This Great Revolution


The greatest revolution in history is the revolt of the Kingdom of Jesus against the ruler of this dark air, against the principalities of self-love and pride and idolatry and greed that have set themselves up as “kings” in this world.  

The greatest revolt of all time is the one eternal light is mounting against these temporary shadows.  

The church, flawed though she is, is the instrument of that revolution.  She is the people of the coming victory.  

The church, the beloved wife of Jesus Christ, is a people of dangerous love.  She is a people of violent forgiveness.  Christians are a battering ram to the world’s worst lies, both the ones it’s told and the ones it’s been sold.  Our Christian kindness undermines the world’s bloody economy.  The church’s mercy upends this world’s dark systems.  

Our love of children assaults abortion.  Our care for the poor undercuts materialism.  Our promise-keeping in marriage takes a baseball bat to lust.  Our humble serving stands against belligerence and hate.  Christian kindness towards our enemies is an assault on everything Hell stands for.  We are fighting against something just by being children of God.  

We are ice cold water thrown into the face of a world stunned and punch drunk by bitterness and rivalries and selfishness.  We make war with hate by the audacious power of love.  We overcome evil with good.   

We are the people of the greatest revolution.  

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Romans 12:21

Turn And Be Blessed


One of the chief ways God blesses a man is by turning him away from his wickedness. 

God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.

Acts 3:26

Strapped for time today, so allow me to get directly to my point.  I see a pervasive reluctance to call sin sin in the wider Christian environment in America.  Not in every Christian church or in every Christsian home or in every Christian pub, but definitely as the majority posture of the mainstream American Protestant environment.  I see a fear of offending the dominant culture, the one that is dark and under the sway of Satan and in need of a Savior (see Ephesians 2:1-3).  It’s a sort of, “Yes, yes, we know abortion is murder and homosexuality is sinful, but why do we have to talk about it?”  And the answer of course is that people are dying, because sin both physically and spiritually kills.  And we have no problem talking about racial hatred or greed or judgmentalism being sinful, because those are chic and acceptable and cool conversations to have in 2017 America.  But a prophet doesn’t call for repentance from only the sins everybody is in agreement on.  And every nation needs Godly prophets.  

Every nation needs men and women who will tell it all that the Bible says.  

The Word of God is a good thing, meaning it is a thing meant for our good and it is itself intrinsically good and beautiful and true.  Our neighbors need it.  And we need to have the conviction that they need it.  We should lovingly, patiently tell people, people we care for and sacrifice for and listen to, about their wickedness.  

Or they’ll never turn from it and be blessed.  

30 Seconds On Idols

  
One of the duties of a child of God is to call the people of his day, of his nation, to stop worshiping their idols.  
Their idols, mind you.  Not somebody else’s.  It wouldn’t do any good for me to tell 21st century Cincinnatians to stop falling down before a golden calf, and it wouldn’t do any good for me to have told Moses’ brothers and sisters to stop worshiping their smartphones and square footage.  

But to stand here, in this day and place, and to magnify Jesus for the people around me who put their identity and emotional weight into gadgets or political battles or job successes or social media following, that is a Christian calling on my life.  

We have idolatry in America.  We worship many false gods.  We seek meaning and ultimate hope in many, many things which we were not made to seek them in.  

And no idol, Egyptian or American, can do what God can do.  

The Republican or Democratic party cannot bear the weight of your soul.  

Your Facebook likes cannot truly and throughly satisfy you.  

Success at work cannot give you deep, abiding peace.  

All of the things of Eden that we seek, restored relationships and contentment and perfect love, can only be had through the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

And so, if you have never come to Jesus empty handed, looking for what only He can give, my word to you is this:  His Father is seeking worshippers.  He is adopting many sons and daughters.  He has much to give away.  

Come to His altar.  

He can deliver on all of His promises.  

Please Justify Me

 

I’m smart.  I know the right words to say and the right way to say them.  You’ll have to listen to me.  And you’ll have to be amazed by me.  

I’m attractive.  You want to look at me.  You want to look like me.  

I’m likeable.  I’m interesting.  I’m funny. You’d want to invite me to your party.  

I’m powerful.  I’m strong.  I can get you to do what I want.  And my ability to bend situations and people to my liking will astound you.

I’m capable.  I do my job better than the other people do theirs.  I never run away when it gets tough.  I’m never lazy.  

I’m talented.  This skill I have will make your jaw drop.  

I’m good.  I don’t lie.  Or steal.  Or murder.  I pay my taxes.  I’m better than my neighbor.  And I’m not nearly as bad as that co-worker.  Not nearly.   

Please justify me, world.  Please.  I’m smart.  I’m funny.  I’m attractive.  You have to justify me.  You have to, right?  I must count.  Look at me.  At what I do.  At what I’ve done.  Look at it.

This must cover up my nakedness.   

Oh, God.  God.  Please justify me.  Don’t you see?  I know I’ve sinned, even though I pretend I haven’t (or that you don’t exist).  But I’m standing out from the crowd, God.  Right?  So please take this as my offering.  My intelligence and beauty and achievements.  Take them for my guilt.  They must cover it.  They must.  

I don’t have anything else.  

Please count me worthy.  I measure up better than the others.  I have to.  

I have to.  

Oh, Heaven help me, I have to.   And that’s why I’m so tired.  

I can’t do this myself.  

But I’ll die trying.
(In)sincerely,

Every Restless Heart

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths…  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’  And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’   He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat…  And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them

Genesis 3:6-7, 9-11, 21

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne

Revelation 3:18-21

At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  

Matthew 11:25-28

How Do You Deal With Pain?

 Let me generalize, here.  I’m going to say, for brevity’s sake, that there are 4 ways people deal with pain:  By pretending, by dwelling in it, by running, and by trusting. 

Cue drum roll. 

  • Pretending

Maybe you’ve tried this one.  You might pretend that you are beyond pain’s grasp (no one is), or that you’re too strong for it (nope), or that because of your winning smile and sense of humor you are impervious to suffering.  You might drift off into a fantasy world.  Video games, TV shows, alcohol, and shopping can all serve as bubbles to slip yourself into, pretending as though guilt or grief or fear or anger aren’t really out there on your doorstep.  The problem?  Well, there are probably several, but here’s one:  Even if your pretense does lessen the sting, whatever was causing the pain is still there.  And if it was harmful before you started trying to pretend it away, your pretending hasn’t done a darn thing to change that fact.  If in response to the pain of your crumbling marriage you decided to binge watch NetFlix to pretend the sting away, your marriage will still be in the same mess it was once season 2 of Homeland is over.

  • Dwelling

You might re-play your hurt in your mind over and over and over (and over).  Live in it.  You might always be savoring the bittersweet flavor of whatever hurt (or is hurting) you, like some kind of poisonous piece of candy.  This “strategy” for dealing with pain is the default method for a lot of hearts.  Some just fall into it unconsciously, like breathing.  Whatever pain befalls them will become the soundtrack of their day, their week, their decade.  And the harder and harder that sort of a heart gets, the more difficult it is to shatter the lie that this posture is (usually) built on.  Oh, and what lie is that?  Glad you asked.  The lie that you are owed something better than what you have.  You’re not.  And neither am I.   The Gospel involves the News that sinners who are owed nothing but Hell are offered everything including Heaven.  The Gospel cannot jive with choosing to dwell in or choosing to mentally replay and replay pain.  Or with the bitterness it produces.  

  • Abandoning

You might run from whatever is causing your pain, without weighing the cost of doing so.  Now of course if you have weighed the cost, and certainly if the thing causing the pain is sin, running is good.  But that’s not what I’m categorizing as “abandoning.”  That kind of running would actually fall into my “trusting” category below.  It would be gutsy running.  But to leave a marriage, a job, a relationship, a church, a neighborhood without Biblical reasons or without carefully and prayerfully considering not leaving is the sort of fleeing hurt or hardship that we don’t even want our children to exhibit on the baseball diamond or at the homework table.  Christians should want to do what’s right, not what’s easy.  Certainly the right thing isn’t always the very hardest thing, but it’s almost always hard, and so if we train ourselves to run simply because something hurts, we are training ourselves for everything but righteousness.  The life of the man who has truly trusted in Jesus will be a life that involves, at some point and in some measure, persecution and hardship.  If we’re used to abandoning ship at the first hot stab of pain, we won’t be able to confirm our election and see the face of God.  

  • Trusting

And here we are.  You knew I’d get to the good one.  

There is a kind of person who can know that the God who created and sustains and governs the universe is for him.  A kind of person who is free to live without fear of death or condemnation or abandonment.  It’s the person who has trusted in the God of the Cross.  Pain cannot paralyze or destroy someone who knows the One in control of it is working all things together for the good of the family he’s been made a part of.  

We all have people or things we trust when the water is rising up around our necks, but the sanity of that trust is measured by the ability of the one we’re trusting in to deliver what we’re hoping in them for.  If I trust my mom to be able to deliver on a tuna salad sandwich, I have a reasonable trust; if I expect her to win a Stanley Cup, I do not.  And there is only One who is worthy of our deep, uniquely human hope for deliverance.  There is only One who can give what we most long for.  In the throes of suffering, it’s not ultimately and finally helpful to trust your spouse or your positive thinking schtick to be able rescue you for good and for all.  Only Christ can do that.  

And there’s another thing about trusting Christ:  He is the prize.  Knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection is the most beautiful thing any human soul could ever enjoy.  It will eclipse any and every pain we could ever experience.  The grace, power, beauty, holiness, and majesty of God are indescribably greater than our hurts here on the old earth.  

When we truly trust God, we’ll enjoy Him, and when we enjoy Him we’ll be better equipped for the world’s stiffest pains.

So how do you deal with pain?  I know I’ve probably done all four in the very recent past.  But if you’re stuck in trying to pretend your pain away, dwelling in it, or abandoning ship, I can commend to you with all my heart that trusting Jesus of Nazareth is the only way to really successfully and finally deal with pain.  

He is the King.  The only wise God.  And in Him all our sufferings become a little less agonizing and a little more meaningful.  

    Stifter once said, ‘Pain is a holy angel, who shows treasures to men which otherwise remain forever hidden; through him men have become greater than through all joys of the world.’  It must be so and I tell this to myself in my present position over and over again – the pain of longing which often can be felt even physically, must be there, and we shall not and need not talk it away.  But it needs to be overcome every time and thus there is an even holier angel than the one of pain, and that is the one of joy in God.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to his fiancĂ© from Nazi imprisonment 

    I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me…  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

    Philippians 4:12-13, 23

      Election Day

        
      I wrote this 4 years ago.  Thanks, Facebook memories : )


      I am genuinely pleading now: please stop placing so much hope in human beings who run countries. No king will save souls. No president will heal hearts. No prime minister will stop sin. These men, especially if they aren’t believers and work without the Spirit, are not making the changes that hold up in eternity. You speaking a verse tomorrow to a co-worker who’s mother recently died offers real hope. Me holding my tongue and instead offering a helping hand, in the name of Christ, to a person who gets under my skin, offers real hope. You praying with your husband or daughter of grandmother offers real hope.  


      Israel begged God for a king, because they thought a man could save them, heal them, and offer them hope. It took battles and bloodshed for them to realize how wrong they were. And still, when their real King came, humbly and perfectly like a lamb being led to the slaughter, they did not want Him.


      I promise you President Obama won’t save anyone. I promise you Governor Romney wouldn’t have saved anyone. Please witness Christ tomorrow. Please offer real hope tomorrow. And if you don’t know Him, please know that He is better than any of the frail and fragile kings that for some reason human hearts continue to worship.

      I am genuinely pleading.

      I still am. 

      Political Woes

        
      I believe it’s good for a politically-inclined person (like myself) who claims Christ (like myself) to periodically ask himself:  

      Do I treasure my politics more than Jesus?  

      Am I more fascinated by the kingdoms of this world than the Kingdom of God?

      I’ve had to ask and answer my own conscience, in this election cycle, whether I’d be up for not voting the way I normally do because there was something dearer to me than a political victory.  I’m not trying to bind anyone else’s conscience to my own particular answer, but I do think a Christian should ask the question:  Which do I savor and cherish more?  Christ or a political paradigm?  

      Put another way:  Is my political outlook an outworking of my faith and devotion to Jesus, or are my politics closer to the bone than my faith?

      I hope my faith is my all.  Woe to me if I preach the gospel of a political ideology more often than I do the Gospel of the perfect life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ. 

      Woe to me if I am more excited about, more invested in, more anticipatory towards the triumph of an earthly political candidate than the return of my King. 

      Woe to me if I have co-workers who know exactly who I’m voting for (or voting against) but have no idea how to be saved.  God placed me in their lives to be a light for His Kingdom.

      Woe to me if I do not ever pray for the leaders I disagree with. 

      Woe to me if I insult those political leaders I think are wrong from a heart of malice and spite, as though to be nasty about someone famous is somehow more permissible.

      Guys, it appears to me we live in a particularly politically charged age.  But woe to us who’ve been brought to life by God if we succumb to the obsessions of our day and so lose our saltiness.  I’ll be voting and I’ll be paying my taxes and I’ll be obeying the law, but I want to want the bigger things even more.  I want to pray for my leaders and my neighbors.  I want to proclaim the Gospel to the people in my life.  I want to live honorably so that those who see me doing so may ask why, and might even glorify my God. 

      Nothing inherently sinful about politics.  But the world loves to take good things and make them gods.  The world loves to take average men and make them kings.  

      Just ask Saul.  

      I want a heart like David’s. 

      It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

      Psalm 118:8-9