A greater responsibility…


The recent attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo is uniting people around the world to the cause of free speech. “Je Suis Charlie” appears on posters and shirts, and is becoming a rallying cry at gatherings.

The debates have already begun about whether or not Charlie Hebdo should have published cartoons that were offensive to Muslims. In all fairness to the newspaper, Christians, Jews and Muslims were equal targets – sometimes on the same cover!

What about the Church?  Do we as Christians have a responsibility to stand for the exercise of free speech? The short answer is “yes,” as the free speech that we enjoy allows us to freely and publicly proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians however, we also have a greater responsibility when it comes to exercising our speech. Our charge is to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, [giving] no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Peter 2.9; 1 Corinthians 10.31-32).
As we have already seen in our own country, the preaching of the Gospel itself has become offensive to some, especially as we shed the light of Scripture on issues that have become acceptable in the broader society.

My point is this: as we preach the Gospel, calling on those around us to turn from their sins and follow Christ, we will offend some. We don’t need to go the proverbial extra mile to mock what others may or may not believe. We need only to speak the truth, “not seeking [our] own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10.33).  Our instructions are explicit:

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4.5-7

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” – Titus 2.7-8

To us has been entrusted the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). As we fulfill our Christian ministry, let us, “so far as it depends on [us], live peaceably with all” (Romans 12.18).

Je suis chrétien!

Your kingdom come, your will be done…

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6.10

We are a kingdom of priests and kings to our God (Revelation 5.10). How did we enter this royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)?  We were chosen, bought with a price; we were bought with the blood of God’s own Son. A life for a life. Jesus stepped out of eternity to bear the penalty for our sins through his death, so that we might share eternity with Him through his resurrection.  For us, eternity starts here and now, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Yes, on earth. That means here and now in this life that we live. It is a life that we live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved [us] and gave himself for [us]” (Galatians 2.20).

How does that translate into day to day life? It starts with knowing that “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).  We are “to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12.1), consciously and intentionally choosing to live in a way that pleases God with every breath and every step that we take.  It means thinking differently, “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12.2).

The will of God. It’s not something that we learn by watching for signs. The will of God must be pursued and discerned through the prayerful ransacking of His Word, as we pray with the Psalmist, “teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end”(Psalm 119.33).  Discerning the will of God means that we examine our own lives as we pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139.23-24).

The will of God. Living it out means that we spend the rest of our time on this earth living “no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4.2). Living the will of God means going against popular opinion in order to not become “bondservants of men” (1 Corinthians 7.23).

The will of God. It will turn your thinking inside out and your life right-side up.

The next time you pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”remember that we are called to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2.12-13).

May the Lord’s will be done!


The Stranger

There was once a married couple that lived in a beautiful house along with their children. The couple had good jobs and the children were well cared for. In order to keep up with their busy lives, the couple decided to hire a housekeeper. An ad was placed in the local newspaper and the applications soon started to flow. Calls were made and interviews were scheduled.

On the day that interviews were scheduled to begin, the husband and wife rose early and headed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the family. They were surprised to find the kitchen spotless, the previous day’s dishes put away and a delicious hot breakfast waiting on the table.

Hovering over the stove was a stranger. The stranger looked up and said with a smile, “Good morning! Please sit; your coffee is ready.”

The couple, marveling at the clean kitchen and the feast set before them, questioned the stranger:

“Who are you?”

The stranger answered, “I am here for the housekeeping job.”

“How did you get into our home?”

“Oh, I cut a hole in your back fence and found your back door unlocked. By the way, my family is sleeping in your living room; they will be joining us for breakfast.”

Here’s the question: should the couple let the “housekeeper” stay, or should they call the police?

What would YOU do?

Noah Jacket  Whose story is it, anyway?

I finally had an opportunity to watch the movie Noah. It was entertaining and visually stunning, with a story that was at times, gripping. But it wasn’t our story.

The Noah narrative is part of the bigger story of our redemption. The film was a story of a god leaving man to redeem himself; placing the burden on man to “get it right this time.” The narrative was changed, and once the narrative is changed, the details are changed to fit the narrative. Fallen angels as watchers over man?  Demons with good intentions? Really?  I could go on …

God has entrusted us with the Gospel message (Gal. 2.7; 1 Thess. 2.4).  The accurate handling of the Gospel message is our responsibility (2 Tim. 2.15; Acts 18.25-26). We are to avoid “what is falsely called knowledge” as well as “wandering off into myths.” (1 Tim 6.20; Tit. 1.3-4).

Sure, we can use Noah as a starting point for conversation about the things of God, and I suppose there is some merit in that.  But the story is ours to tell; the Gospel is ours to proclaim.  We don’t need to add anything to make it more attractive or relevant to the world around us; we just need to declare it.  The Gospel message is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1.18). Those that have been appointed to eternal life (Acts 13.48) will hear and believe.

Here’s the bottom line: this version of Noah took the beautiful narrative of God’s election, mercy and salvation – even in the midst of his judgment – and turned it into a myth about a distant, impersonal God who leaves the fate of humanity in the hands of an imperfect man.

Our God is bigger and better than that. Let’s go and tell the world.

One of us is wrong…

“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” – 1 Corinthians 11:18-19

I know of Christian organizations that avoid taking a stand on some of the issues that divide the church. Since they serve the whole Church, they don’t want to take sides; they choose to avoid divisive issues altogether in order to focus on the things that unite.

At this point you’re probably wondering, “what issues?” so let’s use same-sex marriage as the example. To those that say that Jesus said nothing about same-sex marriage, I would say that the Gospels, along with the rest of the Scriptures, say enough about marriage in general for us to draw a clear conclusion; but let’s move on to the subject at hand.

What if the way we look at division is the problem? I’m not suggesting that in our dialogue (if there is any at all) that we resort to screaming and name-calling or that we not speak the truth in love.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”  The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “For doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you.”

In other words, it is through divisions that we learn who is right, according to the Scriptures.

If there is truth to be spoken (and there is), then it is the duty of all of us in the Body of Christ to seek it out. It means doing the hard work of studying and prayerfully ransacking the Scriptures, (to borrow a phrase from John Piper), to learn what God has said in his Word on a particular matter.

We can’t avoid the difficult issues for the sake of unity, but we must be unified in our desire to get the mind of Christ on the difficult issues.

And then we should speak; plainly, clearly and truthfully in love to each other,

“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4.13-16).

That’s part of seeking unity in Christ; not seeking to bring others into line with our thinking, but seeking to bring our thinking into line with Christ’s.

How quick we can be to despise the things of God!

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” – Numbers 11.4-6

After a year at Sinai, after seeing the first miraculous appearance of the bread from heaven, after drinking water from the rock, after seeing God’s glory descend on the mountain, and after receiving the commandments, the Israelites were influenced by the ‘rabble’ among them. They were the non-Israelites that had followed the children of Israel out of Egypt; they were tagging along for the ride to the Promised Land, but were not children of the covenant. They began to crave the life that they had left behind in Egypt, where they could satisfy their fleshly appetites.

This craving spread to the Israelites who wept and moaned, “But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Who do we allow to influence us? Is it those who have been called to follow Christ, or is it those who are tagging along to enjoy His blessings, without partaking of His covenant? If it is the latter, then beware, lest we begin to view the things of God as mundane, or even something to be despised.

Submission vs. Permission: Since when does God need our permission?

I need to get something off my chest.

I have heard prayers from the pulpit that say, “Holy Spirit, we give you permission to work in our lives” and I have also heard some testify to God working in their lives, “even without permission.”

Whenever I hear that, my mind says “WHAT?!” [Insert sound of tires screeching here]

If the Sovereign Lord (Acts 4.24) does all that he pleases in heaven on earth (Psalm 115.3; 135.6, Daniel 4.35), then how is it that He needs our permission do to anything?

If none can stay his hand and or say to Him “What have you done?” (Dan. 4.35; Rom 9.19-20), then where does the notion come from that we can grant God permission to work in our lives?

Perhaps we confuse permission with submission.

Permission is something that is granted. Permission is the exercise of one’s authority to allow something to take place. Is our authority greater than God’s?  I don’t think so. God is the one who grants; throughout the Scriptures he grants favor, life, blessings, mercy, wisdom and ultimately, repentance and salvation. (Go ahead, do a word search on the word “grant” and its variations in the Scriptures).

Submission is yielding to an authority greater than our own. We submit to God (James 4.7); the church submits to Christ (Eph. 5.24); Jesus submitted to the Father (Luke 22.42). God does not submit to us.

I’ll leave you with Daniel 4.35 from the Contemporary English Version:

“God controls the stars in the sky

and everyone on this earth.

When God does something,

we cannot change it

or even ask why.”

Going forward, let’s make sure that we submit to God, for He surely does not need our permission to work in us.