Attention Christians: Stop doing this!

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Christians have a problem. We tend to put ourselves in the middle of every debate, every issue, every situation whether it is our business or not. I think we’re well-intentioned in doing so, but we bring a lot of unnecessary grief and heartache upon us in the process.

Meddle is defined as “interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.”  I know many Christians who have spent seemingly unending hours, and dollars as activists for various causes. Men and women who take a certain political stand on government-funded health care, or marriage rights, or refugees entering the country, or whatever the cause of the day happens to be.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get involved in our political process. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t vote. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about the world around us. I’m not saying we should support issues that go against God’s teaching.

What I am saying is that far too many Christians spend all their time meddling in the affairs of the world when we should be taking care of the business that God left us to do! We are called to pray for the sick in faith (James 5:15). Does that responsibility change if we have single payer healthcare or not? God teaches us that he wants us to pray for those who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Does this change our responsibility if our favorite choice isn’t in office? God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Does gay marriage or transgender bathrooms change that desire? Jesus expects us to baptize and make disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Does refugee status change that command?

We need to be busy with the work of God’s kingdom, not the arguments of this world. It’s fine to have an opinion, and to even voice that opinion, but please don’t do so in a way that makes the Gospel unattractive to outsiders! If more Christians would be about the work of the Kingdom, and not consumed with the work of Washington, this world would be a much better place!

via Daily Prompt: Meddle

Beyond the Comfort Zone

In Mark 5 we find Jesus leaving his native area to sail across the lake and go into the gentile region of the Gerasenes. They got out of the boat and immediately were approached by a demon possessed man who had been living in the tombs. In addition to this we’re told that there were large herds of pigs in the area.

Understanding exactly what Jesus is doing here can be missed pretty easily by our 21st century eyes, so let’s get an understanding of the background first. Jews did not want to associate with Gentiles in any way, yet Jesus is leading the twelve into Gentile country. Jews avoided people with unclean spirits, yet Jesus leads them right to a man who’s possessed by a “Legion” of demons. Jews avoided tombs because they felt it was unclean, yet here Jesus leads them right into that area with a man who lived in them. Jews thought pigs were the most unclean animals on the planet, yet Jesus leads his followers right into a heard of them. I think it’s fair to say that the disciples were well outside of their comfort zone during this encounter! And it’s very clear that Jesus wanted them there.

In healing the demon possessed man, Jesus is giving the disciples a preview that the Gospel would be for all people, and their location, ethnicity, history, past or current demons, place of residence, and present state in life truly didn’t matter. The Gospel of Jesus needs to go everywhere, especially the areas that make us feel the most uncomfortable!

Jesus was a true friend to sinners, and spent time with the people and in the places that the current religious leaders wouldn’t think of going. Yet that’s the command we’re given! “Go and make disciples of all nations,…” (Matt. 28:19)  The Greek word for “all nations” is ethnos. Literally every ethnicity, no matter where they are or what they’ve been doing.

So who do you cross paths with in your life that fits this description? Jesus says share the Gospel with them. That’s our job. What becomes of the message? That’s the Spirit’s job. And I trust Him to do powerful things with the powerful message that we weak humans share.

Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.

Did you notice Him?

How was church this morning? Was the music the way you wanted? Was the sermon interesting? Did the Bible class topic pique your interest?

Was the coffee right? Were the right donuts and pastries available? Did you find the seat you wanted? Did you even go?

So often when we talk about church we think in these terms, and these issues. We are concerned with if we enjoyed church. We are living in the age of ‘me.’ We are so focused on our individual wants and desires throughout the week that often we carry those same feelings and actions right into our worship services on Sunday.

But I want you to imagine with me for a minute. What if Jesus was there Sunday morning?Would it make any difference to you?

If Jesus was at your church this Sunday morning, sitting in worship…how would your experience have been different? Would you have been as concerned with music, sermon, other stuff…or would you have focused more on having your heart and mind focused on Him?

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

If you went to church Sunday in order to worship our risen Savior, He was there! He was available to connect with you in a way that just can’t happen when you are away from the ekklesia. It’s a promise He has made to his followers, and continues to keep every time we gather in His name.

So…did you see Him? Did you experience worshipping in the very presence of our risen Savior, or were you too busy focusing on other things?

This week as you gather together with other believers for whatever reason, take the time to seek out Christ in those moments. Those moments can be special, uplifting, and refreshing if we will acknowledge His presence in our lives.

Don’t Make This Mistake Today!

Have you ever wondered why people are afraid of being different?

How boring would this world be if we were all the same?

If we all had the exact same abilities, and all had the same areas of deficiency, what would this world look like?

The same is true of the church.

The apostle Matthew tells us about Jesus’ thoughts on being different.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

Cannot be hidden…yet too often we try to hide. We are called to be a bright light in a dark world, but we try to cover our light. A city perched on a hilltop for all to see, but we often try to camouflage who we truly are.

Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t try to hide!

Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We are called to be different. We are called to stand out. We are called to shine our lights so bright that people will take notice of how different we truly are called to be as Christians.

This week we’ll be looking at examples that Jesus and his followers left us of just how different we are supposed to be in this world.

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to stand out.

Don’t be afraid to shine!

Picture by Stefano Cacciatore

The Best New Year’s Resolution: Change The World

In the early 1900s, a shoe manufacturer wanted to expand sales, so they decided to send salesmen all over the world in search of new markets for their business.

Two salesmen were sent to the the remote regions of Africa, and had two very different reactions to what they found.

The first salesman telegraphed his employer:

It’s hopeless. They don’t wear shoes down here.

The second salesman telegraphed the same employer:

Wonderful opportunity! They don’t wear shoes down her yet!

Sometimes we fail to see our surroundings, our circumstances as an opportunity to change the world. (CLICK TO TWEET THIS!)

We all struggle with this. We fail to see being stuck in traffic as an opportunity to call a friend and just talk. We fail to look at difficult situations as an opportunity to grow personally. We don’t see the end of a relationship as an opportunity to form new ones.

I’m not talking about being optimistic in all situations. I’m talking about changing the way we view everyday situations.

What would this world look like if we started using the opportunities we are presented with every day to change the world, rather than gripe on Twitter. What if we decided to not be bitter but instead, as the old saying goes, turn lemons into lemonade?

Did you know the Apostle Paul talked about this same thing? He wrote a letter to the early church in Colossae. They were facing all kinds of challenges, and so was Paul. He was in prison when he wrote this! Look at what he decides to write while he is “here in chains.

Colossians 4:5-6
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Here’s Paul, writing from prison, encouraging Christians on the best way to live their lives. And if you’re not a Christian, and you’re reading this…don’t worry! If you follow Paul’s wisdom here, you’ll see an improvement in your life as well!

Paul says “Live wisely…” When we choose to apply wisdom to situations instead of reacting to the emotions of the moment, we will change the way we handle situations for the better.

He tells them to “…make the most of every opportunity.” No matter what life hands us, good or bad, use those situations as an opportunity to do good instead of evil.

Let your conversations be gracious…” Can you imagine how many problems in our world would simply go away if we could do this one thing? (CLICK TO TWEET THIS!) What would it look like if everyone simply handled every conversation they had tomorrow with graciousness? How many problems would be eliminated?

…and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” This part refers to creating another opportunity with the way we handle everyday situations.  If we handle stressful, frustrating, irritating, or painful situations differently than the way the rest of the world does, we will create new opportunities.

What kind of opportunities? The opportunity to tell others why we can handle these situations differently. To tell them about the hope we have found.

We can tell them about Jesus. The Jesus who loved the outcasts of society. The Jesus who had compassion on those who everyone else ignored. The Jesus who chose to die for everyone, even the ones who hated him and put him to death.

How different would our world look if we could take difficult situations, and instead of showing our selfish, self absorbed inner 5 year old, we would show the world the true, authentic Jesus of the Bible?

Simply put, we could change the world.

So, go change the world today!

 

John Glenn and Jesus

john-glennThe world has lost a giant among men. John Glenn, Astronaut on Mercury 7 and Discovery, U.S. Senator, U.S. Marine, and a Christian, made an indelible impression on human history.

One would guess that such a man, surrounded by science and fame, might lose his way. During his historic return to outer space aboard Discovery in 1998, Glenn gave the following statement that showed his faith in God.

“Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible…To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs.” – John Glenn, Nov. 1, 1998

Thank you Mr. Glenn for sharing your amazing gifts with us. For teaching us more about the world we live in, and showing us that we can believe in the one yet to come.

I doubt I will ever be able to see the earth and the universe in a way equal to Glenn. But even without that stellar view, we can still arrive at the same conclusion!

We first have to stop and consider how improbable our lives really are. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal the chances of our existence just happening through natural means is infinitesimally small, it should have never happened. And when we realize how improbable the existence of human life is, we should look to a Creator far greater than ourselves. click-here-to-tweet

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

The prologue to John’s gospel goes into a bit more detail.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

There’s simply no other way to explain how our universe was created. No theory can explain how something came from nothing. That is, unless you account for our Creator.

God has blessed us with such an amazing creation. He even designed it so that when we explore the magnitude and complexity of our surroundings, it points a huge arrow right back at Him.

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:19-20

We serve an amazing God. One who created us, surrounded us with a creation that points back to Himself, sent us a Savior to help us when we fail, and continue to provide for our every need.

Today, be proud that God saw fit to create you too! Of all the places, and all the times of history, God saw fit to place you where you are today. John Glenn changed the future of humankind with the life and time he was given. What will you do with today?