Posts Tagged ‘Christian living’

Freedom is not the license to do as you please, rather, it is the liberty to do as you ought. The former promotes self indulgence while the latter promotes self control.

Adversity is the reason we need Faith. It’s also the reason we have it. Faith that can’t be tested,  can’t be trusted. 

It’s unfortunate that band mates will sometimes leave when you start singing a different tune.

The lie of the serpent in the Garden of Eden bears a striking resemblance to alternative facts. And, where did that get us? 

There is no greater evidence of a creative God than the imagination of a child.

I saw him hungry with a sign in his hand…and brazenly stared at his empty tin can.

But I dared not look at him eye-to-eye…nor, venture a chat to ask him, “Why?”

Instead, I judged him and moved quickly along…humming the tune to an indifferent song.

I continued my stroll down Self-Righteous Way…thankful to God for another fine day.

Wondering what thing I might chance to start…to change the world and do my part.

When all of a sudden, I heard a son wailing…a frequent reaction to his father’s railing.

For striking out to end the game…the boy was coached by punishing shame.

But I dared not look at them eye-to-eye…nor, venture a chat to ask them, “Why?”

Instead, I stayed silent, though I felt cold chills…while I questioned and judged his parenting skills.

So I came to the corner of Mind Your Own Business…eyes wide open for a chance to witness.

Wondering what work I could take to heart…to change the world and do my part.

When I happened upon a desperate young girl…with plastic bags packed…alone in the world.

Thrown from her home for a near fatal habit…but my time was too valuable for this teenage addict.

I chanced a glance in her dark empty eyes…but my busy scheduled muffled their cries.

Surely, someone with time would happen along…to take up her cause and right her wrong.

Now, on to Avenue Prideful Defiance…where opinions are spewed with hatred and violence.

Still wondering what work I could undertake…to show this dark world my love is not fake.

A twenty-something woman was surrounded by critics…as she sobbed outside the abortion clinic.

They hurled insults and threats of gruesome hell fire…no inkling of care or thoughts to inquire,

What circumstance led to her tragic plight…or what trauma she’s battled through her emotional fight.

Treating others the way you’d like to be treated? …an aborted high principle…easily deleted.

Something indignant is stirring me now…at the end of the street called Holier-Than-Thou

I looked in their eyes disbelieving my own…they must be sinless…they’re all throwing stones.

From Slow to Speak and Slow to Wrath…its not a long haul to Judgmental Path.

Hypocrisy, there, is the rule of the day…Don’t see what I do, just hear what I say.

The words they spout are love and compassion…so often betrayed by self-righteous action.

Mercy on Sunday and Amazing Grace…are gone on Monday with seldom a trace.

This awareness moved me in a new direction…down a seldom used trail called Self-Reflection

If I truly want a good place to start…changing the world begins with my heart.

Allow me to get right to it.

Few things have stirred up a more foul stench for the witness of the church in America than Christians swimming in the cesspool of political rhetoric. Sadly, precious few were shoved or pulled into the pool. Most have jumped in knowingly…head first…and free-styled their way to adversarial and fruitless debate with fellow believers and non-believers alike. All in the name of standing up for what’s right. It grieves me. What’s more, I believe it grieves the Father heart of God.

May I remind my fellow followers of Christ that God did not “So love the world” that He sent His only begotten Son to reform the governments of men? While on earth, Jesus forsook and shunned the temptation to be made physical king in Israel. The Gospels record Him being tempted once by Satan and once by His countrymen but that doesn’t mean it only happened once or twice. Once is enough, however, to demonstrate what the first century Jews  and the devil himself were hoping for. Why did Jesus forsake the opportunity to rule Israel? Because His kingdom is spiritual not temporal or material. He has established a kingdom without end. No, Jesus did not come to reform government or even culture. He came to provide citizenship and entry to an eternal kingdom with a government ruled by God; a kingdom and government demonstrated by an entirely new culture. Those of us who have been graciously and miraculously transplanted into that kingdom of light form the Body of Christ on earth which is the true church.  As such, we now have dual citizenship and the corresponding responsibility of living our lives in a way that testifies of His love, mercy, and grace to the citizens of earth.

Love. Mercy. Grace. These form the substance of His kingdom that is foreign to this one. They are the attributes of His character that are responsible for and enable our transformation. They are the cornerstones of His kingdom, His government, and the culture they create. The culture that should be demonstrated by the true church. And, when these attributes drive our consciousness and activity in this unsterile, dark, and hopeless world, we become salt…and light…and hope. Jesus did not reform Rome, nor did the Apostles or first century believers. Why do we expect Him to reform any other nation or believe that it is our responsibility to do so?

The mandate left for the Apostles was to increase the citizenship of God’s kingdom by making disciples of Christ. Jesus didn’t equip them and then send them to engage in political processes or pass laws to legislate morality. Their witness was fueled by the love, mercy, and grace of God’s kingdom lived out daily in the midst of the immorality and darkness of their time. Do you think the political platforms and agendas you have relentlessly debated for or against are new?  Guess again. “There is nothing new under the sun.” The first century shakers lived out their Christianity and “turned the world upside down” while being targets of the government that ruled their society. Their goal was not to reform politics or bemoan unfair treatment. It was not to “stand in the gap” for the mistreatment and oppression of citizens by earthly politicians. Their singular goal was to witness and show people the path to a spiritual kingdom with a new government. And, this by reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to be ruled and governed first and foremost by love. “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples; if you have love one for another.”  “God is love.” Jesus summarized the ten commandments by saying, “Love God with everything you’ve got…Love others as yourself” (paraphrased). We are to “love our enemies” and “those who persecute us.” I guess my question is how can someone serve love with one hand while slinging mud with the other? What part of hurling insults and pointing fingers at the sins  and short-comings of others represents the love of God? Am I saying we shouldn’t care about the society we live in or give voice to the improprieties and inequities of our time? Am I saying Christians shouldn’t be politicians or involved in politics? No, not in the slightest. Jesus mandates those who follow Him to tend to the fatherless, the widows, and the poor. However, Jesus also died and sent His Spirit to establish the organic entity by which these needs are to be met. His body…the church. Jesus never intended His body to replace the governments of this world, rather, He intends it to demonstrate the government of God’s world. When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion because they were like sheep without shepherds. He then met their needs; He fed them. He didn’t petition the government or religious leaders to provide commodities or social entitlements.  He didn’t protest against them because they were derelict in their responsibilities. No, what I’m saying is, if we are going to go about these activities politically, our witness for a greater kingdom must be our first priority and, therefore, we must “speak the truth in love” not hatefulness or sarcasm or condemnation. The liberal news and social media that have been the driving force of this year’s presidential election and its aftermath have been everything but loving. That is to be expected from the folks who are not yet “grafted in” to the true Vine and citizens of the kingdom of God. But what about those of us who are? What is our responsibility?  “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” The standards of the two kingdoms are as diametrically opposed as light and darkness. If you are a politically engaged Christian, don’t be surprised if you are met with resistance. Furthermore, don’t be angry when you are…and…certainly, don’t be hateful with your retorts. This political season, I have actually witnessed Christian friends of mine lose friends and alienate family members as a result of politically charged exchanges on social media. How does this testify of Christ? What would Jesus do?

American citizens are addicted to entitlement. Someone new is demanding something new or voicing their outrage at mistreatment and disenfranchisement at every turn. Once again, that is to be expected from the people with single citizenship in this world only. The trouble is, though, that many American churchians have been seduced by that same sense of entitlement. They are equally as quick to demand their rights or decry their mistreatment as the next guy. If you have forgotten, let me remind you. Citizens of God’s kingdom don’t always benefit from rights in this one. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” “No man can serve two masters.” By God’s grace, we are enabled and required to deny ourselves in this kingdom so that, by His mercy, we can “lay up treasures” in His. That means, sometimes we lose…here…but, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”  “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” Most of the Apostles and many of the first century believers lost their lives for their witness…without complaint. They counted it an honor to suffer for Christ. Their rights were not observed or protected. Many other Christians throughout church history were victims of or witnesses to vile and unscrupulous atrocities at the hands of governments against the saints of God. It’s still happening right now in many parts of the world!

We live in an imperfect world, to say the least. This is why, now more than ever, the witness of the church must be faithful and true and convincing. It can no longer be watered down, user friendly, or acquiesce to the affairs of man. And, it will only be faithful and true to the extent that we effectively and genuinely live by the standards of His kingdom here. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Not an easy task.  But God…

My Christian brothers and sisters, I am not angry with anyone. I simply would like to provide a perspective that I believe has been lost and misguided. It’s time for the “scales to fall from our eyes” that we may see clearly our first and true task. We are citizens of a greater kingdom. We are in this world but no longer of it which means our responsibility before God is to testify and witness of Jesus Christ who is the Door to the greater kingdom. If you can continue your political ambitions and ventures by speaking truth in love, by all means, carry on. But “let not your good be evil spoken of” in the process. And, if there is any judgment, let it begin in the house of the LORD.

Christian friend, allow me to recommend a reading assignment. Go to your Bibles and read Matthew 5 – 7…The Sermon on the Mount. Study it out and place it in your heart. Do your best by God’s grace to live by these precepts. It largely delineates the standards of living and the culture of God’s kingdom. These are to be the guiding principles of our lives on earth. These are the guiding principles of true church life. The very principles that are to set us apart from the citizens of the world’s governments while testifying of the kingdom of God.

let-your-light-shine-560x414

Courtesy of Google Images

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

No government of man’s making will ever save mankind.  Not even close! God establishes and destroys governments to serve His own purposes. That includes ours. Our responsibility as representatives of God’s kingdom on earth is not to agree with politicians or make them agree with us. It is to “pray for those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” and “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” What I have discovered through my life is that when I pray for others, God usually changes me first. Another thing I have learned is that I have never been able to extend a hand in peace while I was filling it with mud…or whatever else is floating around the cesspool. Saints of God, we have a job to do. Let us walk in His grace, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. The world…our country…needs our witness.

Food For Though

~ Peace and blessings…

joe