Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christ-less Conservatism

*I originally published these thoughts July 10, 2012. They seem just as appropriate—perhaps even more so—today.*


We must remember that although there are tremendous discrepancies between conservatives and liberals in the political arena, if they are both operating on a humanistic base there will really be no final difference between them. As Christians we must stand absolutely and totally opposed to the whole humanist system, whether it is controlled by conservative or liberal elements. Thus Christians must not become officially aligned with either group just on the basis of the name it uses. (Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, p. 77-78)

The above quote reveals the hypocrisy and futility of Christ-less conservatism. Taking the path of social or economic conservatism, without regard to God and His word, is but a fool’s errand. Rather, the hope of our nation, or any nation, rests upon the Person and teaching of Jesus Christ.

This is a serious discussion which merits our contemplation, and sometimes humor can facilitate such dialogue. A couple of weeks ago [now several years ago], a Facebook friend posted this status: “Signs you’re a conservative but not a Christian.” Below is my contribution to that conversation.

May the Lord bless our thoughtful laughter and may our worldview be Christ-like, not merely conservative.

Signs You’re a Conservative But Not a Christian

You like "In God We Trust" on money but think more of money than God.

You scream bloody murder for removing the 10 Commandments from the public eye but can't name more than 3.

You want your kids to recite the Pledge every morning at school but never considered teaching them the Lord's Prayer.

The Constitution is your “Bible.”

You haven't been to church in years but the separation of church and state makes your blood boil.

You speak of bearing arms more than carrying crosses.

You’re constantly offended by the sex and violence coming over your DVD.

You tell liberals to “go to hell” because you don’t wanna be with them in heaven.

You’re more excited about Ron Paul than Apostle Paul.

You support troops on foreign soil but not missionaries.

You’ve never heard “Be Thou My Vision” but “O say can you see” always brings a tear to your eye.

You think the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a catchy, Christian tune.

You think “retaking” the Whitehouse is America’s only hope.

You always “stand with Israel” but never sit in church. 

You believe the spread of democracy—not the Gospel—is the key to world peace.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas According to Jesus

Christmas. What’s it all about?

Imagine you’re observing Christmas from the outside—say you’re a space alien or a Jehovah’s Witness. What would you conclude?

You’d most likely think it has to do with economics: spending money, making money, giving and receiving things.

It’s possible you would surmise it has to do with religion: symbols, decorations, songs, and rituals about the birth of a holy Child.

You may come to believe it’s about relationships: friends and family fellowshipping.

You could decide it’s primarily about children and magic.

Obviously, most of us don’t have an outsider’s view of Christmas. Rather, we’ve experienced it from the inside for as long as we can remember.

What’s it about really?
                       
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of the above answers, per se. And it may be that there’s no definitive answer to our query because Christmas means different things to different people.

So let’s be more specific. What about the birth of God’s Son?

There’s no need to speculate when we can go straight to the source. The Son of God says,

The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me. ~John 18:37

Christmas, according to Jesus, is about His bearing witness to the truth. He reveals the truth in all He is, says, and does. It’s why He was born. What truth is He speaking of?

The truth of who God is.

The truth of who we are.

The truth of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We celebrate Christmas according to Jesus when we listen to Him and bear witness to the same truth that He bears witness to; when we believe and purposefully live His truth as His intimate followers.

There’s been much “concern” and, of course, conflict over the commercialization and secularization of Christmas.

I get it.

But maybe we’ll truly have more Christ in our Christmas as we put more Christ in our Christianity. At least think about it, won’t you? 

And while you’re ruminating…have a Merry Christmas, dear reader. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Divine Disappointment

A dear friend asked me, “Is God disappointed in me?” He answered his own query by saying (basically): I don’t think so, but how can I know?

Below is my response.

****************

Is God disappointed in you?

I think you're right to think He isn't.

Disappointment comes when reality fails to meet expectations—you expect to open a box of St. Louis Cardinals season tickets but in reality open a box of Arizona Cardinals trading cards. Disappointment.

I doubt that God gets disappointed like this—at least not often.

I think we begin to ponder God's being disappointed with us when we are in fact disappointed with ourselves. The perceived reality of our lives is not what we expected. Hence the disappointment is ours not His.

It is here, in the throes of disappointment, that we can begin learning to receive all of our identity, self-worth, and value from Jesus. Rather than getting these things from what we think we are doing (which is where we are conditioned to get such things), we begin to understand and love ourselves and others based upon what He did and does for us and within us.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20

True spiritual progress (accompanied by love, joy, and peace) comes to the one who centers upon Jesus Christ, not the self. This is undoubtedly something that most of us can only begin to do and only accomplish in fits and starts. 

It's a long journey but we've a long time—an eternity—to enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Under The Influence

The ways of the prevailing culture whether American, Chinese, Polish or Indonesian—its assumptions, its values, its methods of going about its work—are never on the side of God. Never.1

As followers of Jesus we are called and challenged to be countercultural; in the world but not of it. Of course, culture is unavoidable and thus we cannot, in fact we probably should not, try to rid ourselves of it entirely. ("Uncultured For Jesus" seems a bit ill-conceived, does it not?)

Nevertheless, Christ-followers must guard against being unduly influenced by the assumptions, values, and methods of the world.

Two areas where Christians are currently too heavily influenced by culture immediately come to mind.

The first is media. We are drowning in it. Information and misinformation abound. I always think of Mark Twain’s quip: “If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them you are misinformed.”

What would he say today?

I am increasingly convinced that media hurts more than helps. What if we spent more time with scripture than news? 

We have to break the ignorant and faithless habit of letting the journalists of the day tell us what is going on. We need at least to give Isaiah equal time: Holy, Holy, Holy.2

Dear reader, who is a surer guide for navigating the minefields of society than Jesus? Do you think He has more wisdom than popular pundits? 

The second area of concern is politics. When we are euphoric or suicidal over who wins elections, we are imbalanced. Overreactions from Statists (Left and Right) are to be expected. But why the hysteria from those who claim to follow Christ?

Friends, politicians are no more qualified than pundits to tell us how or what to think.

The times in which we live are not definitive for our lives. The kings and presidents who lead us don’t have the last word (and certainly not the first!) on how we live our lives.3

Yet many Christians simply mirror the culture when it comes to all things government. They cede way too much influence to kingdoms of the world.

Jesus reveals a better Way.

He says we should give to Caesar what is his (tax money) and to God what is His (everything else).

Said another way, your money bears the image of your government; you bear the image of your God.

He tells us and He shows us.

Jesus ignored the whole business. Jesus spent His life walking down roads and through towns dominated by Herod’s policies, buildings shaped by Herod’s power, communities at the mercy of Herod’s whims. And He never gave them the time of day. . . . He lived as if Herod had never existed.4

So who influences you the most? I mean really.

_______________________
1Eugene H. Peterson, “The Jesus Way,” p. 126
2Ibid, p. 134
3Ibid, p. 132 
4Ibid, p. p. 202, 204

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jesus Talks With Donald Trump

Jesus: “Thank you for meeting with Me on such short notice, Donald.”

Trump: “Not a problem. Inconvenient, maybe, but not a problem. Did you see me win the election? Did you see it?”

Jesus: “Most of it. Do you still think it was all rigg—”

Trump: “It was fantastic! Wasn’t it fantastic? Terrific. I beat Crooked Hillary bigly, Jesus. So bigly.”  

Jesus: “I’m guessing you must be over the moon these days for the Electoral College!”

Trump: “Electoral College is good. Not as good as Trump University. But good. People are saying it’s good. They like me over there. So, it’s not bad, I don’t think.”

Jesus: “Anywho…I’d didn’t come to talk politics. I’d like to talk about you.”

Trump: “I’d like that too. I like you, Jesus. I do. I like you. You seem nice.”

Jesus: “Right.”

Trump: “You should’ve endorsed me! Evangelicals love me. Absolutely love me. You should’ve. It would’ve been huge.”

Jesus: “Well, evangelicals don’t care about what I think nearly as much as you may imagine…”

Trump: “No? Well I think you’re great. I should endorse You!” (Laughs.) “Maybe I’ll make You great again.”

Jesus: (Laughing.) “No, no! That’s quite alright, Donald. Can we be serious for just a moment?”

Trump: “Sure. Sure. I like serious. I think serious is good.”

Jesus: “Once, long ago, I asked this question: ‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’ I know you’ve accomplished a lot in your life. But how is it with your soul? Have you thought about this?”

Trump: “Well, I’m a good person. Okay? Believe me. I’m a good person. Right now I’m thinking about the soul of our nation—”

Jesus: (Chuckles.) “You mean your nation, the United States. All nations are my concern. I’m not an American, you know!” (More chuckling). “But, Donald, don’t you see that a nation doesn’t really have a soul? I know it sounds poetic. But the  soul of a nation is simply metaphor. People, not nations, have eternal souls. I love the nations because I love the people. Nations and empires come and go but individuals last forever. So…how is it with your soul?”

Trump: “I think it’s good. It’s good. I’m gonna make America great again. That I can tell you.”

Jesus: “So I’ve heard!” (Smiles.) “Donald, every American—in fact every person who has ever lived or ever will live—needs a Savior. Let me be direct: I am the Savior everyone needs—including you.”

Trump: “I’m a deal-maker, Jesus. I make good deals. It’s what I do. And I’m gonna make America great again.”

Jesus: “Friend—I hope you don’t mind Me considering Myself your friend—”

Trump: “Not at all. You’re a good person.”

Jesus: “Friend, I’m not talking about making the richest and most powerful nation in the world richer and more powerful. Honestly, I don’t consider material wealth and military power to be all that 'great.' All these things are transitory. The kingdoms of this world—yours and everyone else’s—will come and go. But My kingdom is forever. I wish you would seek My kingdom and encourage others to do the same.”

Trump: “The heaven thing is nice. It’s good. But I live in the real world. Okay? The real world. And I’m gonna make America great again. We’re gonna start winning again.”

Jesus: “Well, I’m not talking about heaven, exactly. I’m talking about the real world we both live in. My kingdom isn’t of the world but it’s certainly in it. Nor am I talking about 'winners' and 'losers' as you are. Rather, I’m offering you and everyone else eternal life.”

Trump: “Sounds terrific. Let’s do this again some time. Okay? Okay? Alright.”    
Jesus: “In case we don’t, please hear Me now. Your nation’s problems aren’t the lack of money or military. More of these things will not help you. The root of your problems is sin—closed hearts more than open borders. I’m offering you and everyone else something completely different. I’m inviting you to enjoy life in My kingdom now and always; to do things My Way. Won’t you at least think about it?”

Trump: “Maybe I’ll run it by Pence, see what Mike thinks about it.”


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Jesus Way

For about the last 4 years (probably longer) I thought Hilary Clinton would be the next President.

My crystal ball is broken.

Of course, I’m not alone. Many folks were mistaken; but I’m thinking of two groups in particular: pollsters and conspiracy theorists.

The vast majority of polls predicted a Hilary win. What went wrong with the polls? I guess we’ll just have to wait for the pollsters to tell us.

And the conspiracies!

First we were told there wouldn’t even be an election—martial law Obama style. Then conspiracy enthusiasts insisted the Republican primaries were rigged. Finally, up to the day of the election, conspiracy theorists claimed the election was being stolen.

Not a word of truth in any of it.

Even so…pollsters and conspiracy theorist are here to stay. (They’re like “prophecy” preachers: No amount of wrongness can put them out of business.)

At any rate, the election is finally behind us (sort of).

So what should Christ-followers do now? Well, we should do now what we should’ve done all along: Follow Jesus.

Numbers don’t lie. Sometimes numbers are filthy liars.

That being said, vote totals demonstrate that America is deeply divided. This has pretty much always been the case. In addition to being deeply divided, the nation is also deeply sinful and hurting. And make no mistake, politics—earthly coercive powers—can never heal us.

But Jesus shows us a different Way.

He alone brings true forgiveness, unity, and healing. As we trust Him and His way in every aspect of our lives, the Holy Spirit renews our minds and transforms us from the inside out. As we individually and corporately experience His grace and abundant life, we are empowered—as His new humanity—to share His love and mercy with others.

In other words, followers of Jesus must lead the way in loving our neighbor as ourselves—Democrat, Republican, and indifferent. We must endeavor to sincerely repair the relationships this vicious election cycle destroyed. (This is why I say the election is behind us “sort of.”)  

Our attitude must be: No matter who you voted for or if you didn’t vote at all, Jesus loves you and so do I. Christ-followers won’t just say it. We’ll live it.

Jesus people will also pray for Donald Trump and all who are and/or will be in authority. We want God to influence them to obtain wisdom and servant-hearts.

Pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1Timothy 2:1-2)

Peace and quiet. Godliness and dignity. It’s the Jesus Way. Is it yours?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wicked Ways Without and Within

The Lord detests the way of the wicked,
but He loves those who pursue godliness.
~Proverbs 15:9

Life is a journey. To a large extent, where you go depends upon whom you follow.

Presently, many folks are following politicians—two in particular. Their reprehensible race to the bottom—the way of the wicked—is detestable, indeed.

But while it’s relatively easy to see the wicked ways of politics and the evil without; what about the sinfulness within? You know…that whole “plank in your own eye” thing of which Jesus warns.  

As I think about God detesting the way of the wicked, the prayer of Psalm 139 comes to mind:

Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (v. 23,24)

Followers of Jesus don’t want anything in their hearts and minds to hinder intimacy with the Father. So, we offer our honest and vulnerable plea: search me, O God.

Things can creep into our hearts almost imperceptibly. We can—without due diligence—harbor things that God doesn’t like. Because God is holy and because He loves us immensely, He is displeased with anything in us that works against our or our neighbor’s good.

We need Him to point out these things to us. When He does so, we must immediately begin praying and working towards being rid of all He dislikes. I’m thinking about things such as anger, pride, self-will, envy, pettiness, bitterness, un-forgiveness, self-righteousness, and all “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21).

We’ll likely not eliminate all wrong things at once or once-and-for-all. Thus, our pursuit of godliness is a life-long expedition. As we pursue God, He lovingly and patiently leads us along the path of everlasting life. Notice, He does not drive us, but leads us; walks before and beside us like a shepherd.

And always remember: God doesn’t simply empty. He also fills. 

Dear reader, what would the Lord like to remove from your life today? Whatever it is, offer it to Him at once. You’ll be glad you did. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Unfailing Love

Your unfailing love is better than life . . .
~Psalm 63:3

The psalmist says much in few words.

First, we see that God loves. God loves because love is essential to His very nature. God loves and always has. Even in eternity past, when no other thing or person existed, God loved. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shared love within the Godhead. God is love (1John 4:8).

Second, we understand that God loves unfailingly. This lets us know that His love is not predicated upon what others do or don’t do. Rather, His love is based upon His character and nature alone. He does not love more at times and less at others. His love endures all things and never fails.

Finally, we are told God’s love is better than life. What does this mean? I think it means all loves pale in comparison to His. It means all things other than God are finite and can do and be only what their finitude allows. Thus everything life offers is impermanent or transitory; but not God’s infinite, unfailing love.

But while God’s love is constant, our comprehension and experience of it are not. That is, for any number of reasons, we don’t always sense, understand, or express it as we could or perhaps should. So, we want to grow in our capacity to know God’s love; both in the giving and the receiving.

Increasing love for God, self, and others is the primary manifestation of true spiritual growth. What will such progress look like? It will look more and more like Jesus.

**************** 
Prayer: All-loving God, enable us to intimately and increasingly know You and Your love. Let our love be fervent and genuine. Show us how to love in thought, word, and deed. Help us to love others like Jesus loves us. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thinking About Thinking

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.
~Philippians 4:8

Have you ever thought about your thinking? What thoughts occupy your mind and why?

It is apparent that many folks in our country—and even in our churches—are filled with anxious and angry thoughts. The impending election coupled with 24/7 cable news only serve to heighten their angst.

Sensing the tension in my own mind, about 6 weeks ago I felt led of the Lord to go on a “media fast.” (I have since found several other friends doing the same.) The difference in my attitude and thinking is astounding.

I am convinced that less news, more Jesus is a good thing.

We know the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But how can these be ours if we constantly feed our minds fearful, angry thoughts?

I assure you, appearances notwithstanding, there has never been a godly person with an ungodly thought-life.

So, Jesus cleans us inside out. He says, “First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23:26).

Would you like to be loving, joyful, patient, kind, etc.? Then you must think about your thinking. You must “fix your thoughts” on excellent things.

***********

Prayer: Holy Spirit, please renew the spirit of our minds. Transform us. Help us to have a more disciplined, godly thought-life. Make us more like Jesus in what and how we think.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

God's Free Gift

The wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life
through Christ Jesus our Lord.
~Romans 6:23

A wage is something earned. Thus Jesus says, “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). You and I certainly deserve the death-wages of sin, for we are sinners by nature and choice.

But God is rich in mercy.

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
~Ephesians 2:4-5

Because God is merciful we don’t always get what we deserve. We’ve earned death but God’s amazing love compels Him to give us a free gift instead: eternal life. This precious gift comes through Jesus Christ.

Aren’t you thankful for merciful love?

His love for us is so great that He freely gives us life that never ends. In other words, God loves us so much that He desires to be with us now and always. Today and every day—for all eternity—God welcomes our company.

He’ll never regret the time we spend with Him and neither will we.

******

Prayer: Father, how we rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting! Holy Spirit, make us merciful towards others like Jesus is towards us.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Angels & Demons

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

My previous article may have raised a few eyebrows.

My contention then and now is that malignant spirits strive to maneuver and manipulate culture-shaping individuals and institutions. But this concept is foreign to folks—including  those who claim to have a supernatural worldview.  

Why is this?

One reason is our modern-Western presuppositions about how the world works are highly naturalistic or materialistic. Even Bible-believers tend to think of “spirits” and such as embarrassing relics of a bygone superstitious age.

Another cause for discomfort comes not from disbelief, but from misbelief. That is, the thinking of many regarding spiritual realities is shaped more by Hollywood than scripture.

As C.S. Lewis observes,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

Now, some may scoff at the idea that evil spirits are behind worldly systems and entities along the entire philosophical/geo-political spectrum Left to Right. Wouldn’t this pit demonic forces against each other?

Yes it would.

Haven’t you seen evil human beings fight one another for reasons all their own? I believe the same holds true for evil non-human beings.

Why assume that satanic forces are united in anything but hate? It makes sense that evil spirits lust for power and war for dominion over each other and all God’s creation. 

Finally, some simply cannot bear the thought that no earthly, coercive powers (not even their favorites) are fighting entirely on the side of the angels. Even so, this is likely the case.

In the end, dear reader, we’re exclusively obliged to Christ and His kingdom. So let’s lovingly, joyfully, and peacefully follow Him.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pawns & Presidents

Remember when Justice Antonin Scalia died? (It was waaay back in February.) There were actually people on the Left who celebrated his death. I recall reading all sorts of nasty comments.

I thought of this the other day as I read folks on the Right gleefully speaking of Hillary Clinton’s being sick. Obviously, neither the Left nor the Right has monopolized meanness.

What’s wrong with us that we delight in death and sickness?

As I was ruminating on these things another thought intruded: You should pray for Hillary.

So, I did. “Father, please heal Hillary Clinton physically and spiritually.”

Short.
Simple.
Sincere.

Another alien thought immediately presented itself: You should pray for Donald too.

So, I did. “Father, please make Donald Trump physically and spiritually whole.”

And God moved.

I’ve no way of knowing if anything happened (or will happen) with Hillary and Donald, but I know God responded to my prayers by changing my attitude.

You see, dear reader, I’ve never been a fan of either of these two people. It’s likely I never will be. But the animosity in my heart was suddenly gone; as though the Holy Spirit simply melted it all away.

What a glorious, light feeling!  

Suddenly I saw anew that these are two sinful, broken people savaging each other to the approbation of other sinful, broken people; all from within in a sinful, broken system.

The full reality is this: Hillary and Donald are pawns not saviors.

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

I knew this already, but as we all know, there’s a difference between knowing and knowing.

I don’t presume to speak for anyone but myself, but I understand more clearly that my fight—the battle God is calling me to engage—isn’t against Hillary or Donald; but against the malignant spiritual forces maneuvering and manipulating them.

Hillary and Donald…neither has my vote. Both have my prayers.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Foray Into The Prophetic

I’m going to make some bold predictions.

Let me set the stage for you…

The campaign has been absolutely ferocious. Presidential candidates, _______ and _______, are unabashed serial liars and they have savaged each other to the best of their abilities.

Naturally both of them claim that this election is the most important election ever and if their opponent wins it may very well be the last election until the next one. In short, the survival of the nation probably depends solely upon them.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Americans couldn’t be more disappointed. The lament heard everywhere is, “_______ and _______ are the best we can do?”

Minds are absolutely boggled.

Okay, the stage is set.

Now for mind-boggling prognostications…

First, many folks will vote for a party, not a politician. That is, they will vote for _______ or _______ based upon little or nothing more than the (D) or the (R) that appears beside the names. (They will do this top to bottom.)

Second, incredibly large groups will vote not as much for _______ but rather against _______.

The thinking goes something like this: I hate _______ less than I hate _______ so I’d better vote for _______ because I’d hate to waste my vote!

Third, much smaller but exceptionally LOUDER groups (let’s call these “true believers”) will vote for _______ or _______ because they are worshipfully (and I mean this literally) committed to them.

Among these are people—some who claim to be Christian—who sacrifice friendships and family members to the would-be gods of State.

That is, they lack the capacity to individuate themselves from _______ or _______. Thus, if a person (no matter who or how close) is less than supportive of _______ or _______, that person is now perceived as a traitor or personal enemy.

Fourth and climactically, I can tell you that _______ is going to win.

Mark it down.

_______ will be President of the United States.

“True believers” everywhere will either be ecstatic or eviscerated.

Maybe you’re thinking, “C’mon, Steve, fill in the blanks! Tell us who’s gonna win—Donald or Hillary?”

Oh, I’m not talking about 2016! (My prophetic gifts are much more powerful than this.) I’m talking about 2020. Try to keep up.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.
Nothing under the sun is truly new.
~Ecclesiastes 1:9

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Telling It Like It Isn’t

What was he thinking?

That’s what came to mind when I learned of Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte’s, infamous “over-exaggeration” concerning his being robbed in Rio.

In the newest issue of People, we read of Lochte:

"I feel bad that I have let people down. . . . I made things up," he says. "I didn't tell the truth. And that's on me. I messed up, and made a big mistake, and I'm sorry."

The cynical among us aver that he’s “sorry” only because his little lie cost him big money.

But maybe his sorrow is genuine. Maybe—for reasons unknown—he panicked, got caught up in things, and didn’t see a clear way out. Oh, what a tangled web we weave

The fact is we can’t know his heart and mind then or now.

Having said that…

Lochte’s losing four major endorsements (Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Airweave and Gentle Hair Removal) raises another question.

Isn’t it strange how lying costs some people (Olympians) more than others (politicians)?

I suppose the lowest of expectations pertaining to all things political is understandable. But still…we withdraw endorsements from the liars who would entertain us but not from the ones who would rule us?

Our moral outrage is a bit wonky.

Even so, nobody likes being lied to. Some people actually prefer lies to truths.

But Jesus calls us to follow a different path. He wants us to walk with Him in the Way of integrity. He teaches His followers: “All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

We don’t need to lie or pretend or manipulate. We don’t need to try to impress or play word games—just speak the truth forthrightly and lovingly.

Jesus says,

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 

What are you full of today? Careful now…your mouth will tell on you. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fortification vs. Domination

A couple of years ago best-selling author, Philip Yancey, remarked that when it comes to matters of church and culture, many Christians fall within two rather disparate categories: Those who favor fortification and those who prefer domination.

It occurred to me that these two camps are captured quite nicely in two hymns, each of which—interestingly enough—is based upon experiences of the United States’ Civil War.

The first reads:
See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”1

The other declares:
I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel,
"As ye deal with My contemners so with you My grace shall deal,"
Let the Hero born of woman crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on

Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah
Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on2

Can you hear fortifiers anxiously singing their tune and dominators bellowing theirs?

To be sure, there are sincere Bible-believers in both camps. But whereas the fortifier tends to withdraw from non-believers, the dominator seeks to vanquish them. The one eschews contamination and the other embraces coercion.

In other words, the fortifier has only Christian friends and the dominator has only non-Christian enemies.

But there’s a third Way.  

Jesus says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

That is to say, the Christ-follower needn’t fear or force other people. Rather, he or she is called to walk with God, empowered by love. No cloistering. No clobbering.

Do you want to be more like Jesus?

Well…He’s the sinner’s best friend. That’s good news for folks like us! So let’s broadcast it in word and deed—as best we can—every day. 

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1“Hold The Fort,” by Philip P. Bliss 

2“The Battle Hymn of The Republic,” by Julia Ward Howe