Sigh.

christian-violenceGrateful for this blog.

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Terror, fear, and faith. Part 2

fear_and_faith

here are some more thoughts on living in a dark world…

when there is danger…whether it’s the presence of potential harm…or a frontal assault on our personal safety…we always have options for our responses.  there is no script.  it’s entirely ad-lib for all of us.

some buy an extra box of ammo.  some move to the suburbs.  some turn into doomsday preppers.  some become political activists.  others join the army.  some join the neighborhood watch.  some simply cower in fear and paranoia.  like i said yesterday,  it’s personal.

here’s my reality… as a follower of christ, i am bound by his word and his lifestyle.  for me, there is no legit wiggle room.

no matter what my “practical response” to violence and terror may be (and i have never really been confronted by either),  first and foremost, my response must always be controlled by what  god commands me to do.  and in those cases where god’s word has not spoken, my actions must conform to how i think jesus would act if he were in my shoes.

here’s what it looks like…and don’t mistake this for some kind of rant on gun control!  even though i’m not a gun guy, some of my best friends and some of the finest followers of christ i have ever met are gun owners!  so check it out:

i am to pray for victims.  it is truly the very least…and the very best…that i can do.

i am to pray for my enemies.  i don’t get it, most of the time.  sometimes this feels like an impossible task.  but i am commanded to do this.   But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

i am to help those in need.  money, blood, supplies, relief, food, comfort…whatever i can reasonably and practically give.  both near and far.  i don’t believe that jesus puts border restrictions on compassion.   Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.  Matthew 25:40

i am to grieve for the loss and suffering of others.  acts of terror and violence need to remind me of how sacred life really is.  when i cease to feel for the pain of others,  i am no longer walking in the footsteps of jesus.  and it should not take a bomb or a tornado to awaken this “pain” in me.  it needs to be present all the time.

i am to forgive.  when innocent people are subjected to tragedy, our “natural” response is to boil with anger, harden our hearts, or even seek revenge.  but even though it goes against everything i think or feel, i must do what jesus would do.  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

i cannot let anger or fear control me or my decisions.  saying i trust god has to mean something.  it is not just a spiritual platitude.  “trusting god” does not cancel out my responsibility to be wise and safe…but it does mean there are things i cannot, and will not, take into my own hands.  Vengeance is mine; I will repay”, says the Lord.  Romans 12:19.  do i really believe that?

images of violence, chaos, hate, blood, retaliation and panic explode on our computer and television screens every day.  it’s easy for fear to strangle confidence.  it’s understandable why, to me,  people are reduced to paranoia.  but i either need to believe the word of god, or not.  i do.  For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.  1 Timothy 1:7

i am a peacemaker.  when the angry crowd came to take jesus away by force, peter raised his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest…in an act of defiance, to protect what was his.   Jesus said, “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Matthew 26:52  

now i know people interpret this teaching in different ways.   i am not ignorant of the sociopolitical issues.  (the role of the military and the police for our protection is clearly set out in scripture.)   but i am consumed with the awareness that jesus has called me to be a peacemaker.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9   it would have been easy, and vastly preferred by his disciples, for jesus to take his kingdom by force.   but no matter how hard i look, i just can’t see defending and defeating evil through physical violence being the way of jesus.  his way was different.  he was different. i must be different.

 like i said yesterday, coexisting in a world of darkness…as people of light…is no simple task.

love is the better way.  to be honest, in a world of brokenness, sin, perversion, evil and fear…this is a totally ridiculous statement.  it goes against my nature.  at my core, i am self-centered.  treating others the way they deserve to be treated just makes more sense.  and it’s easier.  it takes no discipline.  it satisfies my basic craving.

terror and fear can turn to hate and anger in a heartbeat.  and they can make us do some crazy things.

faith…trust…belief…hope…obedience…love?

yeah.  a much better way.

A Sunday reflection…

i definitely drew a line in the sand today.

in a modern church world where reformed and neo-reformed doctrine is dominating the landscape (both real and viral),  i made it clear that i’m not buying it.   i never really have…and the older i get,  the more comfortable and confident i find myself becoming with the significance of personal responsibility and the ultimate importance attached to the choices we make.

i don’t believe that god is the initiator or instigator of everything that happens.  i don’t believe when we fail or when we make poor choices, that god is to be blamed.  i don’t believe that the sovereignty of god renders our will impotent or that predestination makes the future already set in stone.   sorry.

and i need not go any further than matthew 6:33 (and a quick side trip to hebrews 11:6) for validation.

today, we looked at this great and foundational statement that jesus made,  just past the mid-point in the sermon on the mount:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

also,  “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

here’s the deal about seeking.  first, in the matthew 6:33,  seek is a verb that means “to look in order to find … by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into”; to “strive after”; to “require, demand.”  bible scholars define “seek” in the present tense, active voice and imperative mood.  basically that means, “hey you, I mean you (active voice); do this…and do it now and don’t stop doing it (present tense); and that’s not a suggestion, it’s an order (imperative mood).

this is significant.  this is a command to fully invest in the pursuit of god…of his rule…and the holiness of a life modeled after his righteous and perfect character,  as a matter of first priority.   and inherent in the command is meaning.   when we obey the commands of god,  we are not just going through the motions.  our response carries real consequence.  obedience carries real blessing.   our disobedience carries real discipline.   this is not shadow boxing.

in light of that truth,  i also came clean on another issue.  here’s a synopsis of what i said:

whatever you want spiritually, you can have if you want it badly enough.  i don’t think we come anywhere close to understanding or  appreciating the importance of that truth.  most of us are about as close to god now as we determine to be.  we have about as much joy as we want…and about as much peace as we want.  we are the way we are because that’s the way we want to be.  if you were hungry for something better from god, you could have it….

if you want to,  you can have a close walk with God…or a better marriage.   if you want to, you can do god’s will.   if you want to, you can tell others of your faith…or you can learn to pray…or you can grow spiritually.  if you really want to.

if you want to, you can be filled with the spirit and experience the fruit of the spirit.   if you want to,  you can become a man of god or a woman of god.   if you want to, you can change deeply ingrained habits…and you can break destructive patterns of behavior.

hebrews 11:6 promises that.   the author says that god is a rewarder of those who seek him.   jesus said  that what we seek, we find. this is true in every area and realm of life.  unless we seek,  we will not find.   and when we do,  especially when it comes to the kingdom and righteousness,  this promise is money.

our choices matter.   our obedience matters.   seeking matters.

will you seek god and the things of god with your whole heart this week?   i have a notion you will be amazed at what happens if you do.

Starting a new week

just doing a little reading and reflecting tonight and i came across something the apostle paul said to the believers in corinth a couple thousand years ago:

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial.   “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.   1 Corinthians 6:12

i’m pretty sure i don’t have any idea of the depth of this teaching,  but what i do know has changed my life.

there is a whole lot of stuff that jesus and the apostles make perfectly clear we are to avoid.   because they say so.   the list isn’t particularly long,  but it is explicit.   no excuses for not reading the book and learning the list.

but then there’s another list.   behaviors that fall into moral ambiguity…conduct whose value is open to debate because there is nothing explicit  in scripture to overturn its practice.   it is to those actions and attitudes that paul writes these words of wisdom…all is permissible,  but everything is beneficial.

but we can’t miss the glue of the teachingeven though i have the freedom to do a lot of things…things that everybody else around me does with no conscience and great regularity…i will not be mastered by anything.

everything would be different,  if we would obey this teaching.

_______________________________________________________________________

some random thoughts on the past few days:

  • eating and preaching at the same time is an intense experience.
  • the black magic woman  intro to start our opening big show song was pure genius…
  • i’m thinking a crazy train  intro to not to us  could be pretty sweet.
  • game one ranger hangover evidently took its toll on sunday attendance.
  • the rain this weekend was amazing.
  • it’s time for a little NP momentum to start building.   soon.   really.
  • hope people are getting serious about advent conspiracy.   time is ticking.
  • coming back to NP after being gone for a weekend is like a breath of fresh air for my soul.
  • as for bowling sunday night…my team lost by one pin.  twice.   i can still hear your smug chuckle,  parker.
  • i’m tired of tim tebow haters.   give the kid a chance.   he could be great.   too bad,  for me,  that he’s a bronco.
  • as bizarre and eccentric as al davis was,  i think he was the single most influential figure in american football history.   his pop culture legacy is profound.   i was sad when i heard of his death.   without him,  there would have been no raiders…or chargers.
  • speaking of the chargers,  they are a pretty weak 4-1.   ugh.
  • i bought a farmer discount card  for $10 last month.   we’ve already got money back on great 2 for 1 values.   i bought a marcus marauder discount card  for $20 yesterday.   i’m a bleeding heart sucker.   it has no good deals.   i hope the marcus soccer program buys some fancy hoodies with my money…
  • the rangers might go undefeated all the way to the world series championship.   they are that good.   and the other three teams look that weak.   start working on your happy dance  ranger faithful.
  • nelson cruz looks unstoppable.   the ranger bullpen looks unhitable.   lethal.
  • got my regular steroid shots to the knees this afternoon.   looking forward to wednesday when the juice reaches its peak.   i can feel it already.
  • favorite new show of the fall?  Pan Am.   it’s a cheesy,  sort-of-realistic,  period piece for baby boomers.   it takes wanda and i back to our teenage years.

the final word?   north pointers…come home.   it’s time for a full house again.   have a great week.

The spirituality of our day

i drove by one of our local unitarian churches the other day.   here’s what was on their sign for everyone to read as they drove by:

“the best religion is the one that gets you closest to god.”

wow.

definitely the philosophy of spirituality that defines the culture of today.   i’m neither frustrated nor intimidated by it.   what does frustrate me is how this kind of spirituality has crept into the lives and fellowship of the redeemed.

though not as blatant,  the idea of a personalized and individually subjective god is everywhere among those who count themselves as part of the church.

truth is seen as relative.   biblical illiteracy runs rampant.   core beliefs continue to be redefined to fit the needs of the faithful. prayer lives are nothing more than wishful thinking.   discipleship has been traded for personal comfort.   surrender of the will and gracious,  humble obedience has been substituted for experience.   feeling close to god is the measuring stick of spirituality.

and it is happening in our house.

is there something you need to be doing to get your spiritual act together?

who are you going to tell?  who are you going to ask for help?

Wholesale

i asked these questions yesterday:

why do we fail so miserably?   why are there so many who claim allegiance to the master,  yet suffer so deeply from the effects of their own poor decisions?   in the face of such clear directives from the word of god,  how do we explain the anemic  lives of righteousness present in so many of god’s faithful?

i think the answer is found between the lines, near the end of paul’s letter to the galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.   Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.   Galatians 5:22-25

paul makes a definitive statement when he says,  “…those who belong to christ jesus have crucified the sinful nature…”   the answer is in belonging.   how do we determine if someone belongs to christ jesus?

i’m afraid this is going to come across pretty harsh and judgmental,  but maybe the struggle lies in an awareness of who we belong to.   i think there are many who are really fond of the idea that when you come to christ,  you get a lot of cool things…heaven…new friends…forgiveness…hope…someone to talk to…etc…

but i wonder if the whole story is getting out there.   following christ is about ownership. it’s about being bought with a price (romans 6). it’s more about who lives in us…than who we live for. it’s about the holy spirit taking up residence inside of us…than a change in our location.

it’s a whole new way of thinking.   a whole new way of viewing our lives.   a whole new way of living.   not just an adjustment to the way we used to live.

wholesale. and it’s called being  filled with the spirit. and you are supposed to have fruit to prove it.

stay tuned.

what are we thinking?

do you realize that if people just obeyed what scripture says,  their lives would be overwhelmingly better off?

  • don’t lie…people will like you and trust you.
  • don’t steal…you won’t get thrown in jail and you’ll keep your friends.
  • don’t gossip…you won’t hurt other people with your insensitivity.
  • don’t covet…you’ll be satisfied with what you already have.
  • don’t be greedy…you’ll experience the joy of sharing.
  • don’t get angry…you’ll avoid ulcers and people won’t be afraid of you.
  • don’t slander…people won’t sue you.
  • don’t seek vengeance…you’ll witness god handling your business.
  • don’t get drunk…geez, there are too many benefits to list.
  • don’t lust…you’ll protect your marriage.
  • be loving…you’ll experience god.
  • be a peacemaker…you’ll enjoy life and sleep well.
  • forgive others…and you’ll be forgiven.
  • don’t be selfish…you’ll make room for god’s grace in your life.
  • have self-control…you’ll have no regrets.
  • live by faith…adventure will become second nature.
  • have patience…you’ll never be in a hurry.
  • submit to the best interests of others…you’ll know love.
  • give thanks for everything…nothing will faze you.
  • pray continually…you will never feel alone.

look,  being a follower of christ is not some mental gymnastic…nor is it a subjective exercise in mysticism.   it’s life.   real life.   life that is lived out daily.   following christ is a practice of trust.   it is supposed to be as elementary as simply doing what he says…and trusting that god will keep his promises.

so why do we fail so miserably?   why are there so many who claim allegiance to the master,  yet suffer so deeply from the effects of their own decisions?

i’m going to start a new study right here.   beginning friday.

pay attention.