a few years ago. Tell me that isn't scary. He can speak ex-cathedra which means that what he says is somehow spiritually "infallible" and can't be wrong by decree of God. Catholics view him as the only legitimate heir to the apostolic authority coming from the line of Peter (more on that in a minute). He is the rock star of the Catholic faith. So the question is "Is it Biblical?" My answer: NO

I believe Catholics have completely interpreted this passage wrong. It is obvious that Jesus was not referring to Peter here, but to Himself. Apostolic authority and succession ended when John died on the Isle of Patmos. Papal infallibility is wrong and evil. The pope is just a man, fallible and fallen as me. He is no more spiritual or nor more important than me or anyone else. He is just as much in need of a Savior as I am and he can be wrong. To raise someone to the status that the Catholic church has elevated the Pope is IMO idolatry. It's wrong. It's dangerous. It's unbiblical. And it's a major reason why I will not ever return to the Catholic church. To read more on Papal infallibility – click here. For another good comprehensive read – click here.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap up. There are many other reasons, but these have been my top four. You'll want to read tomorrow's post…

September 26, 2007

Why I Left The Catholic Church (III)

If you've ever been around Catholicism at all, or have grown up Catholic, you'll quickly notice and see that saints play a big part of the religion. I can remember as a teenager when my Grandma Backes would ask me if I had a St. Christopher medal in my truck. For those of you unfamiliar with Catholicism, St. Christopher (I think) is the patron saint of the highways and when traveling you should say a quick prayer that he watch over you while you're on the highways. And in almost every situation, there is a patron saint to match the occasion. In our house, there were prayers to St. Francis and even the schools in the area were named after saints in the Catholic faith.

Which leads me to my third reason for leaving the Catholic church:

#3 – I Don't Agree That I Need To Pray To Anyone Other Than God The Father, God The Son, God The Holy Spirit

Nor do I believe that praying to anyone else accomplishes anything. There's no need to pray to Mary, Joseph, Christopher, Paul, or anyone else because as it says in 1 Timothy 2: 4-6, JESUS is the sole mediator between God and man. And when I say mediator, it's just a fancy way of saying that if I want access to God the Father or need to ask Him for something, then Jesus is THE man that does that. Not anyone else. Not any other saints. Not Mary. Jesus is the SOLE mediator.

And the question you have to ask is: Why would you pray to anyone else? Is Jesus not sufficient? Does Jesus not have the ear of the Father? I've asked this question of folks before and by and large the answer I get is "It never hurts to have more people on your side". Well my response to that is "I don't need more people on my side, I need the right people on my side"…and to me the right people is one man who was also God who died for my sins, was raised from the dead on the 3rd day according to the Scriptures, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. If Jesus can't intercede for me (take my requests and prayers) in a perfect, complete, and whole way without need of anyone else doing it, then He must not be much of a Savior.

What ends up happening, I believe, is that you start valuing Mary and the saints more, and valuing Jesus less. All the saints, Mary included, needed Jesus as the Messiah. They were not perfect. Jesus was. So whatever Jesus does is perfect. Whatever they did was not. So let's ask the question. If you have a choice between me and Jesus, who are you going to pick. If you pick me, you're crazy. And what's funny is that Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 1: 11-18. What he says in that passage is that Paul was not crucified for the Corinthians, Jesus was and Jesus needs to be the focus, not Paul. Don't pray to saints. Pray to Jesus.

Finally, and one more strand that leads me to believe this is the prayer that Jesus taught us. He didn't start the prayer by saying "Our Father and Saints, who art in heaven".. No he started the prayer "OUR FATHER…PERIOD"… If Jesus had intended for us to pray to saints and to ask saints or Mary to intercede for us, then I believe in this passage where he taught us to pray, he would have included people in that passage or given us and indication that we were supposed to pray to people other than the Father. He didn't do that, therefore, I don't see a Biblical precedent to do so.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about how this mediator / intercessor issue morphs into another reason that I left. Stay tuned…

September 25, 2007

Why I Left The Catholic Church (II)

If you've ever attended a Catholic mass or have been a member of a Catholic church at any time, then one thing you notice immediately is that Mary is an extremely important part of the Catholic faith. I have yet to see a Catholic church where there is not a statue or some other representation outside and then obviously within the church, there are many more representations. She is an imposing figure in the Catholic religion and venerated in several methods of the religion.

My second reason for leaving the Catholic church is:

#2 - I Disagree With The Extreme Importance / Near Worship Of Mary In The Catholic Church

Now, I want to be very careful with this as I don't think Jesus, nor anyone, would take kindly to disparaging words made about their mother. If my boys mouth off toward Jenni, I can promise you I will be the first one in their little mugs to ensure they conduct themselves with respect and honor towards their mom. SO shall I endeavor to do here.

Mary is an important figure in the Bible. She was chosen by God and was bestowed the immeasurable blessing of being the vessel through which the Savior of the world would come. She was, as Catholics pray in their prayer "Hail Mary", "blessed amongst women". That is Biblical. In "the Magnificat", the Bible says as much. However, that is where the importance of Mary comes to an end, and I think Mary, could she speak for herself today, would be the first to say that.

First, I do not believe Mary was sinless. We are never told that in the Bible nor given any reason to assume that. It also is not required for Mary to be sinless in order for Jesus to be able to be born without sin since Jesus was conceived of The Holy Spirit and not of human means. Therefore, Mary was just as much in need of Jesus to be her Savior as you and I are.

Second, aside from the accounts given in Luke and Matthew of Jesus birth, Mary is mentioned less than 10 times. Outside of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Mary is mentioned ONCE, and that is an informational notation that at Pentecost she was gathered with all the other followers of Jesus. If Mary was really to be held in such a high exalted state, worthy of near worship, then I believe she would occupy a much more central and focused role in the New Testament and we would see examples or mention of her veneration in the letters of Paul or Peter. Very strikingly, we don't, and I believe appropriately so. The writers of the New Testament gave Mary the mention due her, but also did not make her a focus of their writings. They certainly didn't give her the focus that is placed upon her in the Catholic church.

Third, I don't believe Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. She was a virgin when Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, but we are given no reason to think that she remained chaste after Jesus' birth. On the contrary, it would have been very odd for her to have remained so. Why would her and Joseph, after the birth of Jesus, not have sex for the remainder of their marriage? That seems odd to me and that case is certainly NEVER presented in Scripture. On the contrary, in Mark 3:31-35 we are very much given a passage of Scripture that very strongly suggests that Jesus had earthly brothers which certainly means Mary did not remain a virgin the rest of her life. Once again, beliefs held to by adherents of the Catholic faith that have no Scriptural backing.

Lastly, I don't believe that Mary is needed as an intercessor for us. I will cover this in tomorrow's post in detail as an entire reason.

Mary, as any mother on Earth, is beloved, special, and worthy of honor and respect. But veneration and near worship are certainly not warranted or presented in Scripture. As you'll begin to see, my first reason and my subsequent reasons have a definite common thread. Once you begin looking away from the Bible to oral tradition and early church fathers, your religion begins to incorporate practices and beliefs that have no solid foundation upon which to stand.

September 24, 2007

Why I Left The Catholic Church

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to socialize and spend time with some of my best friends during my high school years. One of them is getting married shortly and we all got together to wish him well, have some fun, and remember the "good ole" days as a couple of them put it. Life has changed dramatically for me in the last 13 years. When we were all running around in high school together, I was a "non-practicing" Catholic. I went to church occasionally, but had grown up attending a parochial school and mass as often as possible. I was as far away from God as I have ever been. Since that time, I've experienced the saving grace of Jesus, been baptized, married, and entered into para-church as well as Protestant church life.

I had changed and they knew it. They made sure they let me hear it as well. There was everything from warnings about "here comes the Baptist preacher" to friendly jabs about having to overlook the occasional offensive remarks or words. The four hours we spent together were a definite reminder that we now stood at vastly different places in our life. And the one thing I couldn't help but notice was that the main difference was they still were "non-practicing" Catholics and I was not. And it got me to thinking and remembering why I made the decision to abandon Catholicism and pursue a Jesus I had never known or been shown in the first 20 years of my life.

And that's what I'm going to write about his week on the blog. I hope that this series is helpful in many ways. First, I hope that it is helpful for those who are not familiar with Catholicism to understand what some of the major differences are between Protestants and Catholics. Second, I hope that it's helpful for those folks who still are Catholic to understand why I left the Catholic church. Third, I hope it gives everyone who reads the Syndrome a little insight into how I've arrived at age 31 where I am.

I also want to write a full disclaimer here that these are my reasons for leaving the Catholic church. This is not a rant against Rome. My family reads this blog and they are still Catholics. They are not bad people. They are not necessarily less godly because they attend "mass" instead of "service". They are not ignorant. They are not evil. They are not stupid. My grandma Backes was one of the most Godly yet feisty women I have ever known and she was a Catholic all of her life. If Protestants prayed half as much as she did, it would be amazing to see the results. This series is about my primary reasons (Biblically) that I left, not a commentary on folks who still are members of the Roman Catholic church.

So without further adieu, my first reason is:

#1 – Sola Scriptura – The Bible Alone

The main reason the Reformation happened and the main reason I am now considered a Protestant. I believe that the Bible alone is sufficient. I do not believe in equating the Bible with church fathers' writings, or church traditions, or papal pronouncements. For those of you who wonder what papal is, he's the Pope. I see no reason nor am I given one Biblically to look anywhere outside the 66 books of the Bible for authority, advice, counsel, or knowledge of who God is and what He says. I trust the Bible alone. No other source. I will not present a defense nor an explanation of the points-counterpoints / different views of this subject here on this blog. If you want too, you can simply Google "Sola Scriptura" and read to your hearts' content. But I am convinced that only the Bible is necessary. No other sources either written or verbal equate with the Bible in its force, authority, or power as the 66 books of the Bible.

I also think that Catholics tend to write off or overlook the warnings in Revelation about adding to or subtracting from the Word of God. They rely heavily on things the Popes throughout the ages have said or written and they rely on pronouncements / rulings from the Vatican both of which are "extra-Biblical" meaning they add to the Bible. Many of the additional reasons that I will discuss this week stem from the fact that the Catholic church doesn't believe in using the Bible solely for its guidance and direction.

More to come this week! If you would like to read or watch a couple of really good sermons that talk about the Bible and its uniqueness click here or here to read. Click here to watch.


September 21, 2007

Is Birth Control / Family Planning Wrong? (V)

And so we come to the end of the series. I know I haven't ended the debate. I know I didn't start the debate. But I've tried to avoid "fancy" argumentation in favor of just basic "gut level" simple questions to ask yourself when you are considering birth control / family planning?

I ended the last post promising to talk about "exceptions" when birth control might be appropriate. I believe they are few. But I believe they are:

  1. The Health Of The Mother – Many women have experienced traumatic pregnancies and faced near death in delivering children. They have been bed-ridden for months of the pregnancy or faced severe hemorrhaging towards the end of the pregnancy. In the same way that I don't believe that God expects us to continually play in traffic and trust him to keep the cars from hitting us, I also don't think it's wise to voluntarily place yourself in a position where you are exacerbating medical problems. I think we need to be careful here that the health of the mother issue is clear and demonstrable. Inventing potential medical problems as a result of pregnancy is speculative and problematic.
  2. Birth Control As Medical Treatment – Many women also experience medical conditions for which birth control is a prescribed medical treatment. Once again, I think this is a permissible exercise and one that doesn't violate conscience or faith in God. I think for those women who find themselves in situations where having tubes tied, taking monthly birth control, etc would be a medical treatment for an existing health condition, I think they can do so without a second thought.

I know folks will argue there are more, and there may be. I'd love to hear and respond with your thoughts in the comments. But as I look at it, there aren't many exceptions.

DISCLAIMER: I have obviously expressed my opinion here. I always have strong opinions. I think everyone should. But I also understand that there are other takes on this subject different than mine. (Desiring God / Tim Challies (Very Well Thought Out)) I disagree with them for various reasons, but respect and value their opinion. This is a tough subject. And one that I believe requires a great amount of prayer, thought, and energy devoted to searching out what the will of God for your life is.

Voddie Baucham obviously had a take on it and it came out very clearly in his book. I have a take on it and it's come out clearly in these series of posts. What I hope this has done is to get you to think about what your belief is on this matter and to not just "passively" act out of ignorant thoughts or passions but to truly get serious about an issue that affects everyone. This is not a trivial subject. This is not "unimportant". How you play this out, reason this out, and act this out says a lot about your belief systems, how you approach Scripture, how you interpret Scripture, and how you view God. Those are matters of monumental importance.

For those who have decided to have tubes tied or vasectomies performed, but you are coming to realize that maybe more children are desired, remember there are over 195,000 orphans in the United States alone and millions worldwide. There should always be room for those children in our lives somewhere. Always! Adoptions, Foster Care, whatever it is, do something and be a blessing to children. They are a blessing to us. I have learned more about Jesus and my relationship with Him through my children than I have in any classroom ever. Kids have a way of doing that for you and I think that's why God says they are blessing in so many places in Scripture.

How do you view children? How do you view God's creation of life? How do you view your role in it? Tough questions! Search out the answers.

September 20, 2007

Is Birth Control / Family Planning Wrong? (IV)

So far we've looked at the first two critical questions:

  • Is God good?
  • Can God be trusted?

And today I believe is the day where I have to be the most careful because the first two questions were focused on God. Today's question is focused on us.

Do we WANT to trust God?

Ultimately, the answer is no. We haven't trusted God since the beginning of creation, why should we start now. You see, if you ask the majority of Christians whether God is good and can He be trusted, the answer you'll get from 99% of them is an unconditional yes. God's not the problem. We are. If you ask those same Christians whether they want to trust God, if they are honest about their heart and mind condition, they would have to tell you no.

We inherently don't want to trust God. It takes faith to trust God. It takes a release of control. It takes making ourselves vulnerable and completely at the mercy of another. We don't want to trust God. We don't do it with our finances. We don't do it with our marriages. We don't do it with our interpersonal relationships. And we most certainly don't do it when it comes to conceiving and birthing children.

How many of you have who have children have said in your lifetime when asked the question of whether you were going to have more kids: "No way – we're done – we made sure of that".

Now I have to ask the question. Was that because God told you that? Did you spend nights and weeks in prayer agonizing over that? Did God reveal that to you clearly? Or did you just decide you didn't like the hassle of having infant children or going through a pregnancy? Did you decide it would cost too much to have more kids? Did you decide that your life goals were more important than having another baby? Who made that decision? You or God?

How many young couples have said "We're waiting to have kids. We want to have some time to ourselves early in our marriage." Once again, was this a revelation from God? Or your selfish desire to decide what was best for you and your new spouse?

The problem is that we make these types of decisions almost by default. We are prone to these sinful types of behaviors. It is how we are wired. Since the fall, our inclination is to not seek God but rather to hide from Him just as Adam and Eve did. We want to decide what's best for us, not let the all powerful Creator get involved in the mix.

And sometimes we think sin is merely encapsulated in the things that we do or obvious sins (at least obvious to us we think) such as drunkenness, pornography, drug addiction, rampant profanities, etc. But I ask you what is more sinful: To have one too many beers at a football game or to tell the God of the universe that he is no longer Creator, you are and you will decide what is right for your family, your future, and your life not Him?

These are questions we have to take seriously. And quite frankly, this is a question that we have punted on in Protestant life. We mock Catholics for their large families and their salvation by works, but yet we ignore our own blasphemous attitudes toward reproduction and child conception. We take the pill and have vasectomies not because of our theology but our comfort and our careers.

Now are there exceptions? Yes and that's what tomorrow's post will talk briefly about. But I believe the exceptions apply to 5% of Christians, not the majority. Is God good? Can he be trusted? Do we want to trust Him? Three important questions! Your answers are very telling about how you view the God you claim to follow.

September 19, 2007

Is Birth Control / Family Planning Wrong ? (III)

So after establishing that God is good, I now want to focus on what I believe to be the next crucial question you have to answer in this debate and that is:

Do you trust God?

It’s hard to trust someone that you don’t believe is good. We normally don’t trust people who break into our homes, rob us of our possessions, treat us rudely, or harm us in physical or emotional ways. We just don’t trust them. No matter how much we might want to, or how much we want to make ourselves do it, we can’t trust people that we don’t believe have our best interests in mind.

Which is why you have to establish and believe that God is good, otherwise, you won’t trust Him – EVER! But once you believe He is good, and that He has only your best interests in mind, then your next step is trust.

And this is the crucial issue in the birth control / family planning context. I would argue that most people would say “I believe God is good”, but most people would have a hard time saying “I trust God to do what is right when it comes to having many children”. Consider these scenarios:

  1. When you have your first child, you are so excited and can’t believe God has given you this blessing in your life. When you have your second child, you’re still excited, can’t believe God has given you this blessing, but somehow you’re leary of having more. You are growing weary of the sleepless nights. You’re tired all the time. You can’t seem to think straight. There’s more noise in the house with two kids. It’s just hard to imagine going through having a third child.
  2. You’re a young couple who has gotten married while you are in college. You love each other very much. You’re so excited about spending life together. But you don’t want children yet. You feel like there is so much that you want to do and see. You want time to spend with just one another. You’ll have a family eventually, but right now life is just too hectic and too many things going on. You’re just not ready to have children yet.
  3. You’re a family who has had two children already. Dad is working hard at one job and mom has stayed home with the children. You’ve made a commitment to one parent being home with the kids because you really feel like that’s important. And you’ve noticed now that you’ve had your second child, that money is really tight these days. You’re having to put some essentials on the credit card each month because you don’t have enough money left over from each of the paychecks to cover all the bills. You’d love to entertain the thought of having more children, but you know in your mind that there is NO WAY you can afford to have a third child.

In all of these scenarios, people usually take matters into their own hands and either permanently (through surgical means) or persistently (monthly precautions) ensure that more children do not enter the equation and if you boil it right down and get to the heart of the matter, there is only one reason:


Plain and simple, you don’t trust God. God can’t possibly be trusted with your procreation and reproductive systems. God can’t possibly be trusted to supply all your needs in Christ Jesus. God can’t possibly be trusted to bring another child along and then help you provide for that child. God can’t be trusted.

That’s what we are saying MOST OF the time in the birth control / family planning debate. If you boil it down to the heart of the matter, we don’t believe that God can be trusted.

I know that will offend some people, it offends me when I think about how much I don’t trust God with every area of my life. But in many ways, we simply have a trust issue with God.

And there are several reasons for that and we’ll cover those in later posts perhaps, but the question you have to ask is this:

Why don’t I trust God to do what is right in the area of blessing me with children and then helping me provide for them?

If he fed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread on a hillside, what makes you think he won’t help feed another lovely mouth in your household? Tomorrow, we’ll talk about another controversial aspect of this trust issue. But it’s one I want to write a whole post on. Stay tuned!

September 18, 2007

Is Birth Control / Family Planning Wrong? (II)

Is God good? I mean truly, do you believe that God is good?

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever" – Psalm 136:1

I know it seems like an odd first question to answer in a birth control exploration, but it is the most profound question you must answer in this whole touchy subject. Do you believe that God, Jehovah, Lord, Father is GOOD?

Because how you answer that question will not only impact your views on birth control and family planning, but it will impact your views on the entire Bible and will color all of your theology. If you view God as inherently good and true, then you believe that ultimately, as a follower of Jesus, that God will do nothing "eternally" bad to you. You can read verses like Romans 8:28 and know that while we will suffer in this lifetime, and experience hardships and sorrow, that ultimately God is doing all of it as a kind, loving Father who is guiding and caring for His children in a wise, divine way that we may not always understand.

But you never question God's goodness. Therefore, you have no reason to question whatever may happen in your life. You have no reason to secretly question life's circumstances and wonder "Does God know what He is doing here?" You have no reason to keep looking over your shoulder and wondering if God is really on your side. You just know that He is good and you don't question it. You bank on His goodness. You love His goodness. You trust in His goodness.

How does this fit into the topic at hand?

If God is inherently good, and you are a follower of Jesus, and you believe everything I just wrote, and what the Bible says about God being good (do a word search here with the words "God" and "Good" and see what you come back with) then you WILL NEVER look at a pregnancy and question whether God knows what He is doing. Or whether a pregnancy is a good thing. Nor will you have to worry about getting pregnant and having another child because you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is good and He will always be good and if you conceive, then it HAS to be, a good thing. It can't not be. Why? Because God is good. And he is sovereign. And if he only does good things for His children, then how could you look at a pregnancy as a bad thing? You also will have no reason to prevent a pregnancy, because if you do conceive, by the Bible's words alone, it has to be a good thing.

Might the pregnancy bring challenges? Sure. Might it be an "inconvenience"? Probably! Will it be hard? Absolutely! No one ever said having children was a cake walk. Might it cost you your "career"? Potentially. But what is more important? Your career or children?


Whatever questions you may have, you cannot argue that God is not good, and therefore does not have your best interests fully in view. If you argue that, then you might possibly not know God the way you ought to.

We will look at several other questions/angles over the next few days, but today's question I believe is the most important one to answer. Is God good? You need to answer that in your life, not just for family purposes, but for soul purposes.

September 17, 2007

Is Birth Control / Family Planning Wrong?

That's a big question Voddie Baucham brings to the table in the first chapter of his new book – "Family Driven Faith".

After Bridget became pregnant with our son, the pressure was on. Countless well-meaning people were whispering in Bridget's ear. Some warned, "Girl, you'd better not get stuck with a bunch of kids." Others tried to be more diplomatic and simply pointed out how much the cost of college tuition had risen, or the price of groceries. Unfortunately, the voices in our ear trumped the voice of God. When Trey was born, we hired a doctor to speak to God on our behalf. He took his scalpel and sutures and told God, "The Bauchams hereby declare that they no longer trust, nor welcome you in this area of their lives."

Several years later my wife knelt before me with tears in her eyes and asked me two things. First, she asked if I would forgive her for closing her womb. Second, she asked me if it would be alright if we had the procedure reversed. I was floored. I couldn't hold back the tears as I told her how wrong I was to sit back and let it happen and how happy I would be to make it right.

We went to a specialist the next week. Unfortunately, we discovered that what the doctors had done could not be reversed. I wanted to crawl under a rock. I wanted to go back in time and grab my twenty-three year old self by the collar and say, "Don't you dare let this happen!" It was at that moment that we decided to extend our family through adoption." – Family Driven Faith pg. 25

Those are tough paragraphs to read. Very thought provoking and challenging as well! Is God the creator of life or are we? Does God determine what is best for us or do we?

This is an issue in almost every Christian marriage and almost every Christian home in America. Yet I have never heard a sermon on it. Not one. So the question begs to be asked, if this is an issue almost everyone faces, why are we not talking about it as a church?

  • Should Christian women take the birth control pill? Only in certain circumstances? What would those circumstances be?
  • Should Christian women have their tubes tied? Only in certain circumstances? What would those circumstances be?
  • Should Christian men have vasectomies? Only in certain circumstances? What would those circumstances be?

What are the Biblical parameters surrounding this issue? What is your "theology" of life creation so to speak? How do you view children? How do you view conception? The paragraphs above certainly will force you to think about it. And that is the issue we'll explore on the blog this week. I'll try to unpack what I believe the Bible has to say about it. Stay tuned, it should be a fun week!

September 14, 2007

If You Can’t Say Amen – You Oughta Say Ouch

I've started reading Voddie Baucham's latest book "Family Driven Faith" and I got to tell you. I'm only one chapter in and he has flat stepped all over my toes. Which he has a habit of sometimes doing.

The book, I believe, is a call to the American family to take up its God-given responsibility for the spiritual training, life, and vitality of the family and also to take that responsibility seriously.

For those of you who have ever heard Voddie preach, you know he doesn't mince words, he's direct and to the point, and he's also one of the smartest human beings out there. Besides that, he's big enough to take you out as well, so there's definitely a respect factor there. He writes this in his book on page 29:

"There are many worthwhile pursuits in this world, but few of them rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord and keep His commandments. I desperately want my sons and daughters to walk with God, and I am willing to do whatever it takes, whatever the Bible says I must do in order to be used by God as a means to do that end. My prayer for you is that God would awaken in you that same passion"

Next week, my blog posts will be dedicated to some of the strong statements Voddie makes in the first chapter. They are provocative. They are strong. But in the end, I think they are right. If you haven't seen this book or heard about it, you need to read it. Next week should be interesting. We'll have some interesting material to cover.

September 13, 2007

Are You Just Here To Relay Information?

Or do you have something to say? I'm reading through the Gospel of Mark and as I walked through the first chapter, this phrase stuck out to me and I underlined it:

And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority and not as not as the Scribes. – Mark 1:22

As I chewed on that, and continue to do so, the thought hit me. Am I a Scribe or am I like Jesus? When I speak with people about Jesus, am I merely communicating information that I happen to possess and have knowledge of, or am I speaking as one who has been united by faith with Jesus and therefore am His representative here on Earth and speak with the authority that He has.

Have you ever heard a sermon that you knew the pastor didn't believe, or at least in some respect, didn't own? I mean, have you ever heard someone make statements that you know if they were pressed on them, they'd retreat from them at the first sign of trouble or persecution? Do you know how easy it is to simply communicate information without the conviction that you have absolute authority to make those claims because of your faith in Jesus?

Do you know how much easier life would go if you simply just relayed info? Then when pressed on it or forced to either live it or not, you could simply say "Hey I'm just relaying the data here, I don't necessarily believe it or whatnot, but I'm just telling you what I heard".

That is so limp. So lame. So indicative of Christians today. Jesus is mere information to us. He has no authority to command us to do anything. If you read the rest of the chapter, you'll find that Jesus had authority over everything. He could command it as He wished, and what's funny is when He spoke a command, it was obeyed. And yet, He's just data to us in so many ways. His commands are optional. They're good proverbs. Take em or leave em. You don't have to obey them. They're wise but with no power. I fear that's what sidetracks so many of us. I know it has me.

Jesus has authority, PERIOD. His commands are not optional. His ways are not good suggestions. Every knee WILL BOW. Every tongue WILL CONFESS, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

So I ask this question of myself and ultimately of everyone – Are you living your life as someone who is simply relaying information or is your life communicating the authority of Jesus?

God help me. For I have lived too much of my life just passing you on.

September 12, 2007

"Working So Hard My Joy Wasn't There"

Those are words spoken by Tom Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church, in a Dallas Theological Seminary chapel address on his bout with depression.

He's very candid about it. He's very open about it. The cause of it. His workload. He had a schedule that I've never heard of anyone trying to keep. He was teaching. He was preaching. He was doing exactly what so many people strive for. And yet, he was destroying his body.

I share this video, and I really hope you'll take the time to watch it because I can look back over my last year or so and see where my body, my intellect, my emotions, my spiritual well being shut down because I tried to do it all. I tried to be the hero. I tried to be the Savior. And in so doing, I found out that "rest" is NOT a bad four letter word.

It's very easy to be prideful and want to take it all on and have the world or the success of an organization supposedly rest on your shoulders. The only problem with that, is that eventually you can't do it anymore and when you crash, you crash hard. I've seen it in a lot of friends (these types of people tend to befriend one another). When the crash happens, you get lazy, you get negative, you can't see the positive, you get angry, you get hurt, and you do and say things that you normally wouldn't do.

Is it because you are a bad person. Not at all. BUT, the stress of life can only be tolerated at maximum doses for so long before it all comes to a screeching halt. Listening to this message made that really clear.

It's 30 minutes long...You need to watch the whole thing. Especially if you're the type of person who doesn't think you have time to because you have other things you need to do.

(HT: Eddie Johnson)

September 11, 2007

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning – On That September Day

"Were you in the yard with your wife and children, or working on some stage in LA?"

I'll never forget that morning. Ever. I'll never forget getting out of our Ford Expedition and right before I turned the engine off, I heard the reporters on KMOX in St. Louis talking about "We're getting reports that there is some sort of fire in the World Trade Center". I remember those words like they were just being spoken to me. I'll venture anything that if you were able to get the transcripts from that morning, those would be the exact words.

The time: 7:53 CDT – September 11th, 2001 (7 minutes after the first plane hit the North Tower).

I remember the day. It was a beautiful day in St. Louis. Sunny, cool (unusually cool) as I remember. And the way things were laid out at our office building, we had to walk through the parking lot into a lime-green tunnel and into our building. It took about five minutes to get from the parking lot to my cube. When I arrived at my desk, the whole workplace had begun to buzz and a sort of panic was beginning to set in.

I'll never forget the rest of that morning. We all were mesmerized. There was no work going to get done that day. We went to the cafeteria, and literally hundreds of people sat absolutely stunned as we watched the South Tower get hit and then eventually both towers fall. It was all so surreal. It was so much like watching a movie. Except one thing.

My wife was there. And somewhere in between the South Tower being hit and the building collapsing, we all became alarmingly aware that CitiMortgage had employees in New York, literally right across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan. I didn't talk to my wife that day until about 10:30 CDT. Almost 3 hours after the first tower was hit. I can remember the feelings and emotions that went through me. Guilt. Anger. Fear. Regret. Panic. I didn't know if my wife was alive or dead. I didn't know if my 18 month old son would ever see his mother again. I didn't know. God would use the phone call that finally connected to change the course of the Backes family forever.

I don't remember most of what was said. We cried, and hugged through the phone. It was short. Phone traffic in and out of New York was spotty. But I remember what the first words out of her mouth were. "I don't know what's going to change, but something has to". And it did. In big ways. I remember going to First Baptist Church Harvester that night and asking the church to pray with me as I broke down with Trey in my arms.

I remember when she got home. I remember when I put my arms around her. I remember the look on her face. I remember.

And today, 6 years later. I remember one more time. I remember on a quiet night in Missouri. I remember with my family tucked safely in bed. I remember in the solitude of this moment.

And I know, but yet somehow forget, how fragile and how quick this life can disappear. I remember, but yet let go of, how important my family is to me. I remember, but do not grasp, how evil man can be and yet through that evil, bring out heroism, Godliness, caring, compassion, sacrifice, loyalty, unity, love, joy, friendship, perseverance, character.

And that's what time does. It causes us to forget. It's only been six years, but how much I have forgotten and how much I don't remember each and every day about that moment that marked history. It's been 2,000+ years, and I do the same thing with Jesus every day. I treasure, but yet cast aside, that day on Calvary.

May we never forget. May we always remember. May it always be real. May it always point us away from ourselves. May it help us focus. May it help us cherish. May it spark us to good deeds. May it drive us to the Cross. May it never make sense. May it cause us to depend upon God. May it always hurt. May we always look on with somber faces.

May today be a day of remembrance. But may it also be a day of forgetting. May it be, most of all, that God have mercy upon our souls and upon those whose world stopped turning….on that September day…

September 10, 2007

National Suicide Prevention Week

"Someone dies by suicide every 16 minutes in this country."

You think about that long and hard for a moment. I mean really hard. Every 16 minutes, there is a human being somewhere that chooses to end their God given life here on Earth. Here's a thought. Go set a timer right now…Do it…

Set it for 16 minutes. And you wait. And you think. And if you don't want to do this exercise, then guess what, you've never been impacted by someone taking their own life. So sit there for 16 minutes and you think about when that timer goes off, that it represents a trigger being pulled, pills being swallowed, a noose being tightened, a car being started in a closed garage, or a wrist being slit with a knife.

Think about it.

And then think about that person being someone you know. Someone you love. Someone you come in contact with every day. And when you think about that, you think about why your "agenda" or "schedule" today was more important than taking the time to look someone in the eye and genuinely ask them how their day was. You stop and think about why "your problems" were more important than picking up a phone or shooting off and email to tell someone that you love them. You think about that.

And when you realize how selfish you've been, understand that you can provide hope to people. A simple laugh. A hug. A smile. A phone call. A letter. An email. Something. Anything can be the difference between someone not feeling like anyone cares and knowing that they are loved.

But you don't do it because we are selfish, pathetic, me consumed people who are too busy thinking about getting ahead or getting more. And we lose the ability to stop and think how a simple kind word from us might bring a ray of hope into someone's dark and dreary life.

Think about it.

Jesus walked among the crowds. He stopped for people. He cared for people. He healed people. He fed people. He raised people. He died for people. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. Think about that. Are you more consumed with you, or with others? Do you constantly think about your problems? Or the problems of others and how you could make a difference? Are you so consumed with how bad your life is? Or are you consumed with how much difference you could make in another bad life?

How you answer that just may give you insight into whether you truly understand the Gospel.

Think about it.

And wait for that timer to go off…it should be in about 14 minutes. Or are you too busy to set it? Because if you are, you're not the person that will be there when someone really needs it. Think about that.

September 07, 2007

When Hope Is Lost – A Disturbing Trend

Yesterday, I saw this article over at FoxNews and began thinking about it. Having been impacted by suicide, it's a subject of great interest to me so when I see an article about it, I usually stop and see what the article has to say.

Here's the lead paragraph (But I encourage you to read the whole article):

The suicide rate among preteen and teenage girls rose to its highest level in 15 years, and hanging surpassed guns as the preferred method, federal health officials reported Thursday.

I have to admit that shocked me a little bit. It's never a good thing to think about young people losing hope and deciding to end it all. Really, it's not good when anybody loses hope and decides to end it all. But the question I had was "Why is the rate rising among preteen and teenage girls?" My answer: Sex/Relationships (primarily). If not directly, then derivatives of the sex/relationships issue to be sure.

Now before you go off half-cocked thinking I've lost my mind, read the rest of this post to let me explain. For pre-teens and teenagers (11 – 20), the number one issue they care about is acceptance and love. And if you think about that, you'll know it to be true. And if you have teenagers or are around them for any length of time, they spend their whole days thinking about their teenage community, their place in that community, and how to improve their standing in that community. If they are outcasts from that community, they seek refuge in the outcast society which in itself is a community to which they can belong. Belonging matters to this age group more than anything.

So what does sex have to do with it? A LOT. You see sex, in some fashion, will impact every child's home life in one form or another. Here are the ways:

  • They had a sexually dysfunctional family and the dad or mom is no longer around. Therefore, the teenager doesn't have strong relationships off which to base true affection or is not receiving all the parental attention that a teenager needs. To fill the void, they go looking for that affection elsewhere. Problem is, they have a wrong picture of who is supposed to provide that affection, they pick the wrong person to try and fill that void, they are hurt further, and the relationship ends. Now you have to understand for teenagers that breaking up IS A BIG DEAL. I know as adults we don't think so, but it is. In some ways, even more dramatic and hurtful than an adult divorce. So teenagers, who already aren't getting parental support, and who have now gone through a quasi-divorce are left with a flood of emotions that they can't make sense of. The emotions overwhelm them. They have no belonging to a person or a community. And they lose hope. When they lose hope, the chances of checking out increase dramatically.
  • They've been molested sexually. To cope with the pain and hurt of that, they further their escape from that by withdrawing, isolating, and avoiding. Because they have been hurt by someone they trust implicitly, they find it impossible to trust friends or even make friends. They end up alone. They're isolated from the community. They have no belonging. They believe that their life impacts no one and therefore their death won't either. And they kill themselves.
  • The American culture is a sex-crazed culture. It has dehumanized women in the multi-billion dollar porn industry. Teenage boys are growing up without fathers at an all-time rate. The boys have no idea what being men of honor or Christlike character is all about. Women are objects to them. They treat them as such. And a perfectly normal teenage girl can end up in a relationship with a troubled teenage boy and all it takes is for that relationship to do enough damage, and both parties can end up wanting to check out. The girl because she never thought a guy would treat her like that. Also, he made her feel like she was property anyway so why would killing herself matter? The guy because the girl breaks up with him. He'll never find love again. He's never seen love modeled for him. He might as well end it.

And the list could go on and on. But it comes down to this. Teenagers are under assault and more and more are having to face adult issues with childlike intellects and they don't know how to cope. They've never been taught to cope. They have no idea how to cope. They probably aren't going to church somewhere because the church doesn't want "troubled" kids to screw up their nice church house. Neighbors don't give a crap. Christians are too busy pursuing their "careers" and "success" to notice. They have no one, and when you feel like no one cares, suicide becomes a more real option. There are other things in this report that I could talk about, but this is what came to mind today.

I'll end with that paragraph from the article:

The CDC is advising health officials to consider focusing suicide-prevention programs on girls ages 10-19 and boys between 15-19 to reverse the trends

There's only one suicide prevention program I know that makes an eternal difference. The Gospel. Please pray for young children and teenagers. They are under assault. And they need you to help and care enough to get involved. And I would also say – everyone needs to be loved by someone and feel that someone cares. Don't every miss the opportunity to spot a lonely person and get involved in their lives. Loneliness, not belonging, and isolation are lethal conditions. When hope is lost, suicide (in people's minds) is the only cure. It's wrong, and it's satanic, but it's true. May the God of hope – Give you all hope! AMEN.

Technorati Tags: Suicide

September 06, 2007

Are You With Fred?

You have to give him this. He's more real and authentic than anyone else (Republican or Democrat) save Mike Huckabee. I wonder what a Thompson/Huckabee ticket in '08 looks like and how much traction that has. In case you missed Leno last night, here's the announcement show:

More of the same, but additional stuff as well

Technorati Tags: Fred Thompson

Through The Eyes Of An Atheist

(HT: Monday Morning Insight)

I’ve Finished Reading “The Great Omission”

There aren't many good books on discipleship that I've read and the reason is because we as Christians want to reduce discipleship to a program or a series of steps that we can check off and then call ourselves disciples. As I picked up Dallas Willard's book (I've read The Divine Conspiracy as well), I had a pretty good idea that it would at least be thought provoking and challenging.

Say what you want to about his theology in some areas, or some of his thoughts concerning doctrine, but the one thing you can't say about Dallas Willard is that he doesn't cause you to think. And this book was no different.

Willard comes from my current stomping grounds of Southwest Missouri. He teaches at University of Southern California and is steeped in deep thought, philosophy, and psychology so you have to understand and read his book through that lens. And from the get go, he starts off with a great paragraph:

But in place of Christ's plan, historical drift has substituted "make converts and baptize them into church membership". This causes two great omissions from the Great Commission to stand out. Most important, we start by omitting the making of disciples and enrolling people as Christ's students, when we should let all else wait for that. Then we also omit, of necessity, the stop of taking our converts through training that will bring them ever-increasingly to do what Jesus directed.

He then takes non-disciples excuses to task:

In contrast, the non-disciple, whether inside or outside the church, has something "more important" to do or undertake than to become like Jesus Christ. He or she has "bought a piece of ground," perhaps or even five yoke of oxen, or has taken a spouse. Such lame excuses only reveal that something on that dreary list of security, reputation, wealth, power, sensual indulgence, or mere distraction and numbness, still retains his or her ultimate allegiance.

Throughout the book and if he writes it once, I know he wrote it in there twenty times: "Grace is not opposed to effort, it's opposed to earning". And you know, the more I thought about that, the more it really became true to me and right. We sit around as Christians sometime and expect God to do everything in regard to our communion and discipleship with Jesus. We wait for lightning bolts as Willard would say and we think God will magically turn us into these radical followers of Jesus that are going to set the world on fire and nothing could be farther from the truth. Willard makes a book long argument that effort on our part is very much needed and that in our effort, discipline, and empowered by the Grace of God, we truly can become authentic disciples.

One of the other things that struck me about this book is that Willard argues heavily for silence, solitude, Scripture memorization, and mediation as the primary means by which a disciple will grow and develop. He encourages the reader to take hour long solitude retreats at first and then develop those into day long and even week long times of being alone with NO noise, NO distractions, NOTHING and letting that be a time where God is allowed to form you. I'm going to take him up on this because I believe that so much what of what crowds out our growth with Jesus is noise. And to grow, we have to remove ourselves from it. Jesus did this. We should too.

Willard argues that the word "discipleship" has lost almost all of its meaning and he uses instead the term "Spiritual Formation" which if you've been paying attention lately is really what people are calling the growth and development of a disciple. How do we form our spirit and our hearts to be the heart of Jesus? That is the million dollar question.

All in all, I loved the book. Like I said, I took some great things from it. I left some things in its pages. Towards the end of the book, Willard dives off into psychology laiden speak and argues for the study of psychology as a way to understand spiritual formation. I see what he's saying but I think it might be overkill. I don't think we need to be psych majors to grow with Jesus. There may be some very ingrained stuff in us that psychology might help us understand and explore, but all in all, I think simply doing what Willard argues for and "being obedient to Jesus" is the first step.

I would whole heartedly recommend this book to a reader. As always, leave the bad, take the good.

September 05, 2007

What To Say About Video Churches

As Eddie Johnson has done, so I will do. Over at Monday Morning Insight, we are engaging in a very polite, friendly conversation about Cumberland Church being a North Point strategic partner and using video of Andy Stanley on Sunday mornings for preaching.

You can find Eddie's blog here and read our ongoing conversation here as well.

That Pretty Much Says It All

A great bit of truth from The Gospel Centered Church. I would have but couldn't have said it any better. Notice that Jared has been spending time in the Gospel Coalition media room:

If you're going to exert copious amounts of energy and resources to bedazzle and impress with lights and loud music and elaborate sets and flashing video and fog machines and glossy promos and Guy Smiley spokespeople and performed sermons, if you're going to usher people into a showy atmosphere of spiritual entertainment, how dare you then tell them to put down their guard, "open up," share their hearts. If you're going to create a culture of impressive facades, how dare you request their "authenticity."You're putting on a show. Why wouldn't they?

To Prove To You Doubters Out There

And to make my point that I am not a hater, I read Perry Noble's blog post this morning and read the most refreshing paragraph I believe I have seen on his website. I think his post today is right on, and he says it in a great way.

Here's an excerpt:

I have heard it said so many times, heck, I used to say it a lot; in fact, just about every church planter MUST include it in their lingo to sound legit–what is it? It's the phrase, "We're not going to be a church for those who are already in church–we want the unchurched coming here, that's it."

Doesn't that sound good? I think it is a nice statement…and in most cases I think the people who say it are sincere (because most who say it have been burned by the churched!) But since being at NewSpring for over seven years now I am beginning to discover the immaturity in saying that we are a church for only a certain demographic of people…and here is why…

Read the whole thing. It's a good word for folks who are looking at starting a church.

September 04, 2007

Leading People To Be Real Christ Followers In Life…Together

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And the last in this mini-series will focus on "In Life….Together". The last few days have been interesting for me in a lot of respects. It's always a unique time when you first plug into a church. You're new. You don't know anyone. You're trying to find those families and members that you can connect with. You're trying to be sensitive to how God could use you in this body of believers. There are more question marks than answers. But one thing I am absolutely convinced of one thing. There is no alternative to being a member of a local church.

And that's what has made the last few days so interesting. Over the weekend, I had the chance to hang out with some old friends. One of them was getting married so it was a reunion of sorts. And as I talked to people that were so instrumental in my early days as a new Christian, a recurring theme kept surfacing – "They were not involved significantly in the life of a local church"

Now mind you, these are not heathens. These are Christian people who for one reason or another have decided (at least subconsciously) that participation in the life of a local church is optional. I asked several friends where they were attending church and the answers I got were stunning. And you know, when you quit going to church, it's amazing the rationale you will come up with to justify it. You'll even begin to use Scripture in such a way that makes you feel better about your decision. But the truth of the matter is, that Jesus created us to go through life together..and there is no other place where we do life together more, than in a local church.

Now, one of the most common knock on the church is that it is focused more on church and not enough on life. I agree with that. And that is why LifePoint is on the right track. They understand that our growth, development, and progress and a Christian will not occur in a significant way just because we spend more time at the church building. Change occurs when we do life together. When we get one on one with one another and just go through our days together. Change happens in the homes and at the meal tables (either for bad or for good). If we are going to see our communities transformed by the Gospel, then we must realize that it will be through being "in life…together" with those at our local church. We must commit to them. They must commit to us. Membership must have meaning.

But to not do life together with folks that you see and interact with on a weekly basis is NOT an option. Read your Bible and you'll discover that Jesus never intended for you to be the Maverick. And at the heart of anyone's decision to leave the local church is pride.

Pride that says "I'm better than you".
Pride that says "You can't help me".
Pride that says "I won't help you".
Pride that says "This church is doing it wrong".
Pride that says "There's nothing for me to learn here".

It's pride, plain and simple. No matter which way you slice it. And the part of any good mission statement is to get across to people that we are in this together as a community.

For better or for worse…