Being In the World, But Not Of the World

Less than three weeks until the election.  I just wanted to say that because I know so many of you will be wondering what to do with your time.  (Oh, wait!  The 2020 campaigns begin on November 9…Never mind.)  At least this election and its drama will mercifully come to an end soon.

In reflection of the presidential campaign, it’s probably more in order for me to talk about us than the politicians.  Let’s take a moment and consider as Christians in the midst of this year’s political climate, what our priorities may have been.  Think about the conversations you’ve had, the Facebook postings you’ve made, the tweets you’ve sent.  Has it appeared to others that our political position is more important than our witness of Jesus?  Would it appear that we want our particular candidate to win an office more than for Christ to be glorified?  Of course, our answers would seem obvious.  But, if the people we’ve communicated with were to judge our level of passion, what would they think?  Would they make the assumption that you’d rather talk about Trump or Clinton than Jesus?  Have you been able to talk about Trump or Clinton and bring glory to Jesus in the process?

This, friends, is actually a very important time to be a Christian witness.  Our nation and our government do matter, and Christians should care a lot about the election.  But, do we act like a president is more influential, more powerful, more important than the King of all creation?

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Is It Your Custom Too?

“Life’s most persistent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

When Jesus is living through us, our lives look a lot like His.  Please don’t get me wrong; it doesn’t take too close an observation to tell the differences between us and Him.  But I do know that when we act like Christ, the family resemblance cannot be denied.

Read Acts 17:2.  You’ll see Paul visiting a village and entering the synagogues there – “as was his custom.”  Read Luke 4:14-16.  You’ll recognize a phrase.  “Jesus returned…in the power of the Spirit…and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom.”

Did you notice?  Jesus’ custom became Paul’s custom.  How did that happen?  Did you notice the other phrase in Luke 4?  “…in the power of the Spirit…”  From the point of Jesus’ baptism on into His ministry, the Spirit had been with Him at all times:

  • The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. (3:22)
  • Full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (4:1)
  • Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. (4:14)
  • And Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me…” (4:18)

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The Gospel - It's All Good...News!

“And Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’"  [Matthew 28:18-20]

So, can I make the assumption that you are a Christian?  If that’s true, you understand we’ve been commissioned by Jesus as His “Ambassadors of Good News,” right?  What that means is that you and I are representatives of a message of good news about God.  This is important because many people have an impression of God as bringing bad news to us in the form of judgment.  This is unfortunate because God has been improperly represented.  But, that is exactly why you and I are so important.  We are called by God Himself to change that impression.

The biblical word for “gospel” simply means good news.  And why is it good news?  Exactly because it is the opposite of what people think is bad about God.  God is not all about judgment.  He is all about love, forgiveness, grace, empowerment, and acceptance.  Yes, He is the judge, but He’s already taken out His judgment on Himself in the form of His Son, Jesus – the One who was punished on a cross precisely so He would not have to punish us.  So then, in fact, we are doing God a great disservice when we think of Him as that angry old man in the sky who is ready to stick it to the next guy who sins.  To think and promote that kind of image on God is to discount Christ’s death, saying that He died in vain.

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Appreciation for Those Who "Protect and Serve"

Friends of the Church,

I wrote the following letter this morning, thinking I would send it to the local newspaper.  I’m not sure it will be published, as it goes beyond the 250-word limit of letters on the opinion page.  It is offered here for you to know where my prayers have been directed today.

I awoke this morning to the news of the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Texas.  This, as a peaceful protest was culminating over the deaths of citizens in Baton Rouge and St. Paul.  The divisiveness and violence we see in our country and the world are not anecdotal nor isolated.  It takes time and it takes the focused energy of those who wish upheaval and destruction to cause the turmoil we see.  Our culture is not one of inclusiveness and caring for one another.  It is marred by those who desire at some level the panic and chaos that exists.  And the degrading of humanity will continue as good folks say or do nothing in response.

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Standing with Jesus - and Each Other

It’s a weird and bizarre world.  The weight of sin this past week has been so evident.  My prayer has been that every evil and bad thing on the news might drive believers and non-believers to their knees before God, as we acknowledge Him, His love, His forgiveness, and His grace in the midst of so much terror and tragedy.

As murder and terror and floods and tragedy claim more lives, and as decent people seem all too eager to debate fault and politics, I am at a place this morning where I must simply rely on God’s Word being what Jesus says it is.  As His time on earth was nearing its end, Jesus prayed to the Father about us: “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”  [John 17:17]  There is no way we deserve that kind of prayerful consideration, yet Jesus’ love and forgiveness and grace are greater than our sin.  As God’s own, we are redeemed.

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"Let's Fight Prejudice!" (if it doesn't cost too much)

“Dearly loved friends, I have been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share.  But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the truth of the Good News.  God gave this unchanging truth once for all time to His holy people.”  [Jude 3]

For twenty-five years now, I have nearly every month written a newsletter article.  Almost all that time, the lead line has been “It Takes Grace…” because, well, ‘it’ does take grace, whatever the ‘it’ in life is for that month.  Sometimes, though, I’ve thought about changing the by-line to “Huh?!” or maybe “Reflections of a Weird World.”  But then, it just keeps coming back to the fact that with everything going on around us, it certainly does take grace – and aren’t we blessed to receive every grace necessary for our lives?

Like this month, I’ve been trying to make sense in my own head over “bathroom bills.”  I’ve got more questions about all this than there is space allotted to a newsletter article.  I understand that my idea of common sense isn’t everyone’s idea of common sense, so I’ll just leave that part of it alone.

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An Offer You "Shouldn't" Refuse

I’m writing this on April 13 for a very special reason. History will be made tonight and I want to do this before the momentous events take place.  It is going to be an historic night in the National Basketball Association for two reasons:

  1. Kobe Bryant is retiring…finally.  Tonight is his last game.  Kobe has been a Los Angeles Laker for twenty years.  (He has sweat socks older than some of his teammates.)  He is the third-leading scorer of all time and has been an All-Star eighteen times.  Now, that’s impressive.
  2. The Golden State Warriors are trying to win more games in one season than any team in history.  If they win tonight, it will be their 73rd victory, while losing only nine times all season.  That, too, is impressive.

Another thing impressive about tonight’s events is the price of admission if you want to witness either event.  I just heard on the radio that the last available seats for the Lakers/Jazz game – two seats – were purchased for $45,000.  And for the Warriors game, the average list price for one ticket (now sold out) was $1,594.

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