Archives For In the News


I wasn’t going to write about it as this blog post will surely become lost in the sea of characters of different people posting about different things in the wake of the deaths in Newtown, CO. Quite honestly it actually makes me nauseous and a little uneasy to try to reflect about what happened. Because with technology no longer can we simply interpret the act itself we now have to process the media’s interpretations, slants and bias of what happened. Then the extremists move in like Westboro Baptist picketing at vigils or discussions of gun control, more guns, more laws…on…and…on. Then there are the comments of hate towards people created in the image of God and our violent longing for justice becomes a hateful diatribe of our own spiritual depravity.

So I didn’t want to write about it because there is not much else to say.

What sense can we make of this?

Why do we have to know the “why”?

Will it do anything to help grieving families?

Sure it might help us avoid future mistakes but nothing is 100%. An elementary school should be a place where our kids go to be safe, secure and want to learn. Yet, nothing is 100% safe. No matter the ingenuous plan, the courageous teachers or any plan set in place, nothing is 100%. I was aware of this as I let 1st grader, my Kindergartner and my per-Kindergarter go to school this morning. James, the brother of Jesus (who knew this too well) reminds us:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)

We are vapors in the wind of God’s willful spirit. So what are we to do? Do what we always do. Trust God. Trust that God’s glory is revealed in some capacity. Pray to God for the victims (28 of them counting Adam and his mother) and their families. Pray for the glory of God to pervade the very fabric of our human existence. Trust God in his providence that when Jesus comes (remember Christmas?) all wrongs will be made right and no amount of hurt will go unaddressed. Pray for the misinterpretations, the straw hats, the confusion, the “Where was God?” comments and all of the questions that may never find answers.

Trust in God.

A Gay Response

July 20, 2012 — 2 Comments

I know I am a little late but I was intrigued by the recent “coming out” of news correspondent Anderson Cooper who is a prolific journalist/reporter for CNN. Cooper is just another individual in a long string of people who have announced to the world that they are gay. I thought about blogging then but waited until I can read some more and then a magnificent post came out by Craig Gross who is Pastor of the XXXChurch.com. He wrote a fabulous article for CNN called, “My Take: Will there be gays in heaven? Will there be fat people?” He said this:

In 1 Corinthians, the Bible says don’t indulge your body with food or sex: “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,’ and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

I have always heard people go this direction when discussing the issue of homosexuality. Quite frankly I can almost anticipate someone who speaks about the sin of homosexuality and then their wardrobe of selected verses. Gross made this comment that got me thinking:

If you indulge your body with sex via pornography, affairs, strippers or hookers, and your secrets are exposed, you will not be preaching on Sunday. Sexual sin is not tolerated in our churches. If clergy are caught in these things, they’re disqualified.

What if you indulge your body with food? Well, then you can pastor some of the largest churches on the planet and have the most successful broadcasts on the religious channels and sell a lot of books.

Same biblical passage, same sin. Why is one accepted and one rejected? Why is it that religious folks want to camp out on a few things rather then all things?

Why do they believe that the gay guy goes to hell but the fat preacher who builds some of the largest churches in the world makes it to heaven?

He concludes by pointing out that the road to sanctification for the homosexual is much like that of a person losing 100 lbs. It does not happen overnight but it takes a while. He points to the need for churches to be more open in practicing community with gay people instead of ostracizing them to the corners of the disenfranchised. Whether you agree with his post is irrelevant because I think the underlying issue he unearths is what we in the evangelical world struggle with: Do we really care for gay people like we do heterosexual people?

Look at any evangelical church infrastructure and you will notice committees delegated with the task of reaching a specific need. A mission’s committee, a youth committee, a benevolence committee, a women’s ministry committee, a prison ministry and on and on the ministries go yet I wonder how many committees exist to find ways to reach those who are gay. I don’t think developing a committee approach is the answer but it should prick our hearts that Jesus spent a majority of his time with sinners and the marginalized and most church-goers only surround themselves with people they fundamentally agree with.

I wonder if our churches are even safe places to harbor those who are gay.

A church should be the safest place for a person to say, “I am gay,” yet that is the last place a gay person wants to share this news.

Or even someone who is alcoholic.

Or even someone who is addicted to porn.

Or even someone who is addicted to drugs.

Or even someone who is having an affair.

Why? Church has become a place for those who have already got it together instead of a place for those to get things together. We have become saints who are once and for all sanctified instead of sinners who are continually seeking sanctification. I wonder what our churches need to do to help gay people in their journey of sanctification. I wonder what if we spent more time and energy focused on helping gay people, drunk people, addicted people and people who need us instead of paying the different ministers, and building projects and on and on.

What would a church look like if it really welcomed sinners like that…like you…like me?


a 267 page report (Freeh Report) by the former FBI director has concluded that Penn State and its officials concealed the sex abuse scandal and failed to report it to authorities. Read this quote:

The report concluded that Paterno, president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/12/report-by-former-fbi-director-finds-that-penn-state-disregarded-children/#ixzz20QOdHDfq (see also “Key Players in Penn State Report” at CNN.com)

My heart breaks for the victims and their families, for the Sandusky and Paterno families and for all of Penn State and those involved. I think when things like this happen it should allow those of us in leadership to reflect, to humble ourselves and to learn. Below are some lessons I think are helpful for all of us but specifically I am thinking of my fellow youth workers.

  • Is there a healthy checks and balance system, especially for those “at the top of the pyramid”? Youth ministers are at the top of their program but that does not mean they are “above the system.” Who holds you accountable? If you answer to nobody then that means nobody can defend you either.
  • Do you have a screening process for those who volunteer in your youth ministry? I am not saying everyone has to do a full background check but there should be some sort of policy set in place if you are going to let them volunteer with students.
  • Do you have specifically defined policies for youth/adult interaction? Meaning, do you spell-out how adults and students are supposed to interact with each other? I.e., no riding alone with a student, no texting, etc.
  • Reputation never proceeds vindication. Meaning, you tell the proper authorities immediately even if it means your church, your ministry and your job will have its reputation tarnished. A child must be vindicated from the injustices he or she is facing over saving face. Every… single… time!!!
  • Never assume. Do not leave it up to the child, the parent, the person accused or even your boss to handle the situation. Do your homework and go to the authorities. If you are wrong, at least you are wrong doing the right thing.
  • Lead your team in sex abuse training or have an expert come in and train the team. Know when to spot this kind of thing and have your team know when to identify it as well.
  • Time is of the essence. Every second spent not doing anything is another second people get abused. Act swiftly, act strongly.
  • Finally, come alongside of God and when all of the action has taken place, minister to both the oppressed and the oppressor. We understand that the oppressed need care but Jesus also told us to love our enemies and the oppressor needs Jesus too. If the adage “hurt people, hurt people” is true then those who are hurt need the gospel. Be that good news to both!

This is a mess. We need to pray for these families. What others would you add?


So it has been almost a month since my last post and since I used Facebook and I must say that I actually feel great. I activated Facebook and discovered I had missed some things but overall I really was ok. I am not sure how mug facebooking I will do but it will not be nearly as much as I used to. I will blog a lot but that is because it is a part of my spiritual formation and a way to connect to others.

Today is a special day because my daughter Madelyn turns 3. In many ways Madelyn has been the forgotten child as Kaleb is the first boy, Amelia is the first girl and Samuel is our baby. As a parent you want to think you are impartial but sometimes we just forget about the important things and unfortunately sometimes that is Madelyn. Of all the kids Madelyn was the one who least liked me until she was a year old. She wanted mommy to hold her and many times she would ball her eyes out until mom picked her up. Things change though and now that girl is wrapped around my finger and she is so amazing. Every time I cook dinner she says “thank you daddy!” She is the first to give me a hug when I come home. I could go on and on. I want to thank God for blessing this world with Madelyn and truly being a joy to so many.

Then there is Bin Laden. U.S. forces shot and killed him in a raid of a compound in Pakistan. I have witheld my opinion because even now I struggle with it. Ezekiel 18 is clear in that God does not rejoice in people dying and Jesus was clear when he said that those who kill by the sword will die by the sword (Matt. 26:52). Also there is the certainty that God is one who is just and surely bin Laden and his cohorts have killed thousands even post 9/11. Yet, we juxtapose a man dying by the same tactics he employed (kill with the sword and die by it) with the command by Jesus to turn our cheek (Matt. 6:38-42) and love our enemies (Matt. 6:43-48). Keep in mind Jesus said those things in the context of those who desired revenge. Yet, was the killing of bin Laden part of the purposes of God and not man? We may never know the answer. Perhaps we need to mourn his death as we mourn anyone who dies in habitual sin and pray that we go about the work of righting wrongs on earth as a part of what God does in heaven.

What bothered me tremendously were the drunken celebrations of people on the streets which, by the way, was painfully reminiscent of the celebrations over there when 9/11 occurred. That was unacceptable and probably fueled the view that America is filled with a bunch of drunken gun-slinging cowboys who care nothing more than to dominate the world. I mourn for that as well.

That is about as political as I will ever get. I plan on finishing my review of Bell’s book and then a series on youth ministry.

Deo gratias

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Herbert Spencer actually coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” but it was in response to reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1864.  The idea is that only those species who are strong enough will survive.  The latest installation of this is painfully evident in college football with the knowledge that Cecil Newton lied about asking Mississippi State to pay for his son Cam to attend school there (read story here).  Whether Cam really knew or not is uncertain but the smoke is revealing the

fire and the fire is coming from a supposed minister of the gospel.  All for what?  College football.  It makes me sick the willingness people go through in order to be at the top.  Consider the following examples:

  • Bobby Petrino – Lied to Lousiville about interviewing with LSU (source) and quit in the middle of the season with the Atlanta Falcons to accept a job with Arkansas (informed his players with a note).
  • Butch Davis lied to the Miami Hurricanes saying he would not leave them for the Cleveland Browns…then he did (source).
  • Reggie Bush lost his Heisman because his family accepted money (cheating is the correct term).  Source
  • Perhaps one of the most obvious to me is the fact that Nick Saban continuously lied to reporters (source) in late 2006 and early 2007 saying he was not interviewing for the job at Alabama only to accept the job at Alabama.  What makes me upset is that later he tried to defend himself (see story), years later I might add, but never apologized for lying but said he did it to protect his players.  Nobody believes that for a second especially when he said: “I do apologize for any professional mishandling that might have occurred” (emphasis mine).  Might?  I agree he was protecting his team but is it OK that you lie to protect your team?

Is it ok to lie to cover up something damaging to your son (a la Cecil Newton?).  Is it ok to lie to keep your job and get paid (ala Bobby Petrino and Butch Davis)?  Is it ok to cheat to make sure you go to a school and win a Heisman (ala Reggie Bush)?

Where do we draw the line in character?  I am a UT fan and the same could be said about our program with the recent blunders of Coach Bruce Pearl who lied as well.  Character counts and in a dog-eat-dog world the ends tend to justify the means.  Jesus was the same way…except the end is heaven and the means to get there is counter-intuitive to the way the world.  It is amazing, no matter your allegiance, to see what people will excuse in order to put on a good show.  If your team is winning championships you probably don’t care how the coach got there just as long as you are winning.  I am thankful the kingdom of God does not work like college football.  Thank you God.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a tirade against any one coach or player…I only mentioned those that are infamous among sports writers.  If you think I have a vendetta against one program or player please think again.  Note my comment about Pearl.


A lot on my mind today for a number of different reasons so I will try to keep this post near 1000 words ;).  I read the Tennessean this morning and saw that a “pastor” in Gainesville, Florida has plans to burn 200 copies of the Koran (Quran) on September 11 to memorialize what happened to the U.S. on 9/11/01 (see story here for a good response to this see Anderson Cooper’s CNN interview here).  It upsets me to see this and I hope that the emotive radicalism spurned by a few does not discredit the good of so many Christians out there.  Perhaps the same could be said for Islam as not every Muslim is a radical who believes all pagans should die.  I am not here to argue about this, the Islam community center plans near Ground Zero or any other facet of Islam but the nature of World Religions itself and what Youth Ministers should do about it. 

Jeremy Zach in his article, “5 Problems American Youth Ministry is Facing” at REyouthpastor.com relates that one problem is that youth ministries contain weak teaching on other religions.     

“Our students need to know how to talk about other religions.  It’s unproductive when our students start talking down about other religions.  Especially when they are uninformed.  It is not good when it becomes ‘us’ versus ‘them’…I see more youth ministries teaching students the fundamentals of other religions while also educating  how to respect and admire them.” 

I think we border on sheer ignorance when we make claims of moral/spiritual superiority when we do not have a clue about what others believe.  The problem also lies in the FACT that most of us do not have a Muslim friend or a Buddhist contact or someone who believes something completely different from us.  I am not advocating that we become ecumenical but I AM advocating that we become educational and that we, like Jesus and Paul, get to know them.  In Acts 17:22-27 Paul learns of the Athenians and what they believe and what they teach.  Then he compliments them and then he teaches them about God.  It’s not hateful, it’s not coercion, it’s relational and incarnational. 

Let us learn what we can about others because last time I checked we ALL are created in the image of God (Imageo Dei) and all need Him.

Dear Obama…

June 23, 2010 — 1 Comment

If I could have a conversation or if I could have one letter to the president this is what I would say.

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Robbie Mackenzie and I was originally born (1981) in Toronto, Canada but have lived in the U.S. since 1982.  My family and I have enjoyed what America has offered us and because of the economy and the way things are set up we have prospered far beyond the world’s median income.  We believe in America’s core values and support what she is trying to do in keeping people “free” and removed from terrorism and tyranny.  I believe this was what my great-grandfather Cecil Climo was trying to do when he fought for the Canadian Army in WWI serving as a gunner against Kaiser and the Germany infantry.  I believe this was also what my great-grandfather Mackenzie was doing when he served as a doctor for the Canadian Army.  But I wonder what we are doing now when we are “preserving our freedoms.”  What does it really mean to be free and does that imply that we submit to no authority at all?  Are we really free?  You must have a difficult job being Commander-in-Chief of an entire nation with everyone scrutinizing your every move and with a window of only four years (but a maximum of eight) to accomplish policies which you and your party believes as crucial to American democracy.  I think this to be a most difficult task and so my prayers are with you each and every day you are in office.  I hear talks about how the worst thing to happen to this country was to have you in office and I also hear talks that you swearing-in to accept office was the best moment in this nation’s history.  I find it impeccably ironic that one moment for this country is split down the middle as to it being either great or immensely dim. 

I have a confession for you Mr. President.  I have been apathetic for the past three years I did not even vote when elections came.  I am not sure I can explain what is wrong with this country but somewhere along the lines we have lost our gusto and our wherewithal to be a people who is set apart for something spectacular or even noble.  We are consumed with republican/democracy, red/blue, rich/poor, north/south and on and on.  Our greatest achievements in wealth and power might be our greatest fall.  My request to you is not bi-partisanship, communism, social reform, economic stimulus or even a return to the United States Constitution.  What about Jesus?  Jesus is painted as broad as a prophet to a sinner, a savior to a psycho and all the while we are scared to consider his ways as a possibility for a nation who needs something.   Mr. President, is it so bad to think about man, woman, Jew, Gentile, black and white actually doing unto each as they want done unto them?  Mr. President, is it so bad to think about a people who, “so far as it depends on them to be at peace with all men”?  Mr. President, what is wrong with the idea og “going the extra mile” for folks or practicing the “Christian graces” found in 2 Peter 1:5-8? 

Scary?  Of course!  What about the mis-interpretations and the all-out chaos that comes from people who take things out of context?  That is why we must surround ourselves with people who take Jesus and His word seriously.  Accountability.  Trust.  The ability to recognize a higher power without trying to do so in order to get constituents to vote for us.  Trust is the ability to look into our future and be scared but to realize that  I know the One who can help us and I trust Him! 

Mr. President…these are my words and I beg you…no…I plead with you to listen as somewhere along the way we are missing our chance to be different from the world and to do the right thing.  Who cares about votes, policy, a strength in the Supreme Court or a balance of power?  What happened to doing the right thing for the sake of it being the right thing to do?  I believe in the United States but I trust in Jesus.  Shouldn’t we try?  Why have we stopped believing in things?  We have educated ourselves into a total reliance on sheer intellect and not someone (Someone) else.  We have raised up a generation of people who simply do not trust anymore and the only thrill in life is the next drink, the next hit from the joint or the next car we can buy.  Mr. President, shouldn’t we try?  Shouldn’t we try?  The choice is up to you and we need people who believe in things not to make it sound good in an oration or cabinent speech but we need people who hold true to the one thing that created everything.  God.  So we trust you to do the right thing and to believe in something for once.  

Sincerely, 

Robbie Mackenzie

How far would you go?

May 18, 2010 — 1 Comment

As funny as this is I imagine you and I would do the same for our loved ones.  Or would we?  There is some danger in getting hurt and the mother risks launching the cub and the cub getting hurt.  The mother risks hurting herself in the process as she climbs the tree.  The other cub justs wants the sibling down.  Too many lessons to talk about…thought you would enjoy this though…

Pat Robertson and Haiti

January 19, 2010 — 1 Comment

Please watch the video below before you read what I write. 

In context, Robertson does call this a tragedy and there are some kernels of truth in that God does work in the midst of a tragedy.  However, I disagree with his hypothesis that this tragedy is somewhat the result of the “pact” the Haitians made with the Devil when they revolted against the French.  OK?  Let’s be honest here, where did the people of Haiti come from?  The Spanish imported Africans to work as slaves on the island.  The indigenous indians who lived on the island prior to Columbus were forced to work in the gold mines or else they were sold to slavery.  Is this the Christian freedoms that they had which was wrong for them to resist? 

Besides…do we really want to imply (I probably assumed this but it seemed pretty strong to me) that God wiped this island out because of the sin and this is a blessing?  What about some of the Christians there who were killed?  Was that God’s collateral damage?  I think Robertson’s comments were out of line and theologically suspect.  He fails to realize that this quake was the result of NATURAL PROCESSES already occurring underneath the surface.  Just like the idea that if you live in Florida at some point you will have to face the consequences of a hurricane because they go through there often. 

Let’s not sign God’s name to something like this.  Instead, let us mourn, grieve, pray and rebuild.


Internet cafe in GuilinI think this is the post many people will read and think to themselves, “What an idiot!  He does not have a clue!”  I am fine with that.  I think this may be the post where many people disagree with me and think that I am some radical theologian who has nothing better to do than to sit at his desk and whine about the nit-picky, inconsequential things that do not pertain to “life and godliness.”  I am fine with that statement also.  But hear me out (or read) with an open heart and a willing mind.  Please understand that this is not a judgment on those who participated and a call for you to repent or you will die!  That is not what this is about at all and if you jump to that conclusion then understand that you do not know me that well if you make that assumption.  Having said that…

So last week I started seeing all of these Facebook statuses come up from girls with simply a color listed.  Some listed “white,” some listed, “pink,” and some listed, “nothing.”  I thought to myself, “That’s odd.  I obviously missed something.”  So I looked at some threads (equivalent to Facebook stalking 😉 ) and quickly I could see the point of the colors as more women started to tell each other about what was occurring and I got a bad feeling.  The point of the colors (so I am told) is that it is to promote breast cancer awareness and so women are to post their current bra color in an effort to promote awareness (Source 1; Source 2; Source 3).  Facebook, Inc. says that it has yet to find the origin of this awareness but some believe it started in the Detroit area but sources differ.  Ok, I will get to the point.  

I have a real problem with this because I believe it is not an effort to promote awareness so much as it is a fun way to show off (see Source 2 above) what color our bra is.  If you disagree with me then answer this, “When you posted your bra color did it immediately spurn you to go to the doctor and get a mammogram?”  Furthermore did you realize that National Breast Cancer Awareness is not in the month of January but rather in the month of October (www.nbcam.org)?  Don’t you have a problem with doing something that you have no clue of where it came from?  As I looked at all of the statuses I was disturbed because it was more about bragging about the color of your bra (or even the material or even the lack of a bra) than it was about promoting “awareness” of the deadly disease of cancer.  

The sad part is that it was an incredibly creative way at spreading news which, perhaps, may have turned out to be effective in the long run.  But, the problem I have is that too many men (and young boys I imagine) look at the colors and perhaps think about a particular woman’s breasts more than they do a particular cause.  Not every man does this but men are wired differently than women and they are programmed to think physically before they think emotionally.  Girls, if this sounds stupid please note that God made you very different from guys.  If we promote colon cancer by talking about our underwear color then you would probably be grossed out and want to vomit. 

As a husband, I don’t want my wife telling other people about the color of her bra because it is nobody’s business but hers and mine.  I think it was a popular thing to do that was “fun” and “exciting” but I don’t think we need to talk about our bra colors to promote awareness but awareness still needs to be promoted.  

I close by pleading with you not to feel “judged” because that is not my intention.  I just hate that all of this happened like that.  Below is a verse that I want to put for your thoughts: 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (TNIV)