The Christian life is hard…but we don’t have to be

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. Even if you count it from my repentance in 1999, that’s 20 years of following Christ, striving to be faithful, committed to the local church and desiring to be an instrument for his use. I’ve plodded through dark, trying times, experienced dry seasons, moved a few times and saw some beautiful peaks. As I mentioned in a recent piece I wrote for Reformation21, a passage of Scripture that has gripped my heart is found in John 6:66-69. There is no greater joy than being in the sweet arms of Jesus, being reconciled to the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But here’s one thing I’ve found through all of this…

The Christian life is hard.

Now you may scoff at that idea but I’m guessing this statement resonates with the lionshare of Christians reading this. By saying its hard doesn’t mean its not fruitful or worth it or that we love the Lord any less. But we can be honest about what it’s like being a pilgram of another kingdom while navigating through this earthly one.

First, consider that Jesus did say his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom operates by a different set of principles than what is naturally acceptable according to worldly philosophies. Sure, there are fingerprints of God’s goodness particularly in more civilized societies. But Jesus let his disciples know that the world would hate them because the world hates him. “The mind set on the flest is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law” (Rom. 8:7). This mind is at work in the children of disobedience, those who do not bow their knee to Christ (see Eph. 2:1-2). This is the grain that we have to navigate our lives in. Continue reading

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Because Jesus loved his body more…and so should we

During Holy Week, I read a devotional centered around Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in John 13:21-32. The premise of the devotional was how much Jesus loved Judas, even though he knew he would betray him and he did. Here is a snippet that I think speaks to heart of the devotional;

It is one thing to consider what Jesus would do in our situations. It is quite another to put ourselves into his life situations. When we do this, we focus on Jesus and the contexts of his decisions, instead of our own. In John 13:26, Jesus is serving the person he had just identified as his betrayer. If we were in the presence of someone we knew had planned harm to us, could we do the same? Jesus served Judas, literally and figuratively, without resentment or any effort to “get even.” Now that is love.

Our brokenness can cause us to struggle with showing love. We could feel and behave as if an “other” was a personified WMD (weapon of mass destruction) aimed at us, making us feel MAD (mutually assured destruction) in response. But we do not have to wonder WWJD. We know what Jesus did. We have his road map. Yet, his path for us may still cause us some internal struggle. We need not, even as good Christians, ignore that struggle. It is part of the process. Even Jesus was “greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me’” (John 13:21). However, his love was greater.

Now I gleaned from the gist of the devotional that Jesus is showing us how to love our enemies. However, I found this angle a bit short sighted. Yes, Jesus did demonstrate love for Judas and overlooked the offense. But to leave it at that kind of misses the point of what was transpiring. Jesus saw Judas. He saw the betrayal. He turned the other cheek. Why? Because he saw more than Judas. He saw us. He was set to offer himself over as a sacrificial lamb to redeem those whom the Father called into his kingdom. There was something more at stake than dealing with Judas but to be the deal for mankind so that we could know the Father and reflect his glory. Continue reading

On #LivingRocks, throwing stones and racial reconciliation

stones in handsWell, I’ll get to the point. The other day, Dr. Russell Moore penned this piece in the New York Times, A White Church No More. In it, he argues that the swelling support of Trump by evangelicals belies a white institutional vanguard that in actuality, is far from reality. Rather, evangelicalism is a multicultural array of every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev. 7 anyone?)

The center of gravity for both orthodoxy and evangelism is not among Anglo suburban evangelicals but among African Anglicans and Asian Calvinists and Latin American Pentecostals. The vital core of American evangelicalism today can be found in churches that are multiethnic and increasingly dominated by immigrant communities.

Given the intent of the post, from what I read, was to point out that the white evangelical suburban paradigm that was at the heart of Christianity no longer had a stranglehold on the kind of evangelicalism that finds its support in Trump. If I’ve read his article right, he is denouncing the idea that white evangelicalism speaks for what evangelicalism truly is.

Apparently, some Christians weren’t happy with what he wrote, not so much because he challenged the status quo thinking of the majority culture (though I suspect he probably got negative responses on that end). Rather, it’s because what he wrote wasn’t good enough and did not adequately address the real issues of power structures. It represented a continuation of the problem. Continue reading

My love for Jesus is not enough…

hands with heartI’ve been a Christian for a long time. I came to faith in Christ my freshman year in college, 1982 and was pretty pumped up initially. I read the Bible like crazy, rarely missed church, bible study and other Christian gatherings within my circles.

But after some time, something interesting began to emerge. My zeal for the Lord began to hit some lethargic patches. The trials of life, temptation of sin and general distraction slowly ate away at my walk and after a few years, dropped me into a 13 year rebellious period.

But after I came back, I noticed something all too familiar, a strange blend of zeal mixed with a dull sense of just can’t quite get it together. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the Lord. I loved him deeply and truly. I have no other choice really. A passage of Scripture that profoundly impacted me then in 1999, and still impacts me to this day, is found in John 6:66-69. After Jesus touched people with miracles that gained a growing following, he then began to lay down the truth about himself;

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

The older I get in the Lord, the more Paul’s words resonate with me of being a bond-servant of Christ. There are times when I’ve wanted to run and hide, but to where? There is no other place to go than to the sweet arms of Christ…even when I feel my love for him weakens and fails. Continue reading

Why are you still single? Because you’re not good enough

pointing-an-accusing-fingerI bet if you took a poll and asked Christians why there are so many singles in the church who want to get married, you might be horrified at telling them it is because they are not good enough. And yet, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that tends to be the overarching description regarding singleness in the church.  No, we don’t say that so directly but in other ways. We’ve created endless lists on the attributes that keep people from marriage. A recent example is this post on Reformation21. Rick Phillips cites these reasons;

1. Immaturity and Sin among Men: Phillips contends that men in their 20s and 30s lack the maturity to even want, let alone be properly prepared for marriage and therefore aren’t prioritizing it. Applicable here are men who do not have the gift of singleness but for whatever reason, do not feel the need to get married leaving lovelorn ladies without potential partners.

2. The Widespread Brokenness of our Society: Because people have been hurt or not had good role models, I suppose this means that they are incapable of being loved or loving others. He does not say this directly only that these situations exist so I can only conclude that the pervasive residue of brokenness precludes those from seeking or prepared for marriage.

3. Worldly Demands and Priorities among Christians: Christians just aren’t prioritizing marriage, which actually seems a bit contradictory to the premise that many are heartbroken for not being married. Nonetheless, Phillips hones in the women here indicating that women who don’t adopt what may be deemed as typical feminine traits preclude their own marriage because men won’t want them.

4. God’s Sovereign Will: I actually breathed a sigh of relief by the time I got to this last point, until he suggested the problem probably lies within the first 3 points.

Ok, obviously I put my own spin on it. It fits with other lists I’ve seen that have included things such as being too bossy, too shy, too demanding, too picky, etc. Basically, you are single because you are not good enough marriage material. Continue reading