Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week marked the entrance of a new chapter in American history. Donald Trump has been elected president. It is universally accepted and known that this election season has brought about division, anger, and fear among many people. We know that fear is satan’s tool that is used for the primary purpose of division. It bothers me that our country is divided, but it doesn’t fully surprise me. Our compassion for our neighbor, and our love of humanity is a great talking point in public but is often abandoned when we simply want to be right.
If we call ourselves Christians, then that indicates a certain past that has been recreated into a completely different future. Being transformed by Jesus directly implies that there is, or has been a need for our old hearts to be exchanged for new ones. If you truly follow Jesus than this should inform every square inch of your private and public life.
I have seen a certain Christian cliché circulating that I want to address today. It is one that sounds great, but is actually quite terrifying to our status quo. The phrase “No matter who is president, Jesus is King!” is being passed around as a way to comfort and assure people who love God to carry on despite who may have been elected into office. Initially, this sound like solid biblical truth, and in some cases it is, but in other cases it has proven to be absolutely false.
Jesus is the king of the universe and His throne is in Heaven. He is king of all creation, and we know that God created all the birds of the air, flowers of the fields, fish of the sea, and creatures of the ground. God is sovereign concerning the future, and even referring to the past. So, in these cases, we can all agree that “Jesus is King”.
But…is Jesus REALLY king? I honestly don’t know. The reason I say this is because this is a question that you will have to answer in your heart and mind. I say this, because, if Jesus is not the king of your heart, if He does not have access to every corner of your life, and if His word means nothing regarding the way you orient your priorities, then I would have to ask if the statement in question is even valid.
Jesus may be king of everything…but…is He king of you?
If He is, then this will inform how you treat your neighbors, post your statuses, parent your children, organize your finances, and set up your priorities.
So before you even think about saying, ““No matter who is president, Jesus is King!” make sure it is true for you. Pray fervently that God will permeate your heart, convict you of sin, and become desperate for more of Him.
Love you all.
Today I skipped church. There..I said it. The deepest and darkest sin of my soul has been released! Okay, this action was not one, I know, that pointed me straight to Hell, but it is something I would like to publicly reflect on.
Every Sunday morning, my alarm wakes me up at 6:15am. I am usually groggy. I have eye crust, and my head feels like it weighs 500 lbs. All I want to do is sleep for a little while longer. I actually do get to sleep a while longer because my wife is normally the first to arise and start her routine. I tell myself the only reason I indulge in an extra 45 minutes of sleep is to ensure the water heater has time to replenish the supply after my wife finishes getting ready.
I pastor a church that some would call “mobile”. We meet in a school and must set up and tear down every week. My volunteers are committed and we can all sympathize with one another when our hair is not perfect and we are on our third gallon of [insert name of caffeinated beverage]. We make it work and God is glorified as we pray for His spirit to move in every service, and impact those that come.
Today was a unique experience for my wife and I. This weekend we took a short trip to celebrate our anniversary, and we decided to sleep in until we were tired of sleeping. There were no children to wake us up. There were no alarms to cut off the flow. Just us, and the pillow, and unadulterated, beautiful sleep. It felt good. It was comfortable. My pillow somehow stayed cold, and I didn’t even question the physics behind it.
The rest of the day we ate lunch, visited a museum, and drove home to restart our normal family routines. As I was eating dinner tonight, I thought about today and how it made me feel. I had a great time, and I know how vital it is to take some time away every once in a while, but I could tell that something was lacking in my heart. I realized this “lacking feeling” was largely due to the fact that church was not part of the equation. From an occupational perspective, I was okay with the fact that I would not have any leadership responsibilites today. From a soul enriching perspective, however, I felt dry, disconnected, empty, and spiritually drained. I still love Jesus, but I could tell there was something missing. There were actually a few things missing. Fellowship. Community worship. Service. Any one of these things are holy in themselves, but alone they are deficient.
As a pastor, I have to admit that I get discouraged when it seems like people could care less about the importance of community worship. Why? Well, probably, because as a pastor I have given my life to a concept that many look at as a hobby. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one to say that if you are not under a steeple every living chance you get then you are destined for eternal damnation, but I do think that we take this amazing opportunity for granted. I long for the day in which we can collectively push back the spontaneous “Sunday flu” and praise together in preparation for Heaven. It is important.
The Christian community, as a whole (including me) wants the church to be there when we need it, but rarely think about being there for the church. This breaks my heart when I think about how I have contributed to this mentality. How have I? Well, there have been times when I have tried to make the activity of the church as entertaining as possible to attract more people. That’s not a terrible thing to do, but my motives were placed in quantity instead of impact. What I have realized is I yearn to convey my love for God’s word and the people He created.
We were made to worship. Not in isolation but in praise with one another. Every, single, hypocritical one of us. I know, I know…you may be a person who doesn’t like “institutional religion” and you have your own way of worshipping. That’s awesome, but just make sure there is a community aspect to it. And, if there is a community aspect to it, make sure you organize yourselves in a way that most efficiently conveys the mission of what God has called you to accomplish. Wait…that sounds like the Church. Forgive me.
Heaven is going to be a place of service, fellowship, and praise for the rest of eternity. We must get used to it or we will seek other things to fill the void. Also, we don’t want to be caught off guard when we are playing our harp on cloud 9 and a fellow believer joins in with us.
I am so ready to get back to church this Sunday. I hate this feeling. Worship should happen every day, though. Thank God for daily renewal.
Many of us get into our daily routines, and simply try to survive the ups and downs of life. Occasionally, we find time to have social contact with others to keep our sanity in tact, and we fit in the seldom attempted vacations to allow our minds to drift as somewhat of a reboot. A reboot that is absolutely needed…perhaps needed more than we allow it for ourselves. There is nothing inherently wrong with this idea, but as we live life it is easy to go about our days in a trance and at times we are jolted into reality by something that catches our attention…something that is worth our energy. Other times, we may allow ourselves to drift to the confortable topics of life, and forget very important details to make way for other things in our minds.
I think, today, we need to be reaquainted with 7 Truths That Are Often Forgotten. These are not necessarily connected to one another, but 7 things I have been reflecting on lately.
Disagreement does not mean hate
I have seen the scene play out so many times on social media. Someone will bring up a topic in which there are strong opinions. Things usually start in a very civil direction, then someone with no skin in the game interrupts the constructive flow of debate and puts emotion into the mix. This leads to name calling, and a mutual feeling of distrust among persons of opposing views. Why does this need to be the case? I have a great friend who does not believe in God or the authority of scripture. We have been in wonderful debates, and have not flipped sides on most issues we have debated. We love each other dearly and would fight for each other’s right to have the opinions we hold closely. Do I hate him? Of course not! The topics have been controversial and culturally divisive in nature, but at the end of the day we realize that it is sometimes healthy to disagree. I’m not even saying “stay open minded”, because I think that is a worn out cliche’. I am saying recognize the human on the other side.
If it were all about you; there would be chaos
No matter what walk of life you find yourself in, it is an attractive temptation to attempt to create a life that simply caters to your every comfort. Life simply works better when we do things to honor and serve those around us. You may feel as if you “deserve more” from this life, but if we were to be honest and look at ourselves truthfully; how many of of us actually deserve much of anything? The way I look at it, the grace of God surpasses what we truly deserve and gives us abundance. That should be worth something. Let’s live in the flow of generosity and seek fulfillment through sacrifice. Living as eternal consumers will only discourage us.
More is not always better
I have seen a trend among Christians that bothers me. When more money, influence, or territory is aquired we automatically call it “blessing”. That’s not the biggest part of my pet peeve though. The frustration comes when one of those things is taken away. The tendency is to shake our fists at the sky and ask God why He took it away. As if it was all a cruel joke. Let me throw something out there for you to think about. Could it be that God never gave you this in the first place? Now, before you start getting upset, please know that I believe God gives us material blessings at times to use for His glory. So, therein lies my contention…Maybe the ones you are concerned with losing were for your glory and by your resources. Not always…but just think about it. We must become okay with less if we are to understand and appreciate more. We must be willing to give all if we are to be fully blessed with much.
Patriotism is not the same as Christianity
I don’t care if you were born with a gun in your hand, wrapped in the American flag, and were raised solely by bald eagles during constantly looped episodes of the A-Team. Being patriotic does not mean you are a Christian. Period. Following Jesus is much more important than following anyone or anything else. I definitely love America…for all of its faults there is, relatively, not as much to complain about…but let’s drop the unofficial contest in American Christianity today that feels the need to one up each other regarding patriotism. Put Christ back at the center.
Isolation feeds evil
It doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extraverted…isolation is dangerous. As a pastor, I can tell you hundreds of stories where people have pulled away from vital support, fellowship, accountability and encouragement and their lives went downhill tremendously. They became reaquainted with old vices, and the old negative self-talk that they had grown out of rose from the ashes like the mythical phoenix. Now, I know what you are thinking. Isn’t it okay to get away by yourself from time to time for some much needed relaxation, prayer, and reflection? Yes. That, however is called solitude and is a very healthy practice involving a focused effort to get closer to God.
Celebrities are not moral guides
Say what you want about religion, the church, or the Christian community, but it is easy to see that many people outside of the Church behave in a similar fashion. What do I mean? Well, for example, there are many who think it is crazy that a group of people would meet regularly to sing together and to listen to a message (that to them is brainwashing) and give money to an organization for nothing in return. I laugh at this description because I have been to some pretty wild concerts in my day. What does this have to do with the example above? Every rock concert I have been to is filled with people who wear t-shirts sold by the bands they idolize, so they all look similar, and who agree with whatever the celebrity on stage says. Many of these devotees spend a large portion of their hard earned cash to be present at a concert every week and are even a part of small communities that value the same type of music. My point is that if we are to pick a moral guide it would not be wise to choose based on celebrity status. A redemptive community is one that is more healthy to associate with.
Radical Christianity may be what is needed
The hard part about this point is the fact that when many of us hear the word “radical” we think of bombings, beheadings, and bullies in communities overseas. Radical simply means to gravitate toward the source or original root. If we are to be world changers in our faith then we must do more than agree with a prayer we prayed when we were 13 years old. We must be sacrifical followers of Christ. We must desire for lives to be changed. We must have the burning passion to give the love away that overflows within us. The world will see us and great things will happen. Let’s seek the source once again.
Let us not forget these truths as we are going about our daily business.
You are loved. Don’t forget that either.
I’m done. I can no longer lie to myself and others and act like everything is okay. I am tired of the faith I have had, and it is time to make a change. A major one. This may be confusing to some, but it is something I have to do. I have made my decision, and I am sticking with it. Christianity just isn’t for me anymore. I know this seems shocking, but let me tell you why…In the form of a true story.
A good friend of mine (Becky) told me a story about her husband Tom that caused me to completely reconsider who I was, and how I viewed my faith. Tom is a devout Christian. He is a guy who has a past that he was not particularly proud of, but found God’s grace and has been growing in Christ for many years. He loves Jesus. Every day, Tom listens to Christian music at work, and the other guys at the car dealership that he is a mechanic at call him “preacher boy” because of his faith in God. No one really minds the music except for Bill. Every time Tom turns on the radio, Bill wants to smash the thing with a hammer. The songs are like nails on a chalk board.
Bill is very verbal about the fact that he hates the way Tom is, and he can’t stand his (insert expletive) music. In his mind, this God that Tom worships is the biggest fraud in the universe, and there should be some sort of law banning such devotion. There have been many occasions in which Bill has threatened physical harm if the music was not turned off. So, on many occassions…Tom has shut off the music because he certainly does not want to burn any bridges. Okay…so the music is off, but there is still something about Tom that is really irritating. No matter how many times Bill yells and complains about Christianity (the biggest scam in history), the nicer Tom becomes. For instance, prayer is a waste of time, in fact because it is a cycle of meaningless behavior. If it wasn’t, and if this God was as good as people says He is, then why did He allow Bill’s mother to suffer and die a painful death at the hands of cancer. Bill has always seemed angry. He was angry.
One day, the rest of the staff went to a fast food place to get a quick bite to eat and spend some time together. When they got back from their meal, they passed Bill (who stayed back to work instead of go out to lunch) sprinting out to his car. He had a look of pure shock and panic on his face. No one knew what was wrong.
Later, the rest of Bill’s coworkers found out what happened. Bill’s adult daughter died earlier that morning. His wife found her, and called her husband at work. She was gone. For Bill, the grief was intense, confusing, and emotional. No one could imagine the pain he was experiencing. No one should have to.
Tom and Becky really struggled with whether they should go to the funeral. I mean…Bill hated Tom and that was no secret. For some reason, despite this, they went. When Tom got to the funeral, he caught Bill’s eye. Bill came over to Tom, looked him right in the eye, and embraced him while melting into a tear-filled puddle. All Bill could do was cry as if Tom was the one Bill was waiting for to become vulnerable in public. For years, Bill hated God. He knew He was there, but there was not even a desire to have a relationship with Him. Tom consistently showed Bill who God really was…through action and unconditional love. Now, Bill was leaning on Him for hope.
So, why am I telling you this story? I am tell you this, because I think it shows us what this faith-life is supposed to be about. As Christians, we can spend hours going to church, reading our Bibles, praying, and living clean lives, but if the point in our own minds is to make us feel better, or even make us better people, then we are completely missing the boat. I have come to the conclusion that the Christian life has little to do with us, and everything to do with Christ and Him using us to be hope distribution centers. We are called to be second. Yes, of course we are supposed to grow in our knowledge and love for Him, but that is only step 1.
So, I am done. I am done living this life for my own “fire insurance” and hoarding spiritual blessings so I can openly say I am going to Heaven. I am done allowing my faith to be steered by what makes me feel good or what I am inspired most by in my life. I am done chasing miracles for my own enjoyment, and laying confortablly in piles of grace.
It is time to make myself available to God like Tom did…and love no matter what. Not because it will make me a better person, but because I am a new person, who has a mission.
Love you all whether you like it or not.
The story is true but the names were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
For many years Christian scholars have written about the disconnect between the belief system of Christianity and the practical application of these beliefs. Studies show that many of the things that are occurring outside of the Christian realm are also happening within the Church. When we look at attitudes, adultery, divorce, financial mismanagement, and even suicide the statistics are not making a great case for inviting others into a transforming relationship with Jesus. In many cases God seems to be taking people through a difficult period in their life to show them blessing and strengthen their faith. Other times, believers may stray from Biblical principles in search of their own comfort and this is what causes the distress.
In the latter conclusion one has to evaluate what is missing to send them down this path. Is the power of God not strong enough? Is this message untrue? Is Christ’s redeeming work actually not applicable in today’s context? These are all valid questions especially for someone who is witnessing the behavior and attitude of someone who claims to follow God.
I think this disconnect comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of belief. As pastors and Biblical teachers we have often looked at Christian principles as a set of facts to be memorized and have encouraged people to agree with this information. It is easy to do this especially when the teacher presents a good case.
Agreement is a wonderful conclusion and we want people to agree with the information we are conveying, but the real goal is acceptance. Many people are struggling in their faith (that they cognitively agree with) because they have not fully accepted that God loves them and there is nothing they can do about it. They need to know that Christ desires that they live a life that reflects this love to the world (the love that is hard to accept because hurts still occur and are being grieved). Accepting this persistent love makes transformation possible….it is the key to showing the world this information is not meaningless data, but life giving.