Venom

(NOTE: My views here do not necessarily reflect those of Zion Church). I’m reaching a decision that is not earth shattering, but it affects me. On one hand, I really like using Facebook. With it, I’ve been able to maintain contact with friends and family. And, I’ve been able to restore contact with lost friends. I love seeing pictures of kids I coached & taught now living as adults. I appreciate hearing how to pray for someone. And I confess, I watch humorous animal videos. But, on the other hand. Facebook has changed. No, not the interface; the way people use it has changed. In short, I am just about done with venom. If someone disagrees, they are met with accusations and character assignations. Some are even accused of not being Christians because of a political view. So, for my own sanity, here’s what I’m doing.

If one of my Facebook friends consistently does the following, I will likely unfollow them. My friend, I’m just tired of it. And as you can read, most of these apply to fellow followers of Christ.

  • Challenging someone’s faith in Jesus over a political issue.
    • Let me be clear; I will go to the wall for this one. A soul’s acceptance into heaven will not be determined on one’s voting history or political views. There is actually a much higher standard. Sorry to break it to some, but there will be Trump and Hillary supporters in heaven.
    • Because someone disagrees with you politically does not mean they are failing as a Christian.   That is actually quite arrogant.
  • Chronic reposting of articles.
    • Yes, there is quite a bit of fake news out there.
    • And, there is ALWAYS more to a story. We need to do better at gathering as much of the facts as we can.
    • Frankly, my friend, I miss hearing about you, but I just see stuff from some blogger.
  • Challenging someone’s maturity in the faith
    • Yes, there are constructive ways to disagree. Spitting venom is not one of them.
    • Supporting a political point of view is not living out the Christian life. Displaying the fruits of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control transcend law and live out the Christian life.
    • And, the NT commands to love are given to individuals and churches and not nations. Many so called acts of love use other people’s money and time when given by a national program. And, some of public and private programs do more harm than good. So, where’s the love in that?
  • Looking to people as heroes or villains
    • Again, biblically, I will go to the wall for this one. Everyone is a sinner. No one is perfect. Only Jesus is the answer for our sin. It is only by his name people can be saved.
    • While people can do acts of evil or good, don’t put your trust in people. Don’t trust them to make cultural changes. Don’t blame them for cultural downfall. Culture can only change with individual heart change through Christ. Cultural rot occurs because of my sin and your sin. Laws and politics are only part of that. None of their deeds last.

Someone may claim that I just want sunshine and rainbows while burying my head in the sand. Well, I spend a ton of time (arguably too much time) staying informed. I am choosing to limit the venom. If it comes to never seeing Facebook again, I will survive…perhaps thrive. But, I will miss my friends.

Anchors

I’ve noticed something disturbing this year when our heroes or celebrities have died. But first, let me be clear when it comes to grief and loss. I get it and understand. I felt sadness when Jimmy Stewart died about twenty years ago. As a lifelong Eagles fan, I felt loss regarding Glenn Frey. Having grown up on television shows from the sixties and seventies, the death of Bernard Fox brings grief. And now, an icon of American and film culture, Carrie Fischer, is gone. It’s right to feel sadness even though most of us do not know these people personally.

Here’s the problem. Too many anchor their souls to a sports, film, or music celebrity. This goes well beyond grief and loss. When Prince died, some could barely cope even though they never met the man. The same occurred with John Lennon and Michael Jackson. Facebook fills with mourning even for fictional characters dying in The Walking Dead. They really did not exist in the first place. The issue is not the grief. The issue is where one anchors their soul.

Our heroes from any scope of life seem devoid of faults. Reality is different. For today’s elite, most of their lives are train wrecks of drugs, abuse, and ruined relationships. And, all they really want from fans is their money. Keep downloading those songs and seeing those movies. They don’t care about their fan’s problems or life issues. They don’t mind if the messages of their media causes heartache and ruin. The hard reality that will annoy some reading this: They don’t love you like you love them.  (To be sure, there are some good ones out there; I speak generally but would not be surprised if the good ones are in minority).

The issue again is anchor. Do you anchor your life and soul to another faulty human being? That anchor WILL fail. It’s not a question of if but when. Love and appreciate what the rich and famous do if you like, but do not trust them. So, who can we trust?

The Apostle Paul was clear in Philippians 3. He considered all that glitters to be a pile of crap. There is only one anchor of the soul, Jesus. Phil. 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He never beat his family. He never succumbed to drugs. He rejected fame. He does ask more than money. We need to give him our very lives. But, he returns new life. He defeated death once and for all. So while our heroes fall from grace, he never did nor will he. You can bank on that anchor. Feel your grief if you must. Grief over loss is appropriate. But, never anchor your peace, joy, contentment on such a brittle foundation of a silver screen star, a music idol, or a sports icon. They fail. Most of them are not even real.

What I’m really praying today

November 8, 2016, marks a potential day for division. Regardless how one votes, both candidates have extremely high negatives. This means that there will be tension (to say the least) in the electorate come Wednesday. What’s my role as a Christ follower in this?

  • Vote and participate. There…that’s now said.
  • Remind myself that my political leaders matter little in eternity. I serve the King ultimately. Yes, some may cause harm to a nation. They may help or hurt the church. But, they cannot harm the King or his Kingdom. His will will be done. For the sake of human suffering, I hope the better candidate wins, but I don’t hope in any candidate.
  • Pray
    • Yes, pray for my nation. I don’t understand how it will work in the new heaven and earth, but there will be nations. Rev. 22:1-2, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
    • But more than that, I am praying for churches.
      • Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples regardless of government.  This is what Jesus wants; this is what we are to do.
      • Jesus told his followers to be light in the world. For example, while many churches failed, many influenced our nation to eliminate slavery. They stood for righteousness. Politically, we had to fight a war over it; we lost a president too.

 

So, regardless of who wins, I’m praying for churches. I’m praying for my church and my church campus. I’m praying for churches in my state and nation. Though the nations and the kings rage, my King laughs at them. We have the responsibility to spread the good news, make disciples, encourage one another, love one another, and shine. And, whatever the Lord needs to do to awaken his church, let it be done. See Psalm 2.

Wood working

Perception is a funny thing. We would swear we see clearly, but we don’t. It’s clear to everyone else that we are blind, but we make excuses, justify, make up stories, self-vindicate, blame others, and play the victim. “No, you don’t understand. I’m really ok. And, who are you to show me my planks?”

I like this cartoon. Yes, I know it’s about Jesus’ instruction to remove the plank out of one’s eye before removing the speck in another’s eye. But again, perception is a funny thing. We don’t see our planks. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.

When he works like that, we often feel dumb. How can I have been so blind? Easy. We do it all the time. The brave soul is one who humbly seeks out his own planks first. Ask him to carve deeply.

I’ve got this.

A sign hangs at the entrance of Auschwitz “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it.” So very true but not new. In fact, we’ve been repeating history since history began.

From Genesis 3:4-6, “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 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.”

Adam & Eve led the way for the “I’ve got this” attitude. We admire and praise those who claim, “I’ve got this.” They rise to the top, take the reins, and deal with situations. But, it’s not always the smart move. How did this work for Adam & Eve? “Sure, God said not to eat of that one tree, but I got this. Sure, he said we’ll die, but I got this. It looks good. I want the knowledge of good and evil. Yea, I got this.” Yes, Adam and Eve, you got it.

Let’s not be too critical. We do the same. A financial need comes up, so before we pray, we think, “I’ve got this.” Someone at work presses our button every time. Instead of relying on the Holy Spirit for self- control, “I’ve got this.” A marriage is on the rocks but rather than seek godly counsel from a fellow Christ follower at church, “We’ve got this.” Kids in rebellion, but “I’ve got this.” Experienced a loss, yet “I’ve got this.” Feeling spiritually dry, and “I’ve got this.”

We keep repeating the history from Eden. No, we don’t have this. Scriptures need to be applied, the Holy Spirit should be sought, the church family can be contacted, prayers need to be said, and faith needs to grow. To stubbornly rely upon our own selves just repeats the same old cycle. While many are willing to help others, these same people pridefully refuse to ask for help…not even for prayer.

A biblical community is, well, a community. Christ followers are not meant to be lone rangers. It’s ok not to have it together. None of us really do. Refuse to repeat history. Do what you would like other people to do in times of need or crises. You don’t have this, but the resources are there.

Now?

Is Jesus coming soon?  It may be hundreds of years from now.  Or, it may be today.  Honestly, I don’t know, but Jesus said no one would know.  However, there would be signs.  In my assessment, I see more than just signs but foundations laid.  Paul describes these foundations in 2 Tim. 3:1-5, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 

Yes, history is filled with similar eras, but that’s why we don’t always know for sure.  But, a simple reading of the news reveals that we see everything on this list en masse. What’s worse is that much of Paul’s list is not on headlines because they are so accepted. Scary?  No, expected.

Red Cardinal Faith

We’ve finally got a good snow blanketing in PA this week.  It’s like a bright white felt covering.  And what happens? The red cardinals come out.  At one glance yesterday afternoon, I saw about a dozen bright red cardinals perched in the trees.  They come out in the snow and sit in leafless trees.  Very obvious.  They are fire engine red splashes against a white back drop.  Anyone, including predators, can see them clearly.  What makes a red cardinal do this?

Yes, there’s a sermon illustration here.  I want red cardinal faith.  When the snow is heavy enough, everything is blanketed.  Enter the cardinal.  If I could read his mind, he might be thinking, “Hey, I’m here even if it’s just to bring a splash of color. Times like this when I contrast with the snow is when you see me the most.”  I would like the life of Jesus in me to catch eyes like the cardinal.  Again, HIS life and not mine.  Look, there’s something different and contrasting here to what the world has given you.  Want to know about it?

Matt. 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Splash some contrasting color.