Wednesday, February 15, 2017

 

Jesus is not buying into the American dream

You know the American dream.  Come to America and find freedom.  Anyone can grow up to become President.  Lift yourself to a better life by working hard.  Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and become healthy, wealthy, and wise.  You are the master of your own destiny.  Every generation in your family can have it better than the generation before.

Jesus talks about dying to self, taking up the cross, and following him.  Baptism is even described as dying with Jesus.  He said that we would have trouble in this world.  He said we would be persecuted for his sake.  He said the world would hate us because it hates him.

Jesus said ask and he would give.  But if we do not receive, it is because we are asking for ourselves.  He emphasizes selfless living, never selfish.  He talks about his followers as people who are not at home in this world.  

The American dream is rooted in some idealistic version of fair play and equality.  May the best man (or woman) win.  If you have read much American history at all, you will realize how untrue the American dream really is, but many cling to that idealized version of what it is to be an American.

The Jesus way is rooted in the idea that life is not fair.  Jesus and the cross.  Not fair.  

The American dream says you have certain rights.  Even claim these rights are from our Creator. 

Jesus says to give up our rights to follow him.  Give up our rights so we can live in community together as believers.  

American dream is to be a self-made man.  Independent.  Free.

Jesus says real freedom is found in becoming his slave.  Surrendering everything to follow him.  He is the source of every good thing we have.  God gets the glory.  

Jesus says life is found in him.  Real liberty is found in surrender to him.  Happiness is found in being faithful to him.

America says you can find hope, peace, and joy by what you do.

Jesus says you can find hope, peace, and joy by giving up self to follow him.  He is the source of life.

If you pursue the American dream, you may be sorely disappointed and left wanting more.  

Pursue Jesus and find life.  Forever.

God I was raised in America and I know there are things I have because of that.  Things the world values.  But thank you for parents that taught me where to find the things that are really valuable.  Jesus things.  I promise to help others find true freedom in your son.     


Thursday, February 09, 2017

 

No I can't -- and won't -- try to help you anymore

I think every Christian wrestles with how to help our brothers and sisters who are living with sin.  Of course, I do not mean that we are all expected to lead sinless lives.  Impossible.  But I am talking about the member of our church family who is entangled in sin to the point it will destroy them.  Sinful relationships, sinful addictions, lifestyle choices.

As an elder, I am especially convicted to help those in my flock who are in spiritual trouble.  It may be someone convicted of their sin who seeks me out.  Or someone who was caught in their sin and that has brought them to their senses.

My regular readers know that I believe Marsha and I are gifted as the "triage" elder couple.  Addictions, shattered marriages, public humiliation.  I frequently state publicly that there is no sin for which our flock cannot come to us and seek help.  And that God is the great fixer of our messes.  We stress forgiveness, managing consequences, and changing lives.

We will get down in the mud, blood, and mess of lives for as long as it takes.  And have.  Sometimes for years.

Except...

There are some people I will not help.

I will not spend time with the person who will not admit what they have done (or are doing) is wrong.  I do not have the time or energy to try and convince Christians why certain actions are not acceptable for the Jesus follower.  I need to hear them say it was -- or is -- wrong.

I do not have time for the person who admits they are wrong, but just want to explain how their mess is really everyone else's fault.  Their mate, God, financial pressure, the church, and on and on.  I am interested in helping the one who confesses they have sinned.

I don't want to spend time on the person who does not want to be there.  Parents, mate, boss, another elder, or someone told them to talk to me.  Only if they repent -- and by that I mean acknowledge that they need, and want, to change am I willing to invest in their lives.

And we end our time together when they do not accept my counsel.  Not because I am always right, but because all I know to do is offer advice based on Scripture, my life experience, and years of helping others battle -- and overcome -- their demons.  So if they say they do have to talk one more time with the other woman, or they can't just quit their job, or there is no way they are going to a professional counselor, or there is no way they are going to tell someone where they are every second of the day ... well, then I am out.  My advice may be wrong and I always tell them that if they think my advice is poor then go to someone else.  All I can do is give what I believe to be sound spiritual advice.  If they don't buy it, then we are both wasting our time.

So there are times when I say "sorry but I can't help you."  It took me a long time to learn that.

Maybe this will help some of you decide when it is time to cut people loose.  Doesn't mean you don't love them.  Just means you are not the one to help them.  And if they really want help, God will connect them with those who will help them.  It just may not be me.  Or you.

so God help me to always be there for those in trouble.  I have seen you do amazing things in my life and in the lives of others.  Help me to always give strong spiritual counsel.  But help me have the wisdom and courage to know when it is time to move on. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

 

I Don't Want to Write and Talk More than I Live

Those of you who regularly read my blog (and I really appreciate both of you) know that I am a huge fan of doers, not just talkers -- or writers.  I am drawn to preachers and writers who are doing what they talk about.  It is easy for those of us who write, preach, or shepherd (or teach or parent) to fall into the trap of telling people what to do without also showing them how to do.  It becomes easy to tell others to do what I am not doing in my own life.

I go all over the world talking to non-believers about Jesus.  And I spend the rest of my time talking to Christians in an effort to equip and motivate them to talk about Jesus.  But that is what Marsha and I do right here in Abilene.  We share Jesus.  That is not part of my job.  My church does not pay me to do this.  It is what we believe and who we are.  And it has to be.  If not, I am missing the point.

So let me encourage those of you who talk -- in whatever capacity -- or who write (including your facebook posts) to be sure you are doing first.

And I am big on local, not just away from home ministry.  If the only time I talk about Jesus is when I am on the road and on the job -- then I am missing the point.  I am not against short-term missions to care for orphans or serve the needy (or even talk about Jesus).  Unless that is the only time you do it.  There are poor, hungry, needy, and lost people where you live.

And I believe in individual and family action much more than church programs (and certainly more than legislative action).  Writing about the failure of your country, or your political leader, to act the way you believe Jesus would is misplaced anyway.  America is not God's nation and most of our leaders are not Jesus people.

And even talking and writing about how your church (note to self:  my church) is not doing the things you think it should might you feel better, but it probably changes nothing.  But what you do in the lives of people changes everything.

So be careful about you write and say.  Live it first.

So put your life where your mouth is.  Start where you live. Stop using all your energy and emotion on getting programs changed, started, or stopped.  You change.  You start.  You stop.

Until we do more than we speak or write, I am not sure we really have much to say.

I do realize that speaking and writing about how to be in people's lives is much easier and less risky than actually being in people's lives.

My righteousness needs to be from God and not from self.  And it is awful easy to be self-righteous when just writing or speaking.  

And yes, I realize I preach and write a lot.  But I am more committed to living it.  I always want my words to flow out of my life.

And believe me, I do know how much easier it is to post or talk than it is to live.  But if we are going to lead in our families, our churches, and in our world ... then live it first.

So God help me look at my life first.  Help me to live before -- and more than -- I speak or write.    

Thursday, February 02, 2017

 

Declaring war on death

I have been thinking quite a bit about death lately.  Not because I am morbid -- and no, I did not get bad news from the Doctor.

But we did just put Marsha's Dad on hospice.  Just buried her Mom a couple of months ago.

In the past weeks, two young families I know lost babies.

Another family buried their 15 year old daughter.

Close friends had a memorial service for their grown son.

So, yeah, I have been thinking about death.

And I hate death.  Death is the enemy.

Death is one of Satan's weapons.  He lied about it to Adam and Eve.  He lies about it to us.  He uses death, and the fear of death, to rob us of health, joy, peace, hope, and, well... life.

It happens to all of us.  Sooner.  Or later.

But Jesus has defeated death.  He was raised from the dead never to die again.

Because I believe in Jesus, I too will overcome death.  The grave will not hold me.  Jesus is coming back and will raise me from the dead never to die again.  I will live forever.

The people I mentioned above believe in Jesus.  So parents will hold those babies.  And their teenager.  And their grown son.  They will be raised.  They will live.

So I am going to fight death (and Satan) with the one thing that truly frightens them.  Jesus.

I am going to tell people about Jesus.  And every time that someone decides to follow Jesus then death is defeated.

The power of death is taken away by Jesus.  No fear because we will be raised from the dead.  Observe how Christians die.  It is amazing how many do not fear it, but even embrace it.

Because of Jesus.

So take that death.  We will sing thru tears of grief, we will overcome fear, we will win.  Because of Jesus.

And if you don't like it, what's the worst you can do me?  Take my life?  Then the joke is on you.

Jesus beat you, and because of him ... so do I.

We win.  You lose.  We live.  Because of Jesus.

So God, in a week where I have had to think about death a lot... thank you.  Thank you for life thru your son and for the promise of the resurrection.  I will keep telling people the good news that thru Jesus we live.  Forever.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

 

Refugees, Babies, Jesus, and you

I know many Christians who are are marching, posting, crying, and being very vocal in opposition to a President who has behaved in very unchristian ways and whose policies do not reflect the values of Jesus.

And had the election gone the other way, I would know a whole other set of Christians that would be marching, posting, crying, and being very vocal in opposition to a President who has behaved in very unchristian ways and whose policies do not reflect the values of Jesus.

So here are a couple of reminders.

most Americans are not Christians.

America is not the Kingdom of God.

Christ and culture have always been in conflict.

Jesus wins.

If you want role models for your children, stop looking at the people the world holds up.  There are amazing heroes in your own family and in your community of faith.

If your heart is for refugees, do something about the ones already here.  I know a handful of people in my church who have poured their lives into refugee ministry. A handful because it is really hard to get enough volunteers to serve. But if you really want to help refugees, find out if your church is involved in a ministry to them.  Get involved.  Or start one.  By the way, that will be much harder than posting or marching.

If your heart is for unborn babies, roll up you sleeves and get to work.  Adopt, do foster care, support ministries like Christian Homes, pray for the single Mom who decides to have her baby.  Walk that journey with her.  By the way, that will be much harder than posting or marching.

There is a lot of Kingdom business to be done.  You can make a difference to refugees and babies.

And it has nothing to do with America and politics.

It has everything to do with Jesus.

Lord, I know people are hurt and upset by politicians and policies on both the right and the left.  And it is easy to vent and lash out at what offends us.  But you have Kingdom work to be done.  You had work to do before there was a United States and you will have work to be done after there is no United States.  But for now, give us opportunities to do your business.  In love and by faith.  So your Kingdom will grow. Thank you for the spiritual heroes who are making a difference in this world.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

 

We are not a bunch of frightened, powerless sinners...

As a child I loved the stories of heroes in the Bible.  Samson, David, Peter,Stephen, and Paul.  They were courageous, they did battle with evil, they lived lives of great passion, and they changed the world.  I wanted to be like them.  And I believed I could.  Still do.

But as I listen to some Christians -- and even some leaders -- today, I wonder if we have lost something very valuable.  It seems as if some of think we are not any different than anyone else.

It is as if Christians see themselves as broken, sinful, weak, and scared to death.

Sinners.  Well of course, but we are different.  Our sins do not define us and we are not what we were, or what we would be without Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is transforming us.  We are showing more fruits of the Spirit.  Broken, but most of us have been put back together again in Christ.  And if not yet healed, we are on the way.

We are the alcoholics made sober, the mean made sweet, and the sexually immoral made pure.  We are forgiven.  That is the power and attraction of Jesus.  He changes lives.  We are not like the world.

Weak.  Not hardly.  Christians make up the most powerful army in the world.  Nothing can stand against us.  Not even the gates of hell.

Faith and prayer can move mountains.  That is power like no other.  Because our God is like no other.

Afraid.  No we are not.  Scripture is full of reminders that we are to be courageous.  We are not afraid or terrified or anxious.  We are strong and we are brave because the Lord is with us.  We give him our worries and our fears and we follow him.

Into the teeth of hell and a world dominated by evil.  We fight, we stay faithful, and we finish the race.

We make other followers of Jesus.

So church... stop whining and whimpering and hiding.

We have what will change the world.  It changed us.  We are better, stronger, and braver.

God takes sinful, weak cowards and turns them into forgiven followers who are strong and courageous.

Live up to your calling.

Be a Jesus hero.

God, thank you for Jesus who changes us to be holy.  We commit to renounce fear and to be strong in you.  We give ourselves to you and  to call others to a life of hope, joy, peace, and purpose.  For Jesus.

  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

 

Biting My Tongue Hurts...

I have started this post several times and deleted it each time.

There is so much I want to say about the way some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are acting.

But I have to realize that there incredibly strong and faithful Christians who voted for Trump.  Or for Hillary.  They really believe that is what God wanted them to do.

I know faithful committed Christians who watched the Inauguration with grateful and thankful hearts and some who engaged in various forms of protest.

I have brothers and sisters that were truly afraid for what would happen if Hillary won.  And some who are truly afraid because Trump won.

I am very concerned that some are making politics an unspoken condition of fellowship.  Not for the first time.  I have spent time in years past explaining why you did not have to be a Republican to be part of my community of faith.  But I know why they thought you did.  The religious right could sure make it difficult to see Jesus unless you agreed with their politics.

And now I find myself explaining that you do not have to be a Democrat to be a Christian.  But I can see why some think that.  The religious left can sure make it difficult to see Jesus unless you agree with their politics.

But I am reminding myself that I know some of the people on both sides and they do love Jesus.  I strongly disagree with what they are saying and doing.  And most of you that know me know that I could not conscientiously vote for either candidate.  And you know that I do not vote as a matter of principle.

But you may disagree with me.  And I want to think you still love me.

So...

I am going to love my brothers and sisters that choose to speak and act in ways that I would not.  When I think it is damaging to my flock or my family I will try to respond in truth and love.

I am going to remember that there are lost people in my country and in my community that are watching them, but that are watching me also.

So I am going to elevate Jesus above all.  I am going to use all of my efforts to glorify God and to help others be reconciled to him.  I want to be known as an ambassador for God and as a representative of his Kingdom.

I invite you to join me.

But in the meantime, I am going to bite my tongue.

God, help me to see others as you do.  Help me to remember that they are family.  That they love you. And that we do not have to agree on everything.  I pray for unity in your church. I pray that everything we do glorifies you and points others to Jesus.  He is the only real answer for this country and every country.  

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