Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who were you hoping would heal America?

Seems like a good day to return to this... on many different levels.  This was originally posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012.

Conservative-minded people will range from mild depression to anger to living in the pit of outright despair today.  I can relate.  But...

If you're a follower of Christ, remember what he taught us to pray:  "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

What is the kingdom?  The kingdom is the powerful rule of Jesus Christ (in word and deed), through which he is bringing God’s healing to every single aspect of human life in this world.

Who were you hoping would bring that kingdom to bear upon this world?  Whose responsibility is it? 

It's not Mitt Romney's responsibility.  It's not the responsibility of the office of the President of the United States of America, a country that only came into existence a short 236 years ago. 

Christ’s church is the community through which his kingdom is coming into this world. 

Has last night's election results changed something?  No.

We are still called to proclaim the gospel of Christ (in word and deed), which alone has the power to transform any person, any family, any relationship, any community, any work, any institution, any city, any nation.

We are still called to live in the cross-shaped truth and reality of his kingdom -- in our worship, our community-life, our mission, & our disciple-making. 

Christians, we're still living the same story the church was living back in the days of Emperor Nero. 

Of course, we pray for godly leaders who will rule with wisdom.  We make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all people (including our "kings" & all others in high positions).  We want to live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way (1 Timothy 1.1,2).   

Some political realities may be more conducive to that "peace" from our perspective than others... but remember who heals the world. 

It's not the president.  It's the church -- bringing the kingdom to bear, proclaiming and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

And to that end King Jesus will cause temporary things like nations to rise and he will cause them to fall.  Is he doing one or the other right now?  I don't know.

But I do know this -- he's ruling in such a way that will ultimately advance his kingdom.

Perhaps... just perhaps... he's ruling in the way he's ruling right now to teach his American church that we're going to have to grow up and take the responsibility of salt and light for this world.

There will be no "easy" solutions that come with the magic of circling in an oval on a ballot sheet. 

Maybe in the past when God gave the church more peace and freedom, we didn't use it to seek the kingdom.  Instead, maybe we became presumptuous and lazy. 

Follow Christ and seek his kingdom, Christian.  What you do with your life matters.  What we do together in our worship, our community-life, our mission, and our disciple-making matters.

It matters far more than who sits in the oval office.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Charlotte Riots & The Gospel

Below is a link to the facebook page of Christ Central Church, in Charlotte, which is pastored by a faithful brother of mine from seminary, Howard Brown.

Howard is African-American, by the way.

Go to the post from September 22, and you'll see Howard being interviewed by a news anchor.

Howard just pointed the whole world to the gospel of Jesus Christ, from the very midst of enormous grief, bitterness, confusion, and panic.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Precede: go in front or ahead of

One of the prayers of Thomas Cranmer (leader of the English Reformation & Archbishop of Canterbury during the 1500's) begins with these words:

"Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us..."

Which sounds really weird to us today.  Prevent us?

But in the older English the word "prevent" actually means "precede."  In this prayer we're asking God to send his grace in front of us, ahead of us, before us, as we travel the path that God has given us to travel.

"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people." ~Exodus 13

This is the great prayer from the midst of The Lorica, that wonderful song written by St. Patrick in the 5th century (the song sung after the baptism of each of my 5 children):

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me 
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I recently read of a pastor who was enjoying a sabbatical from a particularly difficult time in his pastoral ministry.  Back home, he had felt like everything was too overwhelming, too impossible, too crushing.  And he was too fragile, too frail, too weak.

As his sabbatical was nearing the end, he said to a friend: "I cannot face going back.  It is too much and too hard."

His friend replied: "Wait a minute.  Do you really think that the same Christ you adore here will not also be waiting for you there?"

What are your fears, your trials, your battles?  What future do you dread?

"Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us..."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Victimization: A Waste of our Suffering

"Anything that tastes as good as anger should be taken in moderation and never on an empty stomach. But the problem with anger is that it makes us lose interest in the blessings of life because we can only think about the one infuriating thing. We obsess over it and become intoxicated with the hurt we feel. This is why the old saints claimed that victimization is a waste of our suffering. Once we take on the identity of victims, we are allowing nothing redemptive to occur, and since we have idolized the anger, how can we be open to such divine gifts as healing, forgiveness, and the gravitas that emerges through adversity?"

~M. Craig Barnes