Love (What We Should Be Know For)*

Acts 17:11- “The people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica…”

Luke defines “open-minded” as:
– “listened eagerly to Paul’s message” and
– “searched the scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.”

As a result, “many believed”.

Many Christians have this backward.
– Rather than, “listening eagerly to the gospel” they, “listen eagerly to their favorite (or least favorite) political candidate”.
– Rather than, “search the scriptures” they, “search the internet for memes and one-liners about their political enemies.”

Additionally, they fail to learn whether or not what they are seeing is true, so they simply pass on falsehoods and lies for the sake of scoring political points and making themselves feel better. The Bible calls this, “bearing false witness” and make no mistake, it is sinful.

The result? Few, if any, are actually converted to anything, this only fosters anger, cynicism, and mistrust. For the Christian, as we retreat into our echo-chambers of self-righteousness, our ability to demonstrate empathy, sympathy and compassion is diminished as are our opportunities to speak truth into a culture that is deeply in need of it.

The WOPR computer in the movie “WarGames” had it right- “The only winning move is not to play”.

I challenge those who identify with Christ to:
– care as much about the health of your local church as you do your government;
– be as interested in, and as committed to, the local church as you currently are in your government;
– pray often for and with the leaders in the local church;
– point people to Christ as the answer, instead of any political leader, policy or law;
– recognized the truth found in the words of Derek Webb: “we’ll never have a Savior on Capitol Hill”;
– demonstrate empathy, sympathy and compassion to those of a differing political opinion than you;
– if you do not have a relationship with someone who has a differing political opinion that you…GET ONE, and…

above all else…

Remember the words of Jesus in John 13:35- “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are [his] disciples.”

Not the bumper sticker on your car. Or what school you went to. Or the flag that you salute. Or your country of origin. Not the creeds you affirm or the political party you support. Not the church you attend or the position you hold in that church.

Your love for one another proves it.

Love.

*a play on Derek Webb’s “T-Shirts (What We Should Be Known For)”

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Saul and Ananias- Contrasting Responses

A read through Acts 9:1-19 reveals two people both spoken directly to by God.

The first is Saul, on his way to Damascus to find and arrest Christians. Instead, he encounters Jesus on the road and is immediately obedient to his instructions.

The second is Ananias, a follower of Jesus in Damascus. His immediate response to his encounter with Jesus is fear, argument, and a general attitude of unwillingness to acts upon Jesus’s clear instruction to embrace someone that we’d likely consider far from God.

A few weeks ago, friend Kiersten DeLong posted part of David Platt’s book, “Counterculture” on her Facebook page:

This, I am convinced, is a needed word for every Christian (and prospective Christian) in our culture today. Gone are the days when it was socially beneficial to be in church at the beginning of the week. Gone are the days when it was publicly acceptable to follow Christ ever other day of the week. Here are the days when holding fast to the gospel, actually believing the Bible, and putting it into practice will mean risking your reputation, sacrificing your social status, disagreeing with your closest family and friends, jeopardizing your economic security and earthly stability, giving away your possessions, leaving behind the accolades of the world, and (depending on where and how God leads you)) potentially losing your life.

This exactly what the Lord was calling both Paul and Ananias to in Acts 9, and it’s exactly what Christians in 2016 are called to.

Like Saul, we are often on a quest to chase down and convict the “heathen other”. May we encounter Jesus on the road. Then, stumbling into Damascus, blinded by the God who will not remain bound by our own faulty understandings, misconceptions and assumptions- may we humbly submit to those who lay hands on us, intent on removing the scales from our eyes. As awareness and reality assaults our senses let us go out and lead others to Him.

Like Ananias, we often respond in fear to God’s clear commands to love those who persecute us. What’s worse, is that we don’t even face persecution from people, they are simply different than us. They simply sin differently than we do. Or speak a different language or have a different skin color or culture. May we humble ourselves to the greater picture of God’s grace and mercy and realize the God has more in store for us and with us, than just us.

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On the “Jezebel Spirit”

I recently completed a read and study of 1/2 Kings; one of the most fascinating characters was Ahab. He reigned for 22 years and was married to Jezebel. They were pretty much the worst husband/wife team ever. The phrase “Jezebel Spirit” has often been used to show that someone is a wicked troublemaker, sowing seeds of rebellion and undermining a biblical leader. A few minutes ago, I saw a series of posts on Twitter from Jonathon Stone, pastor of Renovatus Church in North Carolina regarding his thoughts from 1 Kings 21.

The story is simple: a man named Naboth had a vineyard near Ahab’s home, and Ahab wanted it. Naboth told him it wasn’t for sale, so Ahab did what any strong leader would do- he went home and cried about it to his wife (Jezebel). The next day, Jezebel had Naboth brought up on false charges and executed.

Ahab got his little kindom. Here’s the tweets:

  • I don’t know if there is any such thing as a “Jezebel spirit,” but it often gets defined as oppositional and control seeking.
  • But based on the Naboth story, Jezebel is only able to function to the degree that Ahab is dysfunctional. No one talks about “Ahab spirit?”
  • When someone accuses a person or system of operating with a “Jezebel spirit” they are more likely expressing frustration towards Naboth.
  • Maybe you’re not fighting a Jezebel spirit, maybe you’re just sulking because Naboth won’t give you what you want.
  • Jezebel did not oppose Ahab, she got for him what he insisted on having at any cost.
  • If a “Jezebel spirit” can only operate in conjunction with a “Ahab spirit,” then it might be helpful to define an “Ahab spirit.”
  • Maybe this, an “Ahab Spirit” is fretful, anxious and undifferentiated leadership that deals with the answer “no” w/sulking & self-loathing.
  • Unfortunately, accusations of a “Jezebel spirit” often get associated with strong female leadership.
  • However, Ahab and Jezebel are not about men and women. Not even about marriage.
  • Instead, Ahab and Jezebel are about undifferentiated leadership abdicating its authority to cruel and vicious pragmatism.
  • If you are a leader, opposing voices are more likely to be Naboth. Jezebel is the voice promising to get you what you want at all cost.

To Ahab’s “cruel and selfish pragmatism” I’d add unbridled selfishness, unfounded fear and malignant narcissism. Because those consumed with themselves need only the slightest encouragement by a wicked “Jezebel” to wreak havoc on and destroy the lives of others. Regardless of cost or consequences.

And those same tyrants, like Ahab and Jezebel before them, will eventually be brought down in a spectacular way, and the Naboth’s among them will be lifted up.

 

 

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Dear DC Talk fans,

I get it. You’ve looked forward to this moment for years. And then, a cryptic post from a long dormant account. You were all hopeful they’d come to your town, if not your own church. Maybe, they’d STAY AT YOUR HOUSE, and put on a personal show in your backyard.

Nope.

Instead, they announced a cruise.

And, while this may come as a shock to you, “They don’t owe you anything”.

Sincerely,

John

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This is NOT all there is

Reading through Mark 5 this morning for our Family Life Small Group- Jesus casts demons out of a man and the demons are allowed to go into a herd of nearby pigs; a woman who had been bleeding for years simply touches Jesus’ clothing and she is healed, and a young girl is raised from the dead. The notes from my Jesus-Centered Bible:
Mark 5:1-17–Essential Question: Is this all there is?
If you study what Jesus does most often in his ministry, you can come away startled by how often he’s dealing with demonic presences in people. Here’s a typical encounter, with a man who is possessed by so many demons that it takes a whole herd of pigs to ‘re-house’ them once Jesus casts them out. If the ‘natural world’ is our only reality, then Jesus must be delusional, because he spends a lot of his time and energy interacting with supernatural beings. It’s actually a heresy to believe that ‘this is all there is,’ because Jesus clearly tells us by his words and actions that there is an ‘unseen’ world that is just as real as the ‘seen’ world.
As I read through this text and those notes today, I come to the reality that there is indeed a shadow world. The evidence of this is the constant evil that men do, driven by a force beyond themselves so much and so often that they’ve simply given themselves over to it- they have become synonymous with this evil. This is heart-destroying for those who live in the midst of their foolishness and destruction. But…
In Luke 6:17-23, we see people coming to Jesus- to hear him, to be healed by him, to have their demons excised- and these same people, because they are poor receive God’s kingdom, because they are hungry will be satisfied, because they weep now, will find joy. Why? How?
Jesus is in charge of that world, too. He proves this by removing the Legion of demons from a man tormented by them for years, tormented so hard and often that he’d cut himself. He proves this when even his clothing has the power to heal a woman who’d been bleeding for years. Even death is no match for him- he looks at the mocking of those brought in to mourn and raises a girl from the dead.
Jesus is in charge. Not only of this seen world, but of the unseen one. As this unseen world seemingly racks up win after win, know that a reckoning is coming. This reckoning is found in Christ alone.

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The 5 Best Habits of a Spiritually-Present Parent

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled, The 4 Worst Habits of a Spiritually-Absent Parent. Yesterday, we had a Family Dedication at our church, and I shared The 5 Best Habits of a Spiritually Present Parent.  I thought I’d post them here:

  1. Spiritually-present parents are responsible. They know that their meaning and purpose is to make disciples of their kids and families and everything that they do is oriented around this goal. Everything does not have the same level of importance and they’ll make choices to sacrifice the minor things for the major one.
  2. Spiritually-present parents are responsive. They know that what they to today matters. They commit to the things that matter most. They know the old adage, “There are two great times to plant an oak tree…20 years ago and today.” They drive a stake in the ground and maintain it.
  3. Spiritually-present parents are concerned. They do not sit idly by and watch things happen as King David did in 1 Kings 1:5 & 6. They take action because they know that there are bigger things at stake than the immediate moment. They place their role as “parent” before “friend”.
  4. Spiritually-present parents are intentional. These parents know that every moment counts. They take the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 seriously and seek to be faithful to making the most out of every moment.
  5. Spiritually-present parents are imperfect. These parents make mistakes. They know that they will fail, and when they do, they count on God’s mercy, grace and strength instead of their own wisdom. They don’t let the imperfections of what happened today stop them from trying tomorrow.

Be present!

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A Lament for Thursday

I am frustrated with so-called Christians who’ve essentially replaced the God of the Bible with the god of American sub-cultural christianity. They long for the good old days when the church had positional authority: power & prestige; when they had a place at the table. But, because they were more interested in political power, they failed to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Christians are absolutely allowed to interject themselves into the conversation. But…how? And, for what purpose?

When Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen, it was for the furtherance of the gospel. It seems to me that America’s Christians often exercise their rights as “their rights”, forgetting that they were bought with a price- this means for all intents and purposes, they have no rights in light of the Gospel. We are to give up what is “ours” for the sake of Christ, and for the sake of the “other”. This is why Paul wrote, “consider others better than yourselves.”

While there are certainly cultural things that we may stand up and speak against, it is time that we, as Christians, understand that our country has moved on. We’ve lost the cultural battle. And because for so long we were used to getting our way, we are now facing exile. And exilic believers act differently- read Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Jeremiah 29.

What’s more, Jeremiah 49:1 says, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Has Israel no sons? Has Israel no heir? Why them has Molech taken possession of Gad? Why do his people live in its towns?'”

People can lament about the “loss of our nation” all they want. I read the words of boomers and builders as they lament about what’s happened to “their country”. And the answer is so simple.

They were more interested in securing for themselves financial blessings and success in post-war America than they were in passing on the faith. The church, especially the conservative Christians, became enamored with political power- in short, they “gained the whole world and forfeited their souls.”

And now, far too many of those who call themselves “Christian” support a bully politically who doesn’t even believe what they claim to support. And, it’s possible that this person will win.

What needs to happen is not a return to the good old days when evangelicals reigned and the church was listened to.

What needs to happen is for people within the church to remember that God changes hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit and that we are to be heralds of that Gospel.

 

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