Willie Deutsch.com

Religion and Politics from a Young Christian in Northern Virginia

Wedding Pictures

September 28th, 2012

Four weeks ago I married my best friend and the most amazing woman I know.  Since then we have had four busy fun filled weeks setting up our home, and learning to really make our lives one.  They have been four wonderful weeks, and I look forward to wonderful decades to come.  I want to take a moment to thank the many people who made our wedding possible, and everyone who came and celebrated with us.  We chose to focus on how God’s sacrificial love should be reflected in marriage as well as how our union in marriage is a beautiful reflection of the union we have as believers with Christ.  I am thankful that many who came said they could very much sense God’s presence at the ceremony, and I pray He will always be present in our lives and marriage.
But what you really want to see.  Pictures!

The first is a picture my Best Man, Stephen Williams, took as we are leaving the reception for our honeymoon.


The rest of the pictures are a few taken by our amazing photographer Laura Shanae Crenshaw.  She was fun and easy to work with. Someone who has great ideas and an understanding and eye for light. If you can book her, she is very much worth it.  You can also view our wedding album as she keeps adding to it as well.  For more photos you can also go to our wedding website.

My Beautiful Bride

Two Happy Newlyweds

Stunningly Beautiful Bridesmaids

My Amazing and Crazy Groomsmen

My Best Man and Myself

Family Picture

The Sin of Partiality: A Devotional

September 20th, 2012

Last Saturday I gave a devotional on The Sin of Partiality based off James 2:1-13.  The following is not a transcript of what I said, but just the outline and notes I used for my talk.  Some of the explanation that may be needed to flesh out the points are not written since I would just say it as I elaborated on the points.  As I lead other devotional groups and bible studies, I may post my notes periodically.

  1. The Seriousness of the Sin of Partiality
  2. The Reason why we should not show partiality.
  3. Application: Two Types of Partiality Condemned by Scripture

1. The Seriousness of the Sin of Partiality

Definition: Looking down on someone or treating someone as having less value.

Context: This is the first sin in James in a list of sins that the first chapter tells us to “put away” (v.21) and ways in which we must be “doers and not just hearers.” (v.22)  For some reason partiality was a sin that was a higher priority for James to address than the dangerous tongue which he discusses in depth in the next chapter.

Seriousness: James takes partiality much more seriously than probably most of us take it.  If most of us were making a list of sins, partiality probably wouldn’t make it on the list.  In v. 4 he says the person who does it “judges with evil thoughts” and in v. 6 he describes the partial person as “dishonoring the poor man.”

In our view of sin that includes “white lies” and “the seven deadly sins,” one would think showing partiality would barely make it to the status of a white lie.  However, in verse 8-11 James equates partiality with adultery or murder.

2. Reason for the Seriousness of Partiality

At a fundamental level, partiality denies the power of the cross.  The cross is the great leveler of humanity.  Without it we are all sinners, regardless of what we have done.  Only because of it are any of us redeemed.  Partiality is a way for humans to make themselves elevate themselves or others.  It does it by allowing us to create tiers of people who are holier than others, and tiers of people who are worse sinners than others.  When I claim to be more holy or righteous because of externalities than another believer, I am denying that it is only the cross that accomplishes this.  When I claim someone is a worse sinner for x reasons, I deny that God has saved me from the exact same place through the death of His son.  When we see each other for who we are in light of the cross, partiality becomes quite petty.

C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory made a powerful and poignant quote about who we are in light of eternity.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…  It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

If we truly see each other in this light, how can we show partiality to each other?

Closely related to this is that very simply, we have no justification for partiality.  We had nothing in us that warranted our salvation, yet Christ saved us.  Whatever we can think to hold against someone, God can hold much more against us.  He chooses continually not to.

3. Application: Two Types of Partiality in Scripture

A.  Partiality Based on Appearance or Title

This is the partiality specifically addressed in this passage.

  • rich v. poor
  • good clothes v. bad clothes

In a school setting or any other setting we should not show partiality based on the many socioeconomic reasons we contrive to divide ourselves.  Race, fashionable clothes, income, education, etc… Why you may be more inclined to be friends with people you are more similar to, there is no justification or reason to look down on someone for these kind of external reasons.

Tragically this occurs far too often in many churches.  How often have you seen someone get weird looks because they did not dress well enough for that churches standards, or when was the last time you saw someone being kept at a distance or avoided because they did not meet that churches standard of modesty?  We may not show partiality by bringing the person with the good clothes to the front of the room, but how often do our churches exclude whether directly or indirectly because someone isn’t dressed well enough?

B. Partiality Based on Sin

Jesus regularly interacted with tax collectors and sinners.  Tax collectors were the worst form of the greedy bureaucrat.  They were known as thieves and extortionists, and they were viewed as traitors who were agents of Rome’s effort to subjugate the Jews.  The word “sinners” is largely a euphemism for prostitute.  It could also refer to people who lived such generally evil lives that they were known by all to be living lives of sin.

Matthew 9:10-13 describes the conversion of Matthew/Levi and his subsequent eating and drinking with Matthew’s friends who are described as “tax collectors and sinners.”  This story is told in both Luke and Mark as well.

Matthew 11:19 it appears that Jesus was known by the people at large as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

Luke 15:1 Jesus tells the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Prodigal Son after “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.”

These were the people who were attracted to Jesus and who he came to preach to.  Much like the pharisees did, it is far too easy for us to look down on and disassociate ourselves from someone because they are a “worse sinner” than we are.  Jesus would have none of that.  If a pastor spent his time with and ministering to cheats and sexually immoral people, would we be able to view him as following the pattern of Christ, or would we criticize him for “putting himself in the way of temptation” or for “not having enough hedges in place to guard against temptation?”  Do sinners at least think that they are welcome at our churches, or do they know they will be looked down on and judged instead of loved?  Jesus rebuked those who looked down on others as being worse sinners than ourselves.  Do we as modern Christians need to be similarly rebuked?

In closing, I read a post from another blog which I edited slightly.

“Now, if Jesus had fellowship with tax collectors and sinners in order to preach to them, the Pharisees would not have fussed. After all, who would have objected that tax collectors and sinners were forsaking their sinful lifestyle, making restitution, and seeking a life of righteousness? The Pharisees believed that God offered forgiveness when sinners repented. They could even rejoice that a wretched sinner saw the light and was converted from a life of debauchery.

But what infuriated the Pharisees was that Jesus was not explicitly or directly asking tax collectors and sinners to do any of this. Some of them no doubt did repent, such as Levi (Luke 5:28). But Jesus seems to have accepted them as they were and was freely having dinner with them without requiring that they first clean up their lives.

Of course, Jesus did have a message to proclaim to them. But his message was not, “Straighten up your life and keep the law.” Rather, his message was, “The kingdom of God is open to you; you are welcome to join.” By eating with them, he was extending to them the kingdom of God.

When we read about the protest of the Pharisees, we are quick to condemn them and to side with Jesus. But if Jesus were physically present in our world today, would we as church people be comfortable if he spent his time with cheats and swindlers, sexually deviant individuals, gays and lesbians? Would we not be infuriated if he constantly went to their dinner parties and didn’t come to ours?”

September 11: A Contrast in Leadership Between Two Presidents

September 12th, 2012

While some criticized President Bush for how he handled the September 11 tragedy as it was unfolding.  His immediate sense of the horror of the situation, and the necessity of a strong American response was clear from the start.  In his first public statement as the situation was still unfolding, he made it clear that “the full resources of the federal government” would be used to “conduct a full scale investigation and to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.”  His handling of the situation made it clear to any terrorist that “Terrorism against the United States will not stand.”

Now eleven years later we awake to find that the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other embassy staff were killed in an attack on the eleventh anniversary of September 11.  This was a courageous man who died trying to evacuate staff from an endangered consulate.  He died showing the kind of heroism that moved our hearts during the tragedy of that dark day.  These men were killed by violent muslims who were protesting with gun shots and rocket-propelled grenades the fact that someone made a movie which the believed ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.

Instead of any form of outrage, or commitment to making sure justice happened, President Obama issued one of his regular meaningless “strong condemnations.  While he say he directed an increase of embassy security, he has yet to direct any response to the attacks.  He also has the gall to remind us that the “United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”  While we should not condemn every Muslim, those who perpetrate horrible acts of violence in the name of a religion must be condemned for what they do in the name of that religion.

Mr. President we are outraged.  An ambassador has died serving this nation, something which has always been interpreted as an act of war, and no justice will be sought?  Do you want this man to die in vain?  If not, when willl you do more than talk?  We have seen how effective strong condemnations have been against Iran and their militaristic nuclear ambitions, or against Palestine in stopping their attacks on Israel.  Muslims laugh at your “strong condemnations” because they are meaningless and display America’s weakness.  Teddy Roosevelt believed in a foreign policy where leaders “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.”  You in stead walk loudly, yet promise the world we will not use our sticks.

In condemning your response, Mitt Romney showed that he understands foreign policy better than your four years in office have taught you.  We should be outraged by such a senseless attack.  You should be shocked by your own weakness and refusal to respond.

While President Bush committed many mistakes, his great strength was the resolute and decisive way with which he dealt with terrorism.  While he was in office, terrorists new the president was their enemy.  With President Obama and his meaningless “strong condemnations” the world knows we will not stand up to terror.  This is the contrast in leadership which the 11th anniversary of September 11 has shown us.

Remembering Septemer 11

September 11th, 2012

I remarked to a couple friends that today marks one of the first anniversaries of September 11 on which many of the current  college freshmen would barely remember the events of that tragic day.  In previous years, 2009 and 2010, I have put together tributes based on some of the videos, speeches, and songs related to that day.  I wanted to take this moment to recall some of the memories of a young 11 year old from that day.  We began watching the news not long after the second plane hit the tower when my grandmother called to tell us what happened.

The scariest moment of the day was when the camera panned to the smoke at the pentagon.  My heart sank, and there was this fear, “Where will they hit next?”  The thing that confused me the most throughout the day was how America could let people grow so strong that they could launch such a devastating attack.  As a young child I was astounded by how quickly the commentators could identify that the attacks had to coordinated by Osama Bin Lade and Al Qaeda.  Why a superpower like America would let people in the middle of nowhere grow and organize till they could launch such a sophisticated attack made no sense at all.  One of the happiest moments was knowing my uncle and the many other friends we knew from New Jersey were all safe.  My uncle came into the second tower on the train shortly after the first tower was hit, and was immediately rushed outside.  I remember as well playing soccer that night.  Al Bedrosian was the head of our homeschool soccer league.  He decided we wouldn’t let the terrorists keep us from playing.  We played, and then we went back to being glued to our tv.

I remember countless stories of heroism by ordinary people.  I remember a nation who was no longer red and blue, but united as President Bush and Mayor Giuliani courageously lead us.  We were a nation brought together by suffering.  The bitter partisanship of Bush v. Gore was driven away.  Americans had been attacked, and we would do whatever we could to support the victims, and avenge the dead.

I remember how baseball united us.  When baseball returned, especially to New York City, normalcy and healing began.  While the attacks were not enough to bring the nation to rout for the New York Yankees in the World Series, a couple less people referred to them as the Evil Empire that year.  With the delay of baseball that year, Derek Jeter became known as Mr. November, and President Bush’s World Series opening pitch in New York City inspired a nation.

I remember the red American flag t-shirt with a bald eagle on it that I bought days before and how I treasured it for years.  I remember tracking every movement of our military operations in the newspaper and the radio.  I could tell you what happened at every one of the early military encounters at the time.  We were a different nation after that day.  The crash of the planes brought the nation face to face with the brutal face of terrorism.  For a young boy growing up this shaped how I viewed the world.  It woke me up from my naivete and showed me that there was evil in the world, and that we must stand up to it.

What do you remember?  How has it affected you?  Will you join me in making sure that those everyone remembers what happened on that day?

Here is a very good video tribute of news clips documenting the day.

Is Christianity All About Obeying Commands? Part I

September 7th, 2012

A couple years ago I was puzzled by how I could love God more.  I didn’t seem to have the deep vibrant love I heard others talk about.  I wanted it, so I set out to figure out how to achieve that.  Like I usually do when understanding what the Bible says about a topic, I did a word study and pulled together all the verses I could find on loving God.  In the course of that search I came upon John 14:15.  Nestled between a promise of great power, and the promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit is  captivating declaration from Jesus.  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  In that moment, I found the answer to my search.  I will demonstrate my love for God by finding and cataloging all the commands I can find in the Bible, and do my best to obey them.  I was quickly overwhelmed.  Not only are there a lot of commands in the Bible, but trying to keep them all is… impossible.  Yet again another effort to have a vibrant loving relationship with Christ was proved futile.

Tragically this mindset is encouraged by many Christians.  Not only are we told we must obey all the commands in the Bible, but if you are a truly Biblical Christian you will analyze principles in the Bible and derive new rules which must be obeyed as well.  Because truth is absolute, then if a way of living derived from the Bible is right for one person, then it must be true for everyone.  The logic is simple and therefore believable.  As a result, many things have become taboo for various Christians including drinking, dancing, and eating meat.  Many other things have been required of Christians: strict and comprehensive dress codes, all kinds of rules for what constitutes a “Biblical Courtship,” and enough rules on interactions between the sexes that a person has to constantly think whether what he says or does might be perceived as “immoral.”  Organizations have even been created to make sure Christians know and follow the many Biblical principles.  One of the best known examples is Bill Gothard’s Institute in Biblical Life Principles which was begun when he “wrote his master’s thesis at Wheaton Graduate School on a youth program that eventually led to seven Biblical, non-optional principles of life.”  Whether intended or not, the focus on obeying commands as central to Christianity makes it hard for many to see God as their loving Heavenly Father, and instead leads them to view Him as someone who is standing there waiting to punish them when they disobey, and will only bless them when His commands are obeyed.

Interestingly Jesus reserved His most fiery language for people who approached religion this way.  While Jesus enjoyed exposing the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He also blasted the way they would derive commands from Biblical principles and require people to obey their commands to be good Jews.  Does this sound eerily familiar?  Jesus said people who do this, “Tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”  (Matthew 23:4)  In Matthew 12 Jesus exposes the problems with Jewish laws concerning the Sabbath.  Among other things, the Pharisees had rules against healing and plucking grain to eat on the Sabbath.  (Anyone familiar with modern commands against cooking, or eating out on the Sabbath?)  In an effort insure the Jews obeyed the 4th commandment, all kinds of rules were added on top of this command.  Jesus went out of his way to expose the Pharisees wrong approach which created these burdensome rules.  He ridicules the “experts in the law” at one point asking them “Have you not read in the Law…” (Matthew 12:5)  Essentially He tells them that their priorities are not His.  “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”  (Matthew 12:7)  In verse 12 he accuses them of valuing their own sheep over the health of a sick man.  Shockingly, “The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.”  (Matthew 12:14)

Towards the end of Matthew, in Chapter 23 Jesus goes after even more of the Pharisees rules using very strong language in the process.  Verses 16-22 contain His condemnation of their ridiculous rules about what forms of swearing were binding.  A few verses later He condemns their requirement that people tithe a tenth of every individual herb they grow. (Again this was a derivation of the command to tithe, but once a burdensome and ridiculous rule.)  As a result he calls them “blind guides” who “have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”  (Matthew 23:23)  Immediately afterwards Jesus compares them to whitewashed tombs and cups which are clean on the outside but filthy inside.  Concluding, He says the pharisees “Outwardly appear righteous to others, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  (Matthew 23:28)

There are undeniably commands in the Bible which a Christian pursuing Christ should strive to follow.  However, burdening a Christian with commands, and especially with rules derived from Biblical principles has no place in Scripture.  This is the type of legalism practiced by the Pharisees which Jesus vehemently condemned.  In Part II I will explore what the Bible says about obeying commands.

Willie Deutsch.com

Religion and Politics from a Young Christian in Northern Virginia