RSS

Tag Archives: commentary

Any Chance We Might Grow Up?

Withholding love from another person is the supreme act of childishness. Forbearing, proactive love … that’s the trait of a mature adult. We need God for that.

———————

This from one of Christianity’s most popular texts, 1 Corinthians 13: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (13:11). What are these childish ways that Paul is talking about? In the context of this chapter, it’s quite simple. It is childish to withhold love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” If I lay out articulate Facebook rants, and can share quotes from my favorite talking heads, but am snarky, antagonistic, profane or dismissive of others, I’m just noise.

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” If I, in my self-perceived brilliance, believe in my convictions can change the world around me, but cannot be kind when I present them, I am nothing.

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Even if I “walk my talk”, and am involved in all kinds of service projects that support my causes, but my heart and attitude toward others who disagree with me remains angry and contentious, the gain of my good works is nullified.

So, what is this love that Paul speaks of? It is, primarily, staying active in hard relationships. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Kind. Love suffocates in non-relationship. It breathes through activity. Being kind is love. Just choosing to be neutral — to not be unkind — isn’t love.

Patient. Bearing. Enduring. Never-ending. Love assumes things will get difficult, and stays in the game anyway. To bail out on a relationship when it doesn’t go your way, that’s childish.

Arrogant. Rude. Irritable. Resentful. If these words describe you, then you’re acting like a child.

If you are so bent toward someone that you actually rejoice when things don’t go their way … this is the height of immaturity.

Children always think they should be given a second chance, but still carry grudges against others, and withhold them their kindness. Children want the benefit of the doubt for themselves, but they choose to meditate on the negatives of others, thus exchanging joy for bitterness. Children want people to believe in them, but they magnify and believe the worst in others. Children want others to see it their way, but give up hope for a better tomorrow that comes, as promised by God, through reconciliation and sticking together.

Children think they know. Then they become judge and jury over you. You will be found guilty. Love is gone. Existence becomes null and void.

Childish politics conceives contentious gridlock. Childish religion creates suicide bombers.Childish academes squash thoughts from a different point of view. Childish employees trash talk their bosses behind their backs. Childish church members leave their congregation when something happens they don’t like. Childish marriages produce divorces. Childish friends feel they’ve been so wronged that they have to withhold their ongoing care, affection and kindness.

God, through His Word, calls us to put away these childish behaviors. He provides the means to do so. But these days few are listening to God, and even fewer are availing themselves to the divine empowerment that makes change possible. Even those who find God interesting remain unwilling to hear His call to us to exercise the self-sacrificing kind of love that could change the world.

download

Any chance we might grow up? Our chance is contingent on our love for God … which will enable our love for our neighbor. Without God? No chance.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

– EO

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1st Day of Christmastide

advent1“How can you believe in Jesus when there’s so much hatred in the world?”

Today’s Christmastide text is 1 John 4:7-16. All of these truths come from this passage:

  • if-god-exists-then-why-is-there-so-much-evil-in-the-world-todayThe Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Merry Christmas!
  • God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. The coming of Jesus is more than a sentimental idea … it’s a revelation of divine love, and is meant to change the way we live our lives.
  • Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. Right. 
  • In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son. If we want more love in the world, we need to realize it’s found in God, not in ourselves without God.
  • Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. An un-loving world is a godless world. Knowing God is the only genuine antidote for loveless living. Trying hard to be more loving, without God … well, it’s a cul-de-sac.
  • We have known and believe the love that God has for us. This is what’s critically missing in our world. Many don’t know about what Jesus means, and many who have heard don’t believe.
  • By this we know that we abide in him and he in us – he has given us of his Spirit … God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. God visited us in the person of Jesus that first Christmas – Emmanuel, God with us. Ever since, He has come to open hearts and minds by His Holy Spirit – the very presence of God, abiding in us.

love-is-possibleStrange that the world blames God for its lack of love. In Christ He came to show how we should live — and by our experiencing His Spirit, He empowers us to make it happen. In short – God has offered the solution to the hatred in our world.

So, who’s really to blame for our lack of love? To a degree, Christians … who have defaulted in our call to share the truths of Christmas, and encourage knowledge of and belief in God. But mostly, it’s our collective penchant for godlessness, which seems to be growing more every day in the Western world.

Lord, you have gifted the world with an amazing capacity to be loving and compassionate. Thank you that millions are receiving this truth around the world. I pray for our country, which seems bent on detaching from You, and trying to do our best without you. Please help your people to effectively live out Spirit-inspired love, and share the truths of Jesus boldly. Amen. 

– EO

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Being Funny Doesn’t Excuse This One…

Is anyone else mad that Robin Williams was killed last week?mork

Okay, let’s do the prerequisite clarifications: First, my appreciation. I have been laughing at Robin Williams my entire life. From Mork to Teddy Roosevelt, and every stand up routine in between (especially the improv!), he held the position of funniest man alive, at least in my book, for four decades. Please know that I have no desire to tarnish that legacy.

Second, my awareness. Yes, depression is very real. And losing loved ones is very difficult. The waters of sadness run very, very deep. As the scripture says, Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (Prov. 14:10). Please know that I can’t and won’t belittle the the reality of emotional pain.

But something needs to be said about a few things that are oozing out of the pores of our culture in light of this story.

1. “Robin Williams is ‘free’, and in a “better place” where he is ‘no longer in pain.'” Why is it that, when they lose Good-Morning-Vietnam-robin-williams-30953057-2336-2560someone important to them, the irreligious among us suddenly start waxing spiritual? The majority of men and women from the halls of both Hollywood and academia are bold in their godlessness. We are, after all, simply amoebae-gone-wild, with no divine visits in the rear-view mirror, no “sin” in our present lives, and no reasonably understood after-life on the horizon. I guess one could say that to be nothing (a.k.a., dead) is to no longer feel pain. But free? It’s not “free” to not do, be or feel anything. A better place? Let’s just say that, if Robin Williams’ life is a living hell (a life that 99.8% of people on earth would be thrilled to live), and that non-existence trumps his existence, then we’re all in terrible shape.

If you believe in God, and in particular the God revealed in the pages of the Bible, by the prophets and by Jesus, you can have an extremely strong assurance that Robin Williams is, and will be, eternally separated from God. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8). Williams made a comedic living mocking God, His people, and all things sacred. He did not embrace the truth of the Spirit, so he certainly didn’t sow to please Him. He may have been involved in charitable works, but not for the glory of the only One Who is praiseworthy. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, eifisher-kingther in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:30-32). 

Obviously, those who don’t believe in the truth of these Biblical words shouldn’t care what they say. All the more reason for unbelievers to avoid sympathetically reinterpreting them to fit the occasion. But, if one believes the plain words of the Bible, a man who mocks God and His revealed will and words is eternally doomed.

2. “Robin Williams’ pain justifies his suicide.” If this is true, then billions of people are justified to kill themselves. We can just hope and pray that William’s example doesn’t embolden anyone else to do what he did. Williams’ wife, Susan Scheider, is hopeful for another outcome. “It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.” That is an amazing thing to hope for. What logically will happen is those who struggle like Williams will see a man who gave up on the hope that care, support and treatment could afford, and chose to give up instead. And, to compound things, the world esteems him, makes him a hero, affirms he’s better off now … and no one says a negative word about his choice! No, if anything, choosing suicide just got a huge celebrity endorsement.  

3. “Robin Williams is a good guy.” Imagine for a moment that Robin Williams was murdered by someone. How do you think the populace would feel about that person? Well, he did get murdered … by Robin Williams. Personally, I’m mad at whoever would end the life of the funniest person I’ve ever experienced. Is it wrong to be mad at Williams for killing Williams?

Or, imagine if Williams was still alive – but that he had killed someone else. If we knew him to be a murderer, would we still say, “that’s okay, because he’s so funny.” Well, he did murder someone. He murdered Robin Williams.

danger4. “This is politically incorrect, and will make people mad. Why are you writing this?” Because, during blurry times, things need to be made clear. Those who base their lives on the truth of scripture need to speak up, lest the world think that the “theology” that is being championed in the public arena is correct. To be silent is to condone. To speak the truth is the right and loving thing to do – even if it is received as scandalous.

What I wish: One, that there was some way I could jury-rig divine truth to make it say, “Robin Williams will be in heaven, and will make you laugh eternally.” But, as the old punchline says, “You can’t get there from here.”

Two, that Robin Williams would have been reconciled to God before His death.

Three, that people will see that you can have it all – fame, popularity, winsomeness, riches, you name it – and it’s not enough. That they won’t give up, but that they’ll seek more. That they will find the inner strength that comes from the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit that will convince them, day in and day out, that life is worth living.

eo

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Church Hopping: A Mexican Point of View

This is profound.

The comment below was made by a Christian in Mexico. It was made concerning a post entitled When is it time for a church to call it quits? I’m posting it unedited.

“Here in Mexico, we dont have notices of evangelical christian churches
who have to close their doors for any reason. I had lived in the United States some years ago. And I remember a lot of baptist churches with
just old members. The youth and children runed away to another more modern temples, with different kind of liturgy, with young pastors,with
modern music instruments.So they just left, I understand that our culture and american culture are different, but we had never think in
left back our elder brothers. I really believe that God not like this
american christian costume. We have to show love to every think that we are thinking to put away, and I talking about temples, furniture, our
elders, our old pastors, and our parents, our old parents. Can you imagine they singin alone Victory in Jesus?What victory we cheer with
out our loveones? My fellow american brother in Christ, you have to think about this…”

“But we had never think in left back our elder brothers. I really believe that God not like this american christian costume.”

I pastor a church that is experiencing a significant exodus of people. All of them are younger than the leadership. They aren’t abandoning their faith – rather, they will all turn to other churches, other families, they believe will be better for them. They will experience the positive sensations associated with a new start, and feel like it was good to have made the change.

“What victory we cheer with out our loveones?”

I live in the west, a land full of transient people. We’re those who for centuries have abandoned families in pursuit of other things. Most people I know live geographically separated from their biological families. Why did they move? Good reasons … to go to a school, or follow a job, or to live in a nicer climate. It’s rare, but occasionally I’ll meet someone who has made their life decisions based on the priority of protecting their valuable family ties. For the majority of us, though, our most natural experiences of relational depth are strained by distance, which can’t help but breed some relational fragmentation.

So, new networks are pursued, by which we can experience the “love one another” realities that we sense and know are so essential to our lives. And churches should provide this, right? After all, the church is supposed to be a community that embodies – not figuratively, but literally – the reality of being a family. And it does for many. There are those for whom their church is truly their family.

What’s sad is that these, who are the most willing to invest their hearts and souls into being a close-knit community, are the most damaged when others sever ties. “I thought this was a family,” they say.

As I get older, I feel this more acutely. When I was younger, I couldn’t possibly understand the value of long-term relationships like long-term people can and do. With each passing year, the pain I feel when people family-hop is more pronounced. As they seek out a better song to sing, with a newer, nicer family than ours, our song turns to lament…and ultimately may be silenced altogether. “What victory can we cheer?”

“My fellow american brother in Christ, you have to think about this…”

We do need to think about this. But we don’t feel the need to talk about these issues until they’re staring us in the face. And then, it’s too late. The political correctness of our day demands that, because people are free, we must let people do whatever they want to without saying anything negative about their intentions or choices. So, when we’re in the midst of being abandoned, and we cry “foul”, we are chastised if we say anything about it publicly. We’re just seen as pathetic, selfishly clinging to something for your own benefit. Or worse, we can be taken as manipulators, trying to deny people’s freedom of choice. It’s perceived as just so much sour grapes.

It’s true … I can’t be subjective about this, not these days. But I’m trying to be. And in my most clear-thinking moments, I can’t help but come to these conclusions:

1. Church-hoppers are hurting themselves.They will never know the wonderful reality of long-term relationships around Word and Sacrament. They will miss the glories that come through the hard side of love – reconciliation, endurance, perseverance, forbearance. They will forfeit blessings God promises that are associated with subjection, selflessness and servanthood. They think that different leadership style, that shorter drive, or that alternative program is a good trade-off for their relationships. But, if we have a better communicator, or a deeper doctrinal understanding, or more “Spirit-filled” worship, or incredible social programs, but have not endless patience, contentment, humility, deference, forgiveness, hope, forbearance, endurance (cf., love), nothing is gained. When you cash in your relationships for whatever else, is it ever a good deal?

2. Church-hoppers aren’t aware of how much they are hurting others. Others who value family bonds more than they are devastated by their departures. Those who leave not only rob themselves of the inestimable value of growing up in a lasting, united church community, but they also rob others. And they rob their children. Then, as explanations are made to others in the church as to why people leave, other families – and particularly their children – are schooled by the hoppers’ examples to see church participation as disposable (this is exacerbated by those staying not being able to openly challenge their departures, because that is seen as inappropriate). We’re stuck with, “that’s what’s happened, and I guess that’s just the way it goes.” We’re all the worse for it, and the pattern continues.

3. Church-hoppers damage the advance of the gospel. If we don’t love each other in a way people can see it, they won’t believe in Christ. Jesus prayed that we “may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). We don’t choose to persevere with each other primarily for our sake, or our kids’ sake, or for the sake of other people in the body – we live as a “love never fails” family for Jesus’ sake. Because every time we leave, we might be able to justify it in our own minds, but the world doesn’t get it. Why should they? “If those people who talk about God and His love all the time can’t get it together, why should I think that their so-called ‘born again’ lives are any better than mine?”

Fresh eyes from south of the border have eloquently pointed out our condition. I fear my ramblings may have diluted the simplicity of his message. Will we rethink these things? Will our trends continue? And what can one orphan do?

For now, we lament, cling to the love that remains, and pray that God will have mercy on our generation, and build His church among us afresh.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,