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. 

1“Hold The Fort,” by Philip P. Bliss 

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympic Witnesses

We both know that our identity is in Christ, and we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive . . . It’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us. . . . If something went great, I was happy. If something didn’t go great, I could still find joy . . . God’s given us a cool opportunity, and I’m glad I could come away with an Olympic silver medal in my first-ever event.
~David Boudia and Steele Johnson (silver medalists in synchronized diving)

Isn’t it encouraging when world-class athletes on a world-wide stage glorify and enjoy the Lord? Do you suppose Jesus grinned when they boldly and profoundly claimed that their identities were in Him, not in swimming or medaling? (I’d imagine He thought: “Well done, boys.”)

Long ago two other young men faced judges very different from those found at Olympic Games. Their cruel judges threatened them with torture and even death if they ever again spoke of Jesus Christ. But Peter and John answered the Sanhedrin,

Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).

Oh, how this must have thrilled the heart of God!

Now, this may surprise you but I have something in common with these Olympians and Apostles—and so do you: Jesus calls and enables us to be His witnesses.

When it comes to witnessing we tend to think in terms of doing, not being. That is, we often think of witnessing as something we do from time-to-time. But Jesus calls us to not only do but also to be.

We are to be witnesses.

This means we are to consistently think, speak, and act according to His Way. Like the Olympians said, it’s not just something we do, it’s who we are.

There’s no one I’d rather be. How about you?