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Category Archives: Obedience

Honor Much, Suffer Well

I feel the need to apologize. But let me set this up.

Like many Christian leaders, I believe we are living in the last days. Like many believers, I think our country is, like my Grandpa used to say, going to hell in a handbasket. I am like many American Christians: saddened, angry and frustrated at the actions of our government and decisions by our judges and courts. Until now I have been very vocal about my feelings about these things.

This morning, however, a 26-year-old brilliant speaker and one of the Pastors at my church spoke on a passage of scripture in 1 Peter 2 (verses 11-25). His message, titled, “A Colony of Heaven in a Hostile World,” challenged us to “honor much and suffer well” as we face difficult situations in our personal lives and within our radically changing culture. He reminded us that God’s word commands us to honor the Emperor (or respect the King) and that for us, today, that means our President. Unpacking that phrase he showed us that this means to honor, respect and assist those in authority. I have to admit, I bristled a bit at that.

I confess: I think our current President is the worst we’ve ever had. I think he’s incompetent, deceitful and manipulative. I think his actions clearly show his disregard for our Constitution, citizens’ rights, the Founders’ intent, and the very fabric of our great country. I think he’s aiding and abetting our enemies and is playing fast and loose with our taxes. I could go on, and no doubt many of you agree. I don’t think it’s wrong to state opinion when based on public fact.

The Emperor was Nero when Peter wrote his letter. He was one of the worst tyrants in history. He hated Christians so much that he would impale them on stakes and set them on fire in his gardens and porticos for light in the evenings. I’m pretty sure Peter’s contemporaries were talking about this — it was most certainly fact. It was most certainly evil and wrong. Yet this is the dude Peter said to “honor, respect and assist.” Now, I am pretty up to date on news that even the mainstream media refuses to report, but I’m pretty sure President Obama hasn’t lit up any believers for lamplight on the White House lawn, yet.

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So here is my apology: I have spent a lot of energy sharing op eds, blogs and articles on Facebook, Twitter, and Scoop.it that were unkind to the President and other leaders. While staying away from the photos with “IDIOT” stamped across the foreheads of prominent leaders saying and doing silly things, I have “liked” posts that disrespected and dishonored the President and other leaders. I apologize. I recognize that God expects me to travel a higher road. I realize that as a follower of Christ I am to emulate Him and we never once heard Him diss the Emperor.

Pastor Travis Clark went on share that “the most Christ-like think you can do is love and honor those you completely disagree with,” and he quoted Jeremiah 29:7:

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

The city referenced here is Babylon, where God sent the Israelites into slavery. For a very, very long time.

So, should we do less? I don’t find it difficult at all to love and honor friends with whom I disagree. But how do you love and honor those who lead poorly, treat you badly, persecute you, and take away your rights?

  • Pray
  • Find common ground
  • Point to Jesus

This does NOT mean to put your head in the sand! We are still called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We are to be knowledgeable. We are to “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17). DO serve the less fortunate, DO work to correct injustice, DO vote in the next elections and do it with knowledge about the candidates and the issues and wisdom about how they line up with the word of God. Do these things with honor.

“The Gospel is not just a call to heaven–it is a call to a new order of life here and now.” (Another great quote from Pastor Travis.)  “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” (2 Corinthians 6:2). When we honor much and suffer well, God gets all the glory. Let’s make sure we glorify our one, true King by obeying his words to respect and honor our current “king.”

After all, in God’s economy things are not how we think. Remember, ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’? Why shouldn’t we believe that if we respond as God commands He will do great things, just at the right time? I believe He will. So I will stop dissing Mr. Obama and start finding common good. I will pray for our leaders, this nation, and for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

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American Christians and the Government

There is no doubt that we are watching textbook tyranny unfold before us. The rights and liberties of American Christians, Americans without a voice, and now American conservatives in general, have been slowly and steadily stripped over the last two decades. Laws reflecting moral decline are in place largely because Christians and God-believing conservatives have done nothing, or at least not enough.

Perhaps some feel that a Christian’s business is about the Church and not the government. Politics are dirty business and we don’t want to go there. Some stick their head in the sand hoping it will all go away and God will wave His hand and make it all right some day. (He certainly will, but how terrible will be that wave!)

The country was founded on Christian principles by God-fearing men. Our constitution is not outdated and is meant to protect our freedom from tyranny, but there are those in power today who would like to label it antiquated and wipe it away.

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We are called to be salt and light, yet where are we in this season, in these debates? We are told to be gentle as doves yet wise as serpents. Are we obeying? Do we know what is at stake? It seems clear to me that satan is behind the sinister goings on in our government and administrative pawns are playing in his hands. The battle is not with men and women, but with spiritual principalities and powers of darkness. We must pray. Pray for revival. Only a heart-change in the leaders of this country and its citizens will right this listing ship.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  ~1 Timothy 2:1-6

But prayer is key but it is not the only thing we should do. We must not be silent. Our examples in God’s word show Jesus and His disciples speaking loudly and clearly to religious leaders and government officials. We speak by voting, we speak by writing and calling our elected representatives, we speak by sharing truth with others. We speak by refusing to go along with laws or mandates that are contrary to God’s word. We speak by defending the defenseless. We speak by our actions: Caring for the sick, poor, homeless, imprisoned as if each of them were Christ Himself.

This world is not our home. Let’s not be comfortable with it. May we not be found sleeping on the job!

 

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How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Keep the Truth to Yourself?

In the news this week is the atheist group, American Humanist Association, and their campaign to get teens and pre-teens to reject God via their new outreach site, KidsWithoutGod.com. Now that’s bad. And parents should be ever-the-more vigilant to help their children guard their hearts and minds and they teach them to how to love Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. We should not ignore the schemes of the enemy or be silent about the very wrong messages bombarding us and our children a thousand times a day. Silence can be complicity.

Here are some words from a famous atheist, Penn Jillette:

“The only people I don’t understand are people that say they don’t care about the whole issue. I love evangelicals. One of the things I learned doing Penn and Teller: Bull—-! on Showtime for all those years is that Christians are really good. They’re really good people. You notice there wasn’t an anti-Muslim show that we ever did. We did a bunch of anti-Christian shows. That is the biggest compliment I can give. The fact that Christians will really believe…American Christians…will really, really believe in the marketplace of ideas. And I love the fact that there are people that talk to me after the show and pray for me and give me Bibles. I never understand the atheists that say it’s OK as long as they shut up. They believe that there is eternal life. They believe you can be saved. What could be more hateful than shutting up?”

But we should be doing more than not shutting up about God and the Way, the Truth and the Life, we should also be actively living it. Actions speak louder than words: Everyone knows it. Here is more from Mr. Jillette:

“I don’t respect [people who do not share their faith] at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize — ‘Just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself.’

“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” Jillette asked. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

How much DO you have to hate someone to put your light under a basket? To hide the salt? To withhold the life preserver from the drowning and the truth from the crowd shuffling its way toward the gates of hell? How much do you have to hate somebody to play church, to plant your butt in a seat on Sunday and forget for the rest of the week why you are actually left here on earth?

Mr. Jillette’s words sobered me. Do you know what else is sobering? 96.3% of the greater San Francisco Bay Area is un-churched. Over 96 out of 100 people I pass on the freeway, or in the grocery store, or at the mall don’t know what it means to live a life of freedom because of Christ’s saving grace. Let me never again see a fellow human being with my own eyes only, but with God’s eyes, and feel with God’s heart, which is to seek and save that which is lost.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2012 in Belief, God's Word, Missions, Obedience, Salvation

 

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Doors, Part Two

My second “ah ha” about “doors” this past week is the mistaken but common assumption that the scripture in Revelation—“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”—refers to Christ’s call to the heart of the unbeliever. But this is not in context.

These words are directed to the Church, the lukewarm church of Laodicea, to be specific. This church had become lazy. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing…”  They thought they were rich, but in reality they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” It was in this context that Christ called them to hear His voice and open the door. This is a call to repentance to the believer who has stopped following hard, to the Church who has become like the world. And while it involves discipline, we are encouraged that the Lord disciplines those He loves. He counsels this church to “buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

Refining gold is a fiery process. Soren Kierkegaard said, “God punishes the ungodly by ignoring them. This is why they have success in the world—the most frightful punishment because in God’s view, this world is immersed in evil. But God sends suffering to those whom he loves, as assistance to enable them to become happy by loving him.”

There are several old paintings of Christ standing at the door about to knock; in most, there is no door knob on the outside. Perhaps there is a closed door that I am to open. I pray I hear the knocking and the voice of the One who calls me nowhere other than closer and more like Him, even if it means discomfort and suffering. No one of us will suffer more than our Master. And if we follow the Master, we will suffer.

Then, “To him who overcomes ((“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”)), I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.”

Our God is a God of covenants. He cannot break his covenant, and He doesn’t even though we do. We see this clearly in the Old Testament and His care for Israel. His love for them was an everlasting love—even though they failed Him again and again, he still retained His covenant with them.  And He still keeps His promises today. Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears in their book, “Doctrine” say, “New dimensions are brought to light when Christ’s covenant is understood in the context of His previous covenants. Covenants are about God’s activity and intention to redeem us, and the covenants tell us about ourselves—our condition, our brokenness, our dignity, our role as images of God, our suffering, and our calling.”

So we hear Him knocking… calling us back into His covenant, calling us away from lukewarm commitment (is there such a thing?) and into His protection, provision and presence. Will the American Church hear and respond? Or will we be spit out His mouth?

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in God's Word, Jesus, Obedience, The Church, The Journey

 

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Who Am I to Judge?

How many times have you heard someone misquote scriptures, admonishing us not to judge? Usually these folks also misquote scriptures about loving one another. In their theology we are neither to hold each other accountable nor point out any shortcoming or behaviors that would hinder either the person or the church. We’re just to “love” — whatever that kind of “love” means.

I think one of the reasons the American Church is weak and ineffective is because we have bought into the secular worldview of “tolerance” to the point that commands to encourage one another in the faith are about as watered down as the trite, “I’ll lift you up in prayer” and the wimpy, “Hang in there.” So when a sister in the faith is caught up in sin, or a brother’s actions clearly do not honor or bring glory to God, we look the other way. And those new to the faith or just considering Christ see this and think, “Why should I ‘get saved’? I’m as good or better than they are!” If you can’t tell the difference between the people in the pews and the brothers in the bars, what’s the point of church?

The title “Christian” means “little Christs.” We are to strive to be like Jesus. We are “the called out ones.” We are “set apart.” We are strongly admonished not to love the world or the things in the world. We are God’s family. We are the “bride of Christ.” Now if I dress like a hooker, drink like a fish, swear like a longshoreman, or stab my friends in the backs, you have every right (as my Christian brother or sister) to take me aside and lovingly point out to me my shortcomings (and if I was behaving like that you might also question whether I was following Christ!). I have told my friends that I expect them to show me my blind spots. I think if they don’t, they must not love me very much. Hebrews 3 tells us, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

In order to point out someone else’s mistake you must make a judgment about it. How else can you know? You see the behavior, you compare it to what God’s word says, you make a judgement as to whether it lines up or not, and act or speak accordingly. If you use my bathroom and find porn under the sink, it’s not a stretch to discern a problem. Discernment is sound judgement. Then you need to speak the truth in love. (This is extends to discerning bad from good, from better, from best doctrine as well, but that’s another post for another time…)

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 we read that the spiritual person is to judge all things. We have the mind of Christ. This does NOT mean we make a value judgement on our brother or sister. We do not make a judgment on the “severity” of the sin. We do not judge the heart or the motives. Leave that to the only One who can. Who is to say one sin is worse than another? And why do we presume to classify certain temptations as worse than others? Why do we shun the gay guy but come along side the man struggling with a porn addiction?

In 1 Corinthians 5 we see that church strongly chastised for not grieving over sin practiced by someone in the their midst and were called to remove that person from their fellowship. And of course we all know Matthew 18 where Jesus tell us to show our brother his fault privately. If he doesn’t repent, take a couple of others, and so on. We also know Jesus told us we need to take the ‘log’ out of our own eye before we can help a brother with the ‘speck’ in his. How often do we do this? And how often do we avert our eyes, embarrassed and sad and grieved but unresponsive?

I think another reason for missing the boat in this area is our lack of authentic Christian community. I Corinthians 12 tells us that “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are called to bear one another’s burdens and often than burden is unrelenting temptation as in the case of those recovering from addictions or struggling with homosexuality. Doing life together is often messy. We don’t want to get messy with others. So we leave them to struggle alone, we look the other way, we don’t follow Christ’s commands.

We are one body. We are to suffer together, we are to rejoice together. We are to encourage one another and hold one another accountable. We can do none of this if we don’t know each other. Strong and deep community breeds honest relationships; brothers and sisters with log-less eyes helping each other with specks. Outside a few vibrant small groups, I think this is largely missing in the church today. Let’s prayerfully consider how we might cultivate an authentic, vibrant, discerning, sin-confessing, healing community of believers. I’d like that very much.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in God's Word, Obedience, Relationships, Sin, The Church

 

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A Believer’s Role in Today’s Culture

In an increasingly secular and ungodly culture, many Christians wonder about their role and duty. Should we lobby for rights that have traditionally belonged to us? Should we make every effort to implement a Christian agenda? Should we completely reform the government? The Bible speaks clearly about our duty, and it’s all about governing our character.

On this lazy Friday, I am shamelessly re-posting from and redirecting to John MacArthur’s article on Grace to You. Not just because I’m lazy (actually I am in read rather than write mode today), but more because I think this is incredibly timely and well-said.

In his article, Christian Duty in Pagan Culture, MacArthur states, “Believe it or not, Christians have obligations to a pagan society. When you live as God wants you to in an unbelieving culture, the Holy Spirit uses your life to draw the sinner by softening his attitude toward God (1 Peter 2:12).” He then outlines five areas which we can all be more mindful of:

  • Submission and Obedience
  • Readiness for Good Works
  • Respectful in Speech
  • Peaceful and Gentle
  • Consideration for Others

He closes: “Our duty as we relate to an increasingly secular and ungodly culture is not to lobby for certain rights, the implementation of a Christian agenda, or the reformation of the government. Rather, God would have us continually to remember Paul’s instructions to Titus and live them out as we seek to demonstrate His power and grace that can regenerate sinners. Changing people’s hearts one individual at a time is the only way to bring meaningful, lasting change to our communities, our nation, and even the whole world.”

I hope you’ll read the article and seriously consider God’s word as it applies to our personal and church lives and conduct. I am.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Current Events, God's Word, Obedience, Purpose

 

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The Narrow Door

A friend recently posted on FaceBook a 2002 video of Paul Washer passionately addressing a large crowd of youth, his message on Matthew 7:13-27. I listened to the entire hour and was challenged to dig into these verses myself (still not done — it’s quite a lot!). This passage is quite familiar to most Christians but I’m not sure many of us understand it very well. In fact there were some things here that were very eye-opening to me (and no doubt will continue to be, as I continue to dig deeper) and none more so than searching out what Jesus meant by those who practice lawlessness.

Here is the verse (23): “And then I [Jesus] will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” Now I always casually thought that this meant super-evil-wicked people. You know, Stalin-Holms-Dahmer-Hitler-types. Wow, was I wrong! The word “lawless” is the Greek word, anomia (an-om-EE-ah) and it simply means the disregard for God’s law (His written and living word). It is translated in other verses as “disobedience.” This does not mean we do not sin (1 John 1:7-10) however, a habitual practice of sin or disregard of His law, perpetual disobedience or love of the world and things in the world is termed, “lawlessness” and this state indicates lack of salvation (1 John 1:6, Matthew 13:23, Luke 13:27).

So I understand that this verse tells us there will be a time that many people who believe they are Christians will stand stunned before Christ thinking they had their fire insurance in order and will find out that their “Christiany” behaviors were but self-deception with devastating results. This is a call for all of us to evaluate our lives. (“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” 1 Cor. 13:5.)

I am not saying that a Christian can fall from grace and I believe verse 23 proves we cannot because Jesus says, “I never knew you,” not that He knew them at one point but they messed up so He wrote them off. No. We are saved by His grace alone, bought with a very great price. Nothing we do can earn it and nothing we do can undo it. What I do fear are a multitude of Americans who think they are Christians because they silently prayed a prayer once to ‘accept Christ as their personal savior’ (a phrase, incidentally, not found in the Bible or Christian history and was never even uttered until about 50 years ago). Then they went their merry way with no life change (“you will know them by their fruits”) or even a basic understanding of Christian living (“if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”). What happened to “count the cost” — isn’t there a cost? Can I really silently say a prayer and raise my hand and that’s it? Is that entering through “the narrow door” (v13)?

If 75% of Americans are Christians, as Barna and Gallup polls indicate, then why is our society becoming more and more degraded and immoral? Why are we killing 3700 babies a day? We are nation of relativists. If the laws we are to obey (back to “lawlessness”) are summed up into two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matt. 22:37-40) then the persistent disregard of these is anomia, lawlessness.

Let’s get back to understanding what God’s word truly says and obeying it. Let’s reason with one another and encourage one another in the faith. Let’s confess our mistakes to one another and gently and humbly restore one another in love when we make mistakes. Let’s not be like the religious leaders in Jesus’s day who were like whitewashed tombs – nice on the outside and filled with dead and putrid things on the inside. “Let us turn away from evil and do good; let us seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12).

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Belief, God's Word, Obedience, Salvation

 

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