The Dangers of Silence

Charleston

For the past year I’ve been working on a project called “First Church of the Broken”.  Currently, I am in chapter four and I have about three more chapters to go.  The premise of the book is “Loving others in a world that relentlessly tears them apart.”  I have felt for some time that this book desperately needed to be written but I’ve never felt more compelled than I have the last week following the evil acts that have occurred in Charleston South Carolina.

I am pretty cautious when talking about matters of race, due to the fact that I am white and cannot understand the pain of what has happened and continues to happen in our country over this issue, so I will keep it brief.  My heart hurts for the people of Charleston and for Emanuel Church.  They have been in my prayers since this has happened and my spirit is heavy because of the hatred that perpetrated this heinous act.  I don’t understand that side of this issue either.  I don’t get what drives people to hurt others in this way and it continues to confound and anger me.

Our country and churches are hurting from the problem of racism.  It is true that the root of the problem is sin and that our hearts are desperately evil and we struggle with this evil constantly.  However, I am a big fan of calling things by name in prayer to our God so let’s join together to do that.  Let’s pray for the problem of racism and pray that God will use us in a way that will combat this problem and not accelerate it or perpetuate it.  Let’s not bicker about semantics that some people use and let’s not argue about what the real problem is.  Let’s simply call it by name and pray that God would intervene.  Let’s pray for unity in our churches and ask God that we would not be part of the problem but part of the solution.

I am reminded that as a believer, my life is supposed to look like the life of Jesus.  Jesus approached people from different cultures, genders and races without hesitation and often shattered ancient barriers that were erected by well meaning but misguided people.  See also the woman at the well, the Roman soldier, the parable of the Good Samaritan, ….and I could keep going.  My point is that when it comes to loving people, there should be no boundaries.  (Galatians 3:28).

We need to love all people relentlessly and ask God for healing and that He would use us to be a part of that process.  That is the prayer I will pray for me and my family.   I will also be praying this for you as well.  One love, one Spirit and one purpose.  (Phil 2:2)

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Seventeen Years

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Armageddon had just come out, Friends was still on television and the search engine Google was founded.  The Bulls were the NBA national champions.   Clinton was impeached.  (No comments please).  “Gettin’ Jiggy with it” was a really popular song.  Try getting that song out of your head now.  (Na-na, na, na, na-na, na…you’re turn.) You’re welcome.

The year was 1998 and it was also the same year that Jenn and I were married.  Hands down, one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.  Outside of following Jesus, it is the decision that has impacted my life the most.  We recently went out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary and reflected on the last seventeen years of our life together.  It was crazy to think about how much time has past and how much our lives have changed.

One of the things that struck me was how much I’ve learned about the topic of love.  Going into our marriage, I loved Jenn.  There was no question about that.  It was a fledging love for sure but it was definitely love.  Based on her character and her life style, I was ready to spend a lifetime loving this woman.  But did I really know what that entailed?  Of course not.  Like many twenty somethings that tie the knot, I had no idea what I was getting myself into (she would tell you the same).  Seventeen years later, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve learned from our relationship.  Here are just a few things that struck me.

I learned that love doesn’t stop, even when I’m suffering.  Thankfully the love that I receive and give needs to keep going.  Jennifer and I have loved through the loss of loved ones, the loss of dreams (not permanently), the loss of sanity (kids), the loss of direction in life and financial loss.  When we are able to choose that, because love isn’t a feeling it is a choice, our love grows and strengthens.  And it has done that.  (Romans 8:38-39)

I’ve also come to the realization that I need to choose to love the strengths of my wife.  She has to do the same with me.  It would be easy for us to chose to focus on the things that we aren’t doing right, that annoy us.  Okay, that would be a lot easier for Jenn to do than me.  She’s perfect.  :) But by choosing to love her strengths, and vice versa, I’m reminded of what I love about her.  If I’m doing this right, I’m shown new reasons why I love her. (Philippians 2:2-8)

Finally, something else that we’ve done right, (and we’ve made plenty of mistakes) is that we’ve chosen to love each other with the love Jesus has shown us.  We love each other with grace.  We have to come to a place where we realize that as individuals we are flawed.  We are broken.  The great thing is that God loves us despite our flaws.  Knowing that is pretty freeing.  I don’t have to earn His love.  If I know that, I’m free to love others in the same way.  I’m not setting up a paradigm where people have to earn favor with me.  I just love them. (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:8)

Honestly, time and space do not permit me to write down all of the lessons that I’ve learned about love over the years but these would definitely be in my top ten.  It has been a great seventeen years with my wife and I’ve been thankful and grateful to have learned them with her.  Peace out peoples.

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Me and KJV

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I am pretty jacked!  This Sunday I am starting a class called “Reading Your Bible”.  I am passionate about this study because my life was changed due to my relationship with God and His love letter to us.  Here’s how it all started.

Me and KJV – I remember being a High School student and making the decision, on my own without any sort of encouragement, to open my Bible and read it. I’m not sure why, but I felt guilty, I have a strong guilt reflex. I called myself a Christian (I had a cross on my Senior ring) but I knew very little about what the Bible said AND I did not have a relationship with Jesus. So I busted out a Bible that I had at home, probably KJV, and started reading…in 1 or 2 Kings somewhere. Not the best place to start reading your Bible.

When I did, I began reading passages about wars against surrounding nations. There was blood and guts. There were battles being fought and commands to wipe out a people group. I struggled with what to do with passages like that and then reconcile that with what I knew about Jesus. Which, if I’m being honest, was very little and somewhat elementary. I just knew the Bee Gee Jesus (or Jared Leto Jesus for the younger audience) that had long goldish brown hair and was white. He loved everybody and simply winked at you when you did wrong and encouraged you to do better. He was your buddy.

What I was reading didn’t jive with my limited scope of who God was, who Jesus was and what my role was in all of that. Because of my frustration, I put down my Bible and didn’t pick it up, I mean really pick it up, until four years later. When I did, it would change me for good. I’ll talk more about that at another time.  I look forward to sharing that with you at a later date.  Peace out homies.

We’ll use big words like “metanarrative” and “atonement” if that’s your thing but we’ll also cover some basic ideas about how to approach your Bible.

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Accusations

Just as a refresher, I’m writing some thoughts down about the Church and how we are charged with loving others in a world that relentlessly tears them apart.  We’ve talked a little bit about how part of our problem as the Church is that we’ve targeted other people as our enemy when in fact our true enemy is hard at work and is actively seeking to destroy God’s kingdom.  That derails us from loving others as we should.  The real enemy, as you know, is Satan and one of his chief tools in tearing down God’s work is accusation.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Did you hear that? Our enemy is known as “he who accuses them before God day and night”? Do you ever feel like that? The voices are coming at you twenty different ways 24/7 and you hear it so often that we begin to believe them. Again, we dismiss them as logic or our thoughts. I know, you can’t see the Devil so it simply seems like reality at times. Here’s another description of Satan that I find helpful in Ephesians 2:1-2

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

What a crazy title, “prince of the power of the air”! This descriptor is extremely helpful to me. You see, I can’t see Satan at work but I know he is there because I can feel that he is there, I see his effects in my life and at times it seems like his influence is wide sweeping. He is not a person, as I know a person to be, that I can identify and point my finger at but his presence is tangible and as real as someone that is sitting next to you. Much like the air or the wind.

Because of that, the voices seem simply like…your voice or the voice of your peers. Because those voices are wide sweeping and pervasive, we ignore the fact that they could be false and bent on our destruction. The moment we begin to feel that this is the voice of Satan, we think of the guy in the red suit with the horns and feel silly. The Voice has struck again! It has done so subtly without you even knowing it. The Voice is like a poisonous gas that seeps into the room without you being aware of it and kills before you even know it was surrounding you. The Voice deceives and directs your thoughts and actions quietly. Much like the air or the wind.

Accusation is only one of the Devil’s tools though.  Next time we talk, we’ll uncover a few more.

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The Exorcist and Voices in my head

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One of the most terrifying movies of my childhood was the “Exorcist”.  Just to clarify, I saw it on television and my parents were not on board with me seeing movies like this.  My cousin was watching it and I happened to walk into the room.  You know, how many stories of debauchery start.  When I walked into the room I was captivated by the tension between the characters and the suspense that was building.  The crazy thing is, I didn’t watch much of it but the 15-20 minutes of it that I did see, blew my mind.  It shot the bowl cut straight off of my head.  After watching the scene where the girl’s head rotated 360 degrees, I decided to stop watching.  Great discernment on my part.  What do you want, I was like ten??!!!

The thing that struck me most about the movie, was that I never considered too much what the Devil might be like.  This movie showed me that Satan wasn’t this guy in a red suit and horns.  He was a moving, active entity that could do a lot of damage.  FYI I’m not saying that the movie was theologically accurate because I don’t subscribe to a lot of what the movie portrayed about spirituality but it did make me think…and not sleep for like two weeks.

We have many different ideas when it comes to who the Devil is.  Some of us don’t believe he exists, that he is a boogey man at best.  The idea of him keeps us from doing too much bad and scares us into following God. Some faiths describe Satan as the brother of Jesus but there is absolutely no biblical support for that. It is simply not true. Jesus isn’t an angel and is in fact God. Satan is a created being. As to what Satan does? Well, we can talk about that in detail.

1) The Voice: Liar & Accuser

First and foremost, he is a liar. Since we’re friends, let me ask you a question, do you ever hear voices? Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. You don’t even know me, don’t judge! Okay, if you knew me you would REALLY think I’m crazy but that’s beside the point. Seriously, do you ever listen to voices? No? Have you ever set a goal for your life and then just decided, whether it is actively or passively, not to pursue it? Why did you do that? Think hard. Why didn’t you pursue a goal that you knew you should? Was it fear? Were you too fearful of the time it would cost you? Were you scared of failing? Were you fearful of what other people would think if you went after it? Maybe you feared that you didn’t have the skill set to accomplish this goal? Perhaps people told you that it was impossible or that you were too old or young?

Look, certainly there are things that you shouldn’t pursue or go after and you should listen to wise counsel. I’m talking about God given goals and burdens that He has put on your heart. Why did you stop passionately pursuing those things? I’ll tell you why, because like me you hear voices. Sorry. Go ahead and find a good counselor.

The fact of the matter is that we hear and listen to internal voices all of the time. Most of the time we dismiss them as thoughts or logic. If you are a believer, at times you are being guided by the Holy Spirit. At other times, even if you are a believer, you are being guided by a different set of voices. The voices that tell you it is only reasonable to give in to fear because it is “practical”. Think about this verse for a second though:

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Sure there is a healthy type of fear. The fear that tells you not to put your hand on the stove, the fear that tells you jumping out of a moving car is stupid and the fear that keeps you from dusting off your parachute pants and wearing them out on a date. All of those are healthy fears along with the fear of God. Boy, I could unpack that last sentence for the rest of this blog but I don’t have time. However, the fear of pursuing a God given goal is not healthy, it is cowardice. Look, I’m guilty just like you are. I’ve been a coward on several different occasions and will probably be a coward again. I think that’s healthy for each of us to admit.   Let’s be honest with ourselves though, if we give in to fear and call it “being practical” we are cowards. I’ll take it a step further then. The voice that you just listened to, the one that led to cowardice is the voice and influence of Satan.

Next time we talk, we’ll discuss other ways that you might be influenced and not even know it.  See ya then.

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Flying Dragon Kick

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KAIDO – My son Kaiden is currently five years old, about to be six. He is incredible. He is a ball of energy. His favorite thing to do is to wrestle daddy. It starts as soon as my eyes open in the morning. Kaiden has on occasion climbed up into our bed and done a cannon ball straight into my stomach while I was asleep. Not a great way to start my morning…or is it the BEST way to start my morning? Hmmm. Needless to say, he is the only person who can get between me and my coffee. It’s all in good fun though. He will make appointments with me to wrestle. Kaiden has a little OCD in his blood. If I tell him I am too busy to wrestle, things do not go well. He is such a huge fan of mixing it up, that there are times when I come home that he will hide somewhere in the house. The older he has gotten, the better his stealth mode has become. He will only reveal himself when he does a flying dragon kick off of the couch, chair, table…you name it and he has jumped off of it. I never know from which direction he will fly when I come home with my computer bag slung over my shoulder, coffee tumbler in hand and glasses on my face. I just have to be ready for him no matter what.

Have you ever seen some of the old Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies? You know, the one with Cato in them. His roommate and friend Cato, who is an expert in Martial Arts, is charged with the duty of attacking the Pink Panther at any time of day just to keep his reflexes sharp. The problem is, Inspector Clouseau can’t stop him from attacking when it is inconvenient. Cato is always on the attack. I feel like that at my house sometimes. I love my son and I love wrestling with him because it is a TON of fun. However, there are times when I’ve had a bad work day, I’m running low on steam or I just need to get my head together after a long day and Kaiden will STILL fly off of the couch, ready to throw down! It can be exasperating.

That is how Satan operates against us. No, I don’t think my son is Satan. I love that little guy like nobody’s business. My son…not Satan. Just for clarification. It’s a comparison people. Seriously though. The Devil operates against us in the very same way. He is relentless in his pursuit to destroy us and then uses us as instruments of brokenness against others.

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

That’s messed up right? He won’t take a time out or a day off. He absolutely will not stop. He’s like the Terminator. He doesn’t take your feelings into consideration or what kind of mood you are in. As a matter of fact he will use those things against you and to his favor because he is your enemy. This makes our job of loving others relentlessly, very difficult.  How can we avoid falling into Satan’s traps over and over again?  How do we handle attacks from others that seem like they come from him and choose the path of love instead?  I’ll talk more about that next time.  See yuz.

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Broken Allegiance

The following post is an excerpt from a book I am writing on loving others relentlessly in a world that tears them apart.  Last time I posted we were talking about the dysfunctions that we see in the Church worldwide.  This is not specific to any local church environment that I have been in but based on my experience with the Church with a capital “C”…as you can plainly see.  Dr. Seuss would have been proud of that last sentence.  

“Galatians is a book written to the early church that urges them to stop living a life of deception and embrace “true life” in Jesus. This group of Jesus followers had bought into the idea that the gospel was true. Let me de-church that for you really quick. In other words these people believed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, He was in fact God, and that He lived a perfect life, performed miracles, loved the unlovable and then was tortured and killed on the cross for our sins. That death on the cross then paid a penalty we couldn’t pay and we were then free to have a direct relationship with the God that created the universe.

That’s not where it ends though. Jesus then came back from the dead. Sound crazy? It kinda is. However these people that followed Jesus and witnessed both His death and resurrection were then willing to die for what they believed and never let go of that idea, even when they were being tortured. That’s even crazier.

They would take it a step further though. They would go on to say that anyone who believed and trusted in this act and in Jesus (faith) would then be able to have the same relationship with God. But let me emphasize something for a second, it was only through belief and trust that this relationship was accessed. Not by any religious act, not by some great and daring good deed, and certainly not by some religious person clearing you from guilt. It was only by belief and trust in Jesus. That’s it. No other church tradition should tell you otherwise. You don’t need to be baptized to access heaven. You shouldn’t need to have a particular “gift” or spiritual talent to be more spiritual. What you need is a strong relationship with Jesus where you trust Him daily.

The Galatians, much like us, were being fed a line of BS. You read that right. You’re lucky I just gave you the initials and didn’t spell it out because that’s exactly what it is…BS. They were being told, “you aren’t complete as a Christian unless you follow our religion (Judaism) first.” The group that was spreading these lies were known as the Judaizers.

Let’s get real. The idea of having religious structure in place was pretty attractive to first century believers. The Jewish believers at the time had left all of the things that make religion comfortable. There were priests, religious procedures, cultural followers and a temple that you could meet in. Early Christians didn’t really have a place to worship other than homes, there were no priests and since it was a new movement, they didn’t have a lot of cultural followers, just new converts. If you were a Christian during this time you were in the minority.

So it is easy to see why someone might revert back to easier path of belief. Yet, Paul says this: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;” (Galatians 1:6)

That word for “deserting” carries the connotation with it that someone is switching allegiances. In other words they were traitors (Stott, Glatians) in Paul’s eyes. Easy there Paul! Have a little compassion would ya? I mean, let’s be honest for a second, this following Jesus thing isn’t that easy. A lot of believers were persecuted and killed for their faith. Paul would know. He was one of the worst persecutors of the church before Jesus got a hold of his life. Paul was actively involved in the pursuit and killing of believers and was on his way to do just that when he had an encounter with Jesus that would completely change his life. Paul went from the hunter to the hunted in an instant! Maybe that’s why Paul was so hard-core about this. He was living out what he was asking the Galatian church to do. He not only knew what it meant to be a target, because of his faith, he was a high profile target! One of the Pharisees most highly trained and potentially highest revered agents had himself become a traitor to their cause.

He was now fully on board with following Jesus and had become highly pursued by those wanting this “Jesus thing” to stop spreading.

Not only did he tell them not to desert the cause, he told them “Don’t do it so quickly!” Its kind of funny when you read it that way. “Seriously people. I’m not saying don’t desert the cause, just don’t do it so stinkin’ quickly!!!” There is good evidence that points to the fact that not long after Paul had left them, they started jumping ship. Like rats on a sinking ship, they got outta there!

This passage reminds me of stories that came out of the Gulf War in Iraq. Some of the Iraqi troops were so ill prepared for battle that they were surrendering to camera crews! Can you imagine? Not one of your greatest moments as a warrior for the cause. “I give up!” “Uhhhh, we’re just filming the war. It’s a different kind of shooting, you know the kind where no one actually gets shot and we capture it on film.” “Close enough bro. WE SURRENDER!!!”

Paul was making a point. You were not really prepared to fight for the cause. The first chance you got, you ditched Jesus. I guess they weren’t really rooted in the life of Christ enough. They were slaves to religion and they hadn’t fully embraced the freedom that the love of Jesus affords us. To put it simply, their heart wasn’t in it.”

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