Author: DwightClough

The 4 point sermon

Here’s a template for sermons, blog posts, and other Christian messages.

1. This is who God is.

2. This is who God has created and redeemed you to be (your true and real identity).

3. This is how someone with your identity lives.

4. If you are having trouble living in accordance with your identity, this is how you access the grace of God to overcome.

Hope this is helpful!

Dwight

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Do guilt trips work?

Okay, this will be a rant.

Sorry.

I’ve heard some variation of this sermon hundreds, maybe thousands of times. XYZ is a sin. You are probably committing this sin because I gotta admit I’m committing it. But you need to stop. Try real hard to stop, though you can expect to fail much of the time because you’re a sinner just like I am.

Inspiring huh?

I also see this played out: Someone makes a mistake. Mr. or Ms. Good Christian condemns his behavior. (You don’t wanna be soft on sin.) Instead of “repenting,” the offender gets even more entrenched in his mess.

So, do these guilt trips really work?

No.

First of all, they don’t work with people who don’t believe in God. And here’s why: Most unbelievers don’t believe in God because they look around, they see the mess of a fallen world all around them, and they conclude: If there is a God, it must be His fault.

In their minds, God is the sinner.

Trying to convince them that they are sinners is largely a waste of time. Here’s what they need to discover instead: God is good. And that discovery is a long, uphill road for most people.

But guilt trips don’t work with people of faith either. Here’s why: Trying to motivate people with a guilt trip ignores how people grow and change. The Bible says the kindness of God leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) The Bible teaches that repentance is not something we do, but rather something we receive from God. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

We grow when God opens our eyes to see who we really are and who He really is. We grow when our perspectives change. And the only way that happens is this: We need to bring our faulty beliefs to God and allow Him to tell us the truth.

What can we do to help each other change? We can show the love of God. We can listen, understand, respect, affirm, encourage, help.

Is there ever a place for calling out sin? Yes, there is. But don’t be too eager to be the prophet that meddles in someone else’s business. John the Baptist did that and got thrown in prison. I’m not saying he wasn’t doing God’s will. I’m just saying: Don’t be too eager. That kind of behavior has a way of rebounding and hitting you square in the face.

I’ll leave you with this short story: Several years ago a Christian friend came to me and admitted that he was in an adulterous affair. Everyone who knew was condemning him, and telling him what a terrible sin he was committing. So he asked me, “What do you think of me now?” I paused for a moment and then said, “I think you’re a guy looking for a solution, just like all the rest of us.” That eventually led to him taking a look at the problems he was trying to solve with his affair. As he started to get God’s solutions, the affair made less and less sense. He eventually reconciled with his wife, and they are by all reports happily married today.

Dwight

PS. I’ll be covering this in a little more detail in Inner Wealth on November 30, 2019.

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My prayer for our nation

Every day I pray the same prayer
for our nation.

I thought about explaining why,
but instead, I think,
I’ll just share this prayer with you.

Maybe you’ll want to make it your own:

Let truth triumph
over deception.

Let justice and mercy triumph
over injustice.

Let understanding, respect, trust, and love triumph
over polarization.

Amen.

Dwight

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Evangelical phobia

I recently read yet another article where the author’s biggest fear seemed to be that evangelicals would gain political power, and I feel like I need to respond.

Most people would classify me as an evangelical. Some would call me a fundamentalist. I don’t choose those terms for myself; I simply call myself a Christian. As such, I cannot speak for all evangelicals; I only speak for myself. But I think most evangelicals would read my words and nod their heads.

What are you so afraid of? I want to ask.

Are you afraid that I want to install a theocracy like the ayatollahs have done in Iran? I have neither the desire nor the ability. My Bible says only Jesus has the power to do that, and if He wants to do that, He certainly doesn’t need my help.

Are you afraid that I’m trying to establish a state church and force everybody to attend? Yuck. I want the right to believe what I want to believe, to speak freely about what I believe, and to practice my beliefs in a way that does no harm to others. And I want you to have the exact same right.

Are you afraid that I want to install surveillance in your bedroom to monitor your morality? That’s a laugh. Zero interest in that. Less than zero. Am I interested in legislating morality? Depends on what you mean. I do think rape and robbery are wrong. I do think that six year old children should not be molested. And, yes, I do want to have political power over those who disagree with me on that.

Do you think I’m a white supremacist eager to subjugate African Americans? Come on! Really? I mostly don’t notice skin color unless someone brings it up and makes an issue out of it. My mind goes to an occasion where I promoted a Black man (I honestly hadn’t even noticed he was Black), and my liberal white colleagues shot it down and chose a white man instead because “he looks like us, and he sounds like us.” Hmm.

Am I a pawn of the “Religious Right”? I don’t think I’m a pawn of anybody.

What do I want?

For starters, I want to help people who are in poverty to get out of poverty forever. And, no, I am not at all impressed with the Right or the Left in this area. Not at all. Read my book. I want quality health care available and affordable for all. Again, I’m unimpressed with the Right and the Left in this area.

It’s on my radar that Christians are actively persecuted in 50 nations in the world, and actively discriminated against in another 50 nations. I don’t want that here. I don’t want anybody to be persecuted whether they look and sound like me or not. I’m an anti-totalitarian because history teaches me that totalitarian states are very dangerous places for good people who just want to live a good life. I want good people to be free to do what they want to do.

And so, to those of you who are afraid of evangelicals: Why would these things make you afraid? What is it that I am threatening?

Dwight

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Why politics is not religion

Some make politics their religion. In other words, they define good and evil by their political position. All who agree are good. All who disagree are evil.

This is very dangerous.

I let my religion inform my political views and not vice versa. If the Bible disagrees with my political position, then my political position must change, not my interpretation of the Bible. This is my way of living in submission to God and acknowledging that He alone has the right to define good and evil.

Murder, robbery, rape, and assault are always evil. They are crimes, and they should be punished, no matter who commits these crimes—whether the perpetrator be Democrat, Republican, or of some other political persuasion.

Adultery, greed, betrayal, and manipulation are always evil. They may not always be crimes, but they are still wrong, no matter who commits these sins.

Respect, trustworthiness, patience, kindness—these virtues are good and admirable, no matter who practices them.

If we make our politics our religion, and if we define good and evil by our political views, then dissent becomes a crime. History teaches us: Millions have suffered greatly when dissent becomes a crime. When dissent becomes a crime, no one is safe. You might be part of the ruling class today, and tomorrow you could just as easily be on the list for liquidation. “Liquidation” a nice word for arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death.

We all feel strongly about our political opinions. But, as a people, let’s be very careful about where we go with political power. It can and sometimes does bite the hand that feeds it.

Dwight

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Winners and losers

For some reason, our culture is obsessed with winners and losers. In other words, you play my game by my rules, and, if you win, you’re a winner. If you lose, you’re a loser.

This is widely accepted as gospel, at least here in America. It fuels the great American love affair with sports. It’s pervasive in business and politics. It even finds its way into the church, especially in church leadership.

Some people are pushing back. There are no winners and losers they say. Instead, everybody gets a participation prize. You don’t need to learn how to read to get an A on the reading test. Everybody is a winner whether you win or not.

Hmm.

Could I suggest an alternative point of view?

Each person is a gift from God to all the rest of us. Each person is designed to win, but not everybody will win at my game playing by my rules. Maybe they weren’t designed to win my game. Maybe they were designed to win something else.

And maybe it helps all of us to help one another win at the game each is designed to win. Maybe it helps all of us when each of us becomes the best person we were designed to be.

And maybe we can get over our obsession with making other people lose so we can win.

Just maybe.

Dwight

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Christian dress up

For many years I played Christian dress up
pretend religion
good sounding words
that had nothing to do with how I experienced life.

Sure, I was heaven bound.
I was in.
I was part of the family.
But something was missing, and

I guess I just thought
that was normal.

When I found it,
when I learned how to experience God
in a way that made me
stronger
healthier
happier
forever transformed—

I was like:
Everybody needs this!

I went around trying to get everybody
signed up.

You can probably guess how that went.

Since then,
I’ve been writing book after book
trying to inspire
educate
cajole
encourage
people into a whole new dimension
of faith.

You can find my books at
https://dwightclough.com/books2/dwight-clough-books/

I figure some people will never buy and read my books,
so I post more good stuff for free
https://dwightclough.com/free-resources-2/

And I also post videos every week for my Inner Wealth subscribers.
You can learn about that here:
https://dwightclough.com/coaching-services/inner-wealth/

On top of that,
I created two online courses
which you can also find at my website.

I mention these things
because I don’t often talk about what I have available for you
if you want it.

Anyway, it’s all here if you want it.
Enjoy!

Dwight

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Why do you need to believe what you believe?

When one of my sons was 12 or 13, he posted a comment on a forum that he favored creationism over macro-evolution. He received about 100 responses disagreeing with him. I don’t think a single one treated him with respect. Every one was some form of “you are stupid for believing in creationism.”

First, let me say this: This post is NOT about creationism vs. macro-evolution. It’s about something else.

To say that my son was hurt would be, I think, an understatement. Here he was, just starting to figure out his world, venturing into the public arena, and he was mowed over. I patiently dissected every comment with him, and tried to explain that every one was just a variant of ad hominem—an attack on a person, rather than the position. Sure, some of them sounded very sophisticated, educated, scientific, but they weren’t. They were just name calling.

This happens a lot. Much of politics is name calling. People do it because it works. If you call someone a name loud enough and long enough, pretty soon that person loses all credibility. Nobody wants to listen to them. And, believe me, it happens on both sides.

But anyway, the experience got me thinking. Why would a hundred people want to destroy a twelve-year-old boy’s self image? What would cause them to be so vitriolic? What difference does it make if a kid—or for that matter—if anyone believes in creationism? Why was this so important to them?

Why did they need to believe what they believed?

Don’t tell me that this has something to do with science, or the fossil record, or scientific advancement. It doesn’t. The venom in their comments is coming from someplace else. My son’s post touched something primal; it caused a visceral reaction. Why?

The answer I came up with is this: Macro-evolution is the lynch pin for the atheist. As long as he has it, he doesn’t need to invite God into his world. He doesn’t need to answer to God. God is irrelevant. But if he loses it, then his entire system comes crumbling down.

This explains, I think, why we can go around and around with people in conversations on politics, religion, and many other things and get no where. People believe what they believe NOT because they looked at the evidence with an open mind, but because they NEED to believe it. Their world falls apart if they don’t believe it.

Jesus said, “I am the truth.” He said, “The truth will set you free.” We need the Truth. We need Jesus at a primal level if we’re ever going to hope to START unraveling how we see our world.

Dwight

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Fundamentalist Christians?

I was paging through a book recently. The author’s intent was to extract all the “fairy tales” from the Bible and then see what was left. His method was simple; whenever he came across something he wanted to erase, he would say, “Only fundamentalist Christians believe in x.”

Example: “We all know there was no Adam and Eve. Only fundamentalist Christians believe they really existed.”

If it’s not immediately obvious to you what he’s doing, then substitute the N word for “fundamentalist Christians,” and then reread the sentence to yourself.

Just as the N word is a racial slur, so also “fundamentalist Christian” is a religious slur. It’s used to demean, devalue, and marginalize a group of people.

The intent is clear. Fundamentalist Christians are thought to be ignorant, uneducated, unsophisticated, homophobic, bigoted, racist, unenlighted, bull headed, sign wielding fanatics.

Most people don’t want to be thought of in those terms. By creating the impression that normal people don’t believe in, say, Adam and Eve, the author bullies people into silence, without actually supporting his assertions with any kind of logic.

“Fundamentalist” is also sometimes used to create guilt by association. If Islamic fundamentalists are terrorists, then fundamentalist Christians are domestic terrorists. Don’t laugh; something like this belief was reflected in an internal memo at high levels in our US government in the not-too-distant past.

100 years ago, “fundamentalist” was a term that some Christians applied to themselves to distinguish themselves from “modernists” who rejected, in their view, the “fundamentals” of the Christian faith. But this history is mostly forgotten in our modern culture. And, yes, I have a few friends who would probably still call themselves fundamentalists, but what they mean by the term and what our culture means by the term are vastly different things.

I bring this up for two reasons:

(1) There’s a Russian proverb: All that glitters is not gold. In the same way, all that sounds sophisticated is not truth. Don’t let yourself be bullied or deceived by slick spin doctors.

(2) I don’t want to marginalize anybody—even the people I disagree with. I’m willing to explain why I disagree if anyone cares to listen, but I’m not going to do it by putting someone down. I hope you’re with me on that.

Dwight

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Who to blame

In the New Testament Gospel of John, chapter 9, we find something very relevant to our culture today. Jesus is walking along with His entourage, and they come across a man who has been blind since day one, never able to see. Jesus’ followers immediately ask:

“Whose fault is this? Did the Democrats do this? Or the Republicans? Is this his own fault? Or did this happen because of some evil corporation? Is this a result of moral decline or climate change? Is this the result of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia? Or is this the result of laziness or media bias? Did this happen because of his socio-economic status or because he had no access to adequate health care?”

“Please, Jesus, tell us who to blame. We must know in order to feel okay about ourselves.”

What did Jesus reply?

He said, “Whoa! Wait! Stop! You’re asking the wrong question. The question is NOT, ‘Who do we blame?’ The question is, ‘What opportunity does this present? How can we take this bad thing and turn it into something good?’”

Hmm…

Dwight

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