A Command We Christians Forget Too Often

finger-stringIn the last several days I have read varying opinions on the Syrian refugee crisis and what our national response should be. There are some Christians that say, “we have to be willing to risk personal and even national safety in order to show love toward our neighbor.” Other Christians say, “As a servant of God, governments are supposed to secure peace for their citizenry.”

On any given day, I can easily bounce between the two perspectives. Like all of us, I believe in the two loves God has called us to – to love God and to love my neighbor. And we will always have different ideas on how these loves can and should be lived out.

But watching the way we often interact with each other, I think there is a third command we often forget. As disciples, Christ called us to love one another. That is the love Jesus commanded right before his death. He said it was our love for one another that would be the proof to the world that we belonged to Jesus.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

No matter how committed we are to our perspectives on how to live our faith, we must be equally committed to agree and disagree with love for one another. How can we show that love when we have very different opinions?

– Fight the urge to question the motives of your sisters and brothers. Often we try to buttress our own position by questioning the faith, the wisdom, or the compassion of the other. Love starts always by assuming the best of the other.

– Take time to listen. Ask questions that seeks to understand the fears, the concerns, the hopes and dreams of the other.  Truly give thanks for how their opinions help inform yours.

– Realize that no political solution will ever be a compete solution. Only Christ’s rule and reign at His return, will put everything in its place. Until then, any human attempt at peace, compassion and restoration will be incomplete.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make a difference.  We must.  But none of our solutions will secure the future we hope for.

– Pray for one another.  Don’t just pray that God will change the other person’s mind, but pray that God will lead us to keep the unity of the Spirit even we disagree on how to live out his commands.

– Remember that our effective outreach depends on it. Whatever we hope to accomplish in showing love to the world, it will be truncated if we don’t love one another.  We don’t have to agree.  We do have to love and the world needs to see it.

Whatever your opinion on how we move forward politically, we must never forget to love one another.

Is it harder for you to love friends, strangers, or family?  Why do you think that is?

What’s It Like to Find God?

Looking for God?

Looking for God?

Some people think of finding God, like finding a needle in a haystack. They either tediously inspect and analyze every piece of straw in their lives in hope of finding Him. Or, they believe it to be an impossible task and live as if he’s not there at all.

Looking for God is not like looking for a needle in a haystack, but it is like looking for the farmer of the haystack. He is the farmer who who tilled the ground, planted the hay, harvested the hay, stacked the hay in the barn that he built with his own two hands. When we find the farmer, we find the One who lovingly created, sustains and engages with what He has made. Turn around, the farmer can be found!  Christ wants to be found!

He made the haystack, the farm and all it entails.  Colossians 1:16 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

He wants us to turn around to find him in faith.  Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”

Only This Will Satisfy

My wife and I are in the midst of a home remodel in order to get it ready for sale.  I’m a little torn.  We are spending thousands of dollars in order to market our home.  Who are we marketing it to?  Since it’s a big house, it will work well for someone with a growing family.  I wonder what they’re searching for?  They are probably searching for space, comfort, and a place to call home.  We could offer that without all the new paint and the new front door.  But we know most who search are looking for something more.  They are probably looking for new, for pizzazz, for a wow factor that will promise happiness, fulfillment, contentment.
They won’t find those things in my house or any other.  Our drive to be satisfied comes from a longing in every heart to connect with the eternal.  We want to live forever.  We want to live with order.  We want to live in peace.  We want to live with God.  You see, our hearts can only begin the journey to fulfillment by recognizing where the yearning comes from.  The Preacher wrote, “he has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11).”
Nothing in this world will satisfy us.  In his book, “And He Dwelt Among Us, A.W. Tozer wrote, Your poor heart, in which God put appreciation for everlastingness, will not take electronic gadgets in lieu of eternal life. Something inside of you is too big for that, too terrible, too wonderful. God has set everlastingness in your heart. All the things of this world are here for but a moment and then are gone. None can satisfy the longing for that eternal raging in the soul of every man (pg. 24).”
Our longing is too big for anything else than the eternal, to satisfy.  And there is only one Eternal One.  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1).”  And, “his name shall be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).
I will continue to make my home a little nicer.  If nothing else, the new owners won’t have a long list of “to do’s” before the move in.  But it won’t satisfy them (I hope my realtor isn’t reading this).  Their satisfaction, like ours, will only come when they connect their eternal longing with the Eternal One.  When we live in oneness with God, we will be at peace, today and every day hereafter.  That’s why Jesus came.  He opened the door to eternity for each of us.  Through repentance and faith, eternity becomes ours.  And by faith, we can walk with Him each day, living our eternal lives now.

4 Things I Wonder During the Pope’s Visit

Let me first say, I’m glad that the Pope is in the States.  I believe I have Christian brothers and sisters for whom this is a meaningful and encouraging event.  And my prayer is that during his visit, people will be awakened spiritually.  I hope they will ask questions.  I hope they will be pointed to Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord.

But after seeing all the hubbub during the morning news, I wonder…

I wonder if Jesus came to town, what the reception of the press would be?  And not just the press, but the religious elites, and the government power-brokers?  I have a feeling we wouldn’t see parades, we would see another crucifixion.

I wonder what it says about us when Christian leaders are so popular with the masses?  Didn’t Jesus say, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19).  I hope we haven’t given up the truth of God for the applause of the world.

I wonder what the crowds would look like, if only those people who practiced the faith showed up?  Our country is entering a post-Christian era.  We like the show, but fewer and fewer of us like the life.  Jesus had masses following him, but when the message got hard, most left.

I wonder how the message would be received if our sin, Christ’s sacrifice, his resurrection, his lordship over all of us and our ultimate responsiblity before the judgment seat of God was at the center; rather than the list of social causes that are but mere symptoms of our sickness?

It’s in our nature to desire religous experiences.  But Christ wants us to experience life!  There is a difference.

What questions come to your mind during the Pope’s visit?

A Most Disturbing Question

There is a passage that has baffled me a bit and bothered me a lot lately.

After the resurrection and before Jesus ascended into heaven, he met with his disciples in the upper room. That meeting is described for us in John 20. John wrote in verses 19b-23 these words, “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.'”

Ok, so Jesus showed himself. He gave them a mission. And He gave them the Holy Spirit to carry out that mission! This fits as a support, or maybe a prelude to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, the commissioning in Acts 1:8 and the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. That fits. We are to reach people with the person and message of Christ.

Now, look again at that last verse, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” The commentators certainly disagree. If you’re a Roman Catholic theologian, you might say this verse supports the power of the clergy to absolve people of their sins. But I wonder, if the Spirit belongs to every believer and the if the commission beings sent is for every believer, why wouldn’t this opportunity to forgive? If you’re a Protestant, you might say, “only Christ forgives sins” and so this is more a command to offer the message of forgiveness, through Christ, to others. And if we withhold the message, we are in effect, withholding forgiveness. This is probably where I would land on the meaning of the text. After all, we would assume, if we had power to forgive sins, the Apostles would have mad that clear in all their later teaching.

Okay, that’s the baffling part! The passage is not easy to understand and apply. Now for the part that disturbed me a bit. I was reading this a few weeks back and it forced me to ask a question that I didn’t like at all. Because when I answered the question honestly, I didn’t like my answer.

The disturbing question was: “If I had the power to forgive others of their sin, would I?” If I could forgive someone and lessen their eternal punishment, would I?” What if they were really bad? What if they were evil? What if they were destroyers? What if they ran drugs? What if they are sexually immoral? What if they are pushing values that go against what I believe is right an true? What if they didn’t deserve it? What if they never confessed? What if they hurt someone I loved? What if they cheated or lied and it cost me, or cost all of us?

The truth is, there are times I rejoice, if only a little bit, that at some point someone is going to get their due. Yet, as Jesus hung on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them.” And I believe that sin was taken off their account. Do I share that same heart? I think I must!  

Jesus said, if I am not a “forigiver,” I can’t be forgiven.

I don’t fully know how the economy of sin and forgiveness works. But I believe, if I am going to reach others, if I’m going to live as a sent one, I need to lead with the message of forgiveness, the heart of forgiveness and the actions of forgiveness. I need to passionately long for people’s sins to be redeemed in the love and sacrifice of Jesus, so they can be freed from the burden that rests on them. And I’ afraid it probably applies to the stranger and to the former friend.


How do you do with the question above? If you would forgive quickly, what if they did it again?

Time to Try Upside Down Evangelism

  Most of us Christians have realized that the culture we are living in is different than what it used to be.  The spiritual climate has changed.  Those that are open to spiritual things are open to any and all things that seem to connect with the other world.  Those that are closed are closed.  Minds won’t be changed – at least not quickly or easily.

We want to reach out, but many of us aren’t seeing the fruit we would hope to see.  It might be time for some upside down evangelism.  Upside down evangelism is learning to reach out to people in the opposite way we normally do.  Our preferred method of evangelism is this:  

1. We start by sharing the message of Jesus.  When they accept it by faith we include them in the club.  Then ministry kicks in.  

2. We love them, we pray for them.  We ask God to change their lives so they can experience his healing power.  

3. When people are sufficiently shaped up, we spend time with them.  We fellowship have them to our house and we go to theirs.  We build deep relationships.  

4. And we leave them each time, praying for God’s peace on them and their households!  After all, we want God’s best for them.

In most instances, this is working.  Many of us have seen that we need a new way.  Let’s try flipping this upside down.  I think it might have a more transformational impact.

1. Begin by bringing a blessing of peace to people.  If they are open to that peace, if they are receptive to connecting to a man/woman of peace, then we take the next step.  If we speak, we need to speak God’s best hope.

2. Remain with them.  Eat, drink, spend time in their homes and let them spend time in yours.  In other words, enter their world.  Let them be part of your life.

3. Give them God’s healing grace.  Support, encourage and pray for God to meet their needs!

4. Share the message of Jesus and His kingdom.  When they’ve seen God at work, through Christ, explain what has happened, who did it and how they can enjoy it forever.

But, this is not a new approach.  It’s what Jesus told His disciples to do.   Luke 10:5-9 reads, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  And if a son of peace is there, our peace will rest upon him… And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide… Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

Let’s begin dreaming about what God might do, if we flip this thing upside down!

Have you had experience with this kind of evangelism on your own, or through your church?

Who Will You Look Like?

Have you seen how some people look like their pets?  There are really some funny pictures online that seem to prove the point quite well.  I’ve owned bulldogs and boxers, hmmm.  That makes me take pause.

And then there is the observation that after years together, husbands and wives can begin to look more and more alike.  Some recent studies have even confirmed this.  Their physical features are sometimes very different.  But because they’ve shared a lifetime of joys and struggles, their facial expressions and mannerisms can begin to mirror each other.  All I can say is, “I’m sorry Kris!”

There is a warning and a promise in the Bible – we will end up being like the one we worship!
The Psalmist wrote of the people who reject the true God of heaven:

Their idols are silver and gold,

        the work of human hands.

They have mouths, but do not speak;

        eyes, but do not see.

They have ears, but do not hear;

        noses, but do not smell.

They have hands, but do not feel;

        feet, but do not walk;

        and they do not make a sound in their throat.

Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.  Psalm 115:4-8

The apostle John wrote of those who worship Christ:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”  1 John 3:2

This makes me ask a couple of questions?

1. Who do I want to look like?  The dead idols of this world, or the Son of the Living God?

2. Who am I trusting in?  Am I trusting in idols?  The idols of this world come in many forms.  They can be literal statues and images, or superstitions, wealth, power, or self.  An idol is anyone or anything that supplants the rightful place of God in my life.  Or, am I learning to trust in Christ by listening, repenting, submitting and following?

We must choose our God well.  We will be like the one we worship!