Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
President Trump represents an interesting moment in American history. Because we are living through it I think we should take some time to understand what is going on.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
One of the marks of Christian maturity is an increased capacity for compassion. The longer we follow Jesus, the more compassion we have for people. This compassion even extends to people who are in bad circumstances caused by their own choices.
I don’t want to diminish the responsibility each of us has for the choices that we make. I do want to point out that the choices we make are hardly ever black and white. Most of the time our choices are the result of a complex mixture of experiences, emotions, and environment.
1 Peter 1:18 (NLT)For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.
When we read the gospels it appears that when Jesus looked at a crowd of people he didn’t see dirty rotten sinners; instead he saw people who were being victimized. Rather than condemning them for their choices and sins, Jesus showed them compassion and understanding. That is not to say that Jesus accepted their sin or acted like it wasn’t a big deal, but it does show that Jesus, the one person who could sit in judgment, chose to extend help to them.
There is a shift in our thinking that we need to make.
Compassion, which is a form of love, needs to be mixed with truth. It is the mixture of truth and love which gives us the ability to influence the people in our lives. Our care and compassion opens up people’s hearts to receive the the truth.
Jesus looked at the crowds of people and He saw people who were lost and with no way to find their way home. What these people needed was a person to show them the right direction, not lecture on how terrible it is to be lost.
As we look around us we realize that the number of people who need help are more than we can help by ourselves. What can we do?
Compassion is not just reserved for our prayer life. Compassion needs to be a key characteristic of our lives. Jesus lived in such a way to show the people around him that he knew the Way they were to travel.
To live like Jesus means we need a change of perspective. Instead of seeing the people as dirty rotten sinners we need to see them as lost travelers trying desperately to get home.
Monday, November 9, 2020
Even in best of times it is possible to loose heart.
Grief, tragedy, and hardships come into our lives and rob us of joy, peace, and hope. Things that make life worth living.
Stress, inconveniences, and busyness, like a drippy faucet, have a similar effect. Our lives don’t have to be crumbling down for us to lose heart.
In these days of uncertainty all of us are at risk of losing heart and living, to some degree, in despair. How can we prevent this from taking place?
Here are a few quick thoughts:
- We need to monitor our thinking: Philippians 4:8 (NLT) “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” What we think about has a huge impact on our feelings about life. What determines our thoughts are the things we put into our minds. Our TV watching, internet surfing, and social media lurking all influence what we think about and how we think about them. Limits on time and type of media are crucial for a proper thinking. This is also why Scripture meditation is important. By meditating on the Bible we are putting into our hearts and minds true, noble, and good things.
- We need to act on what we know: Philippians 4:9 (NLT) “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” It is one thing to know that right thing to do, but it is another thing to do it. A word of caution here. We have to be intentional and realistic in what we do. Too often we try to compensate for our past failures and inaction by doing all these wonderful things, which adds to our load of stress, and when we fail to live up to expectations, our load of guilt. Small changes, when put together over time, have a big impact. So where do you start? Usually there are one or two things you know that you should be doing. That is where we start. Do the next right thing.
- We need to confess our needs to God: 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” Giving God the things that are on our hearts is a way of letting them go. We need to be able to let them go so they don’t dominate our thoughts and emotions. It is important to remember that this takes time. Yes, it would be nice if all we had to do was to give our worries and cares to God once and that be the end of it. Often, because these thoughts and cares are imbedded in our hearts, it takes multiple times to truly handing them over to God for them to leave our hearts.
- We need to worship: 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” Worship is the best way to orient our lives back towards God. Remember, we are created in God’s image and for us to live that image out in our lives, our focus must be on Him. Whether it is through singing songs, journalling our gratitude, or praying from our hearts, worship shifts our perspective from ourselves to God. That shifts allows us to live with hope.
Sunday, November 8, 2020
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
~ Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Through the authority of Jesus Christ, who died for sin, I declare that I am free. He has rescued me from the kingdom of darkness and He has brought me into His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Light.
On the authority of Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead, I declare that I am no longer a slave, that all chains are broken, the power of sin has been defeated, and the bondage to Satan has ended.
By the authority of Jesus Christ, who now stands at the right hand of God, I declare that I will stand fast in freedom, that I will be a good steward of the life given to me, that I will hold on to the inheritance promised to me, and that I will not return to the slavery of sin.
On the authority of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord, I renounce all bondage to fear, to insecurities, to greed, to despair, and to depression. We renounce all sexual addictions, all drug addictions, and all people pleasing addictions. And I renounce all bondage to self-centeredness, to the cultural idols, and anything else that has the power to enslave me. For who the Son has set free is free indeed!
Friday, November 6, 2020
Thursday, November 5, 2020
On Monday evening I posted a screen shot of a tweet from comedian and libertarian Dave Smith to Facebook.
- We need to think smaller rather than bigger. This is true for the church, where we need to concentrate on smaller gatherings. Smaller gathering are not only helpful in discipleship, but they are also helpful when limitations are put on gatherings. When things are smaller our plans are not as easily disrupted. I also think going smaller is the key to moving forward politically. One of the overlooked checks to the federal government’s power, and I believe the most important check, are the states. Washington’s power is rendered useless when the states decide not to comply with the Feds wishes. We see this as individual states legalized marijuana. The federal government doesn’t have the resources to enforce its laws across the individual states. Washington depends on the states to enforce its laws. As one of my favorite podcasters, Brion McCallahan, says, “Think locally, act locally.”
- We need to diversify our thinking. Too many people think in binary terms. Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, racist and inclusive, etc. As someone who tends to live outside the binary bubble, I can tell you things are not that simple. When it comes to following Jesus we need to move past the tendency to judge a person’s faith and commitment to Scripture based on a few pet doctrines like the age of the earth or a premillennial interpretation of the end time. We need these different perspectives to gain a greater understanding of the Bible and following Jesus (now, this doesn’t mean everything is open to interpretation, but it does mean that when there are different perspectives we should be able to listen to them). When it comes to politics we need to break away from the strangle hold of a two party system. Having only two major parties lead to corruption as people hungry for power manipulate the system. Also, there are thousands, if not millions of people who do not line up with either a Republican or Democrat view of the world. I am one of them, and consistently we go unrepresented. Let’s bring more voices to the table and spread the responsibilities of governing to many different parties, rather than just two.
- We need come to an understanding of the role social media plays in our lives. This is a new technology, and we don’t understand all the different ways it is effecting us. It is certainly shaping our opinions of things and making it seem like there is a greater divide between people than really exists. That is one of the reasons for the hostility that we are seeing. Social media is being used to divide us and cause us to see the other side as evil. The responsible use of social media is key to moving forward.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
- Many Christians see the main benefit of salvation and following Jesus as “going to heaven” when they die. This causes them to miss out on the difference Jesus makes for our lives today.
- When we believe that faith is mainly about believing the right things and that believing these things is the key to salvation, then we have little to no motivation to change the way we live. Instead we become concerned about having the right doctrines and less concerned about living the right way.
- It is crucial for us to understand what God is up. God doesn’t need to save us so we can spend eternity with Him. Remember God created a good universe. He created human beings in His image so we can rule this world along side of Him, displaying His goodness and demonstrating His character along the way.
- Jesus is the perfect sacrifice because He alone was able to display God’s goodness in the way He lived. For us to live out our design, for us to be true to the image of God, we need to be conformed to the life of Jesus.
- To be conformed to the life and teachings of Jesus takes intentional effort and time. This is the role the spiritual disciplines play in our lives. The disciplines are like the drills during basketball practice or the scales that are rehearsed during piano practice. The drills are not the game and the scales are not the performance, but they help the player and the musician be better prepared for the game and the concert.
- It is vitally important that we take following Jesus seriously and don’t just sit around waiting to go to heaven. God created us for so much more. In fact, we prepare for eternity with God by conforming to the life of Jesus now.
Monday, November 2, 2020
One of the great questions that I have wrestled with in my adult life is the relationship Christians are to have with politics. I think politics hold a danger for followers of Jesus that isn’t widely talked about or even acknowledged. It is just assumed, at least in the United States, that Christians should be politically active and vote.
To merely suggest that there might be a different way to look at things invites comebacks such as, “Elections have consequences.”
That is true, but that doesn’t answer the question about the proper role politics is to play in the lives of Christians.
Remember, what we think most about naturally becomes the most important thing to use. Thinking too much about politics and allowing it to become the most important thing about life (which it has, because we live in a culture where every things is political) is just one of the real dangers Christians face when getting involved in politics.
When thinking through these questions I find it useful to go back and discover what earlier questions thought and taught. Recently I came across the above advice from John Wesley and thought it was worth considering.
What can we apply to our lives from this advice from John Wesley?
First, our vote must be a principled vote and not given because of what a candidate has promised. Government in the United States is based on constitutions. There are the individual state constitutions and there is the federal constitution. Rather than voting for the person who promises to do the most stuff (which I would consider voting for a reward), we should cast our vote for the person who promises to remain true to the Constitution.
Second, we judge a person's worthiness for political office by two factors. The first factor is whether or not they follow the constitutions that are the restraints placed on the government. Romans 13:1 says, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God." I believe that in a Constitutional Republic, the governing authorities are the constitutions. That is why a person's worthiness to represent you should be based on their willingness to uphold and defend the constitution. The second factor is their integrity. A person's character is an important factor to consider when determining whether or not they should represent you.
Third, it is crucial to remember that everyone is created in the image of God and therefore deserves our respect. You may not agree with the other side, but that does not give you the right to talk evil about them. In the long run, it is far more influential to provide a reasonable defense for your ideas then it is to declare the other side's candidate as evil.
Fourth (which I think is the most crucial piece of advice on the list), guard your heart. There is a danger that is lurking in politics for us who follow Jesus. We have to be very intentional to not dehumanize people or see people who disagree with us as the enemy. This happens all the time on Facebook, people who follow Jesus, yet when it comes to politics, they call people who disagree with them politically idiots, mentally ill, and even demonic. This is wrong. Christians need to do what we can to avoid falling into the trap of making enemies out of our political opponents. Not only does it damage our ability to demonstrate God’s character in this world, it also opens our hearts and minds to the corrupting influence of Satan.
Politics, like all things of this world, needs to be approached carefully. Followers of Jesus need to remember that there is a danger in putting an emphasis on voting and politics, because when they are mishandled they end up warring against our soul. This is why it is important for each of us to think through the role politics has in our lives.
John Wesley provided good insight for how we should vote, may we have the ears to hear what he has to say.
I am preaching a sermon series called The Discipleship Road at Bethlehem Church. The series is loosely based on Eugene Peterson’s book A L...
I love the Bible. In fact, I believe that people who follow Jesus should be readers and students of the Bible. In the Bible we discover Go...
I am preaching a sermon series called The Discipleship Road at Bethlehem Church. The series is loosely based on Eugene Peterson’s book A L...