Friday, March 31, 2017

Fear & Trembling

Fear is a powerful drug.
It’s a fantastic political tactic.
It’s a wonderful manipulator.
It’s an effective motivator.
But it’s a really lousy religion.
~ John Pavlovitz

Have you ever thought about how fear is routinely used to manipulate or motivate us?

Fear is used to sell virtually everything: cars, tires, and life insurance are classics. But, clever marketers also use it to sell breakfast cereal and deodorant. As a result we purchase all sorts of things that a generation ago were considered unnecessary. . .

But it’s not just marketers who use fear to control others: doctors, politicians, newspersons, preachers, parents, peers…the list is lengthy. Sometimes it’s warranted. Many times it’s not. It’s the latter that concerns me.

Like never before, we need to recognize and reject fearmongering. To be sure, propaganda isn’t exactly new. But with the unparalleled influence of today’s social media, discernment is sorely needed (as is an “off” switch).

Jesus once told a weary crowd: “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Maybe today He would invite those with anxious minds: Come to Me and I will give you peace.

“Why are you so afraid?” He asks (Mark 4:40).

It’s a piercing question: Why do the things that trouble me so, so trouble me?

Think about it, won't you? 

Jesus is no scaremonger. He says, “Don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

You see, the Kingdom of God is governed by something far greater than fear: Love.

Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. ~1John 4:18

Would you like to walk peacefully with Christ in the Way of perfect love? You certainly can.

But you’ll have to leave the fearmongers and their fearmongering ways behind. 

That’s the deal. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Something's Missing

As I catch snippets of news, Facebook fights, and sometimes actually talk to people; I’m finding that lots of folks primarily think of evangelicals as people who: 1) hate abortion, 2) hate gay marriage, 3) love guns, and 4) vote Republican.

Dear reader, what do any of these things have to do with Jesus?

Now, we can debate over who is more to blame for how evangelicalism in America is perceived—the media or evangelicals themselves—but what seems beyond dispute is that this perception is very real and widespread. (Personally, I believe it is real, widespread, and deserved.)

A philosophical question: Is evangelicalism—divorced from Christ—a meaningful or logically consistent term? 

I don’t think it is.

Evangel is defined as “the Christian gospel (good news).” When evangelicalism is no longer rightly or truly associated with Jesus—the only Evangel—it’s simply another failing “ism.”

We [evangelicals] proclaim to follow a man who chose to affiliate himself with the poor and dispossessed, who called the political and religious leaders of his day to account, who saw and loved people whom others had discarded. . . . When “evangelical” starts to sound like very bad news for very many Americans, it has drifted far from its roots. . . . I can’t defend my people [evangelicals]. I barely recognize them.

Perhaps when Jesus says, “apart from Me you can do nothing” He means it.

The culture needs more Jesus. So does the church.

Maybe you and I can work on that. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick, The Humble & Fearless

Once again, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. While we commemorate the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, we should pause for a moment to thoughtfully consider: Who was this man?

Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.

Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland, Cumberland, England, or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold.

After six years, Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. . . . His great desire was to proclaim the Good News to the Irish.

In a dream vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. Despite opposition from those who felt his education had been defective, he was sent to carry out the task. He went to the west and north, where the faith had never been preached, obtained the protection of local kings and made numerous converts.

He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission.

In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.1

I like the opening observation that he had two “solid qualities,” viz. humility and courage. Oh, that we would have such solid qualities of heart and soul!

It is further observed,

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. So complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission, he feared nothing -not even death.2

Here we discover the bedrock of his exemplary character: love for, total devotion to, and complete confidence in God. This is not the way of the world—and look at the rotting fruits of godless living and thinking!

But Jesus calls us to a different Way than that of the world. He says, Follow Me.

Will we do this? Will we trust Him and His Way in every aspect of our lives? I assure you, following Jesus and His Way is the greatest privilege we will ever have in this life or in the life to come.

I leave you with a prayerful verse penned by St. Patrick.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.




Friday, March 10, 2017

Jesus & Other Emperors

I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. ~attributed to Napoleon 

Jesus is a different sort of king with a different sort of kingdom. Even Napoleon (Bonaparte not Dynamite) could see this.

Not only does he acknowledge that Christ is incomparable to all others, but he readily concedes that all emperors—himself included—and all empires are inferior to Jesus and His Way.

Napoleon can see it. Can we?

David Gornoski thinks we cannot.

We believe in the way Karl Marx and other counterfeit Jesuses in history have offered: violent power is the highest good we should desire. Might makes right. Majority rules. The Public Will can sacrifice a misfit who objects. All those crusty, stinky, stupid barbaric mantras are shortcuts to heaven that lead to hell.

Did you notice how Napoleon and Gornoski speak of force and violent power? These are the ways of the kingdoms of the world. Everyone is striving for power over others.

Our King—King Jesus—shows us the way of power under. His is not the way of coercion but of persuasion; not of sacrificing others but of laying down our own lives for the sake of others.

Jesus invites us to come and die—not go and kill.  

“Take up your cross and follow Me,” He says.

Thus, an early follower of His writes: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh [i.e. their sinful nature] with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

We are called to love. This is the highest ethic of Christ’s kingdom.

Will you join me in taking a quick look inside?

Our motives, desires and aspirations; the way we think about and interact with others: Who do we truly emulate—Jesus or other emperors?

I wonder if the folks who know us best would agree with our assessment. I wonder if Jesus does.