Storms & Giants: Lectionary Readings for June 24, 2018

There are times when we are faced with something bigger than we can handle. And I know that statement runs opposite of the line “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”…But sometimes that statement does not match our experience. Sometimes that statement feels like an encouraging bumper sticker on a car that is being towed to the junkyard.

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Sometimes, yes, sometimes…we are faced with things that we CANNOT handle. But hope can still give light to our existence when our past, present, and near future times still appear as dark and murky. This hope does not minimize the pain of our current struggle, but it gives us the strength and nourishment that we need to get through our struggles. 

I believe that God is on the side of those who struggle with things that they cannot handle (Psalm 9:9–20) because God has experienced human pain and emotion to the fullest extent. This then necessitates the belief that God stands against those who oppress others; those who intentionally do harm to children of God. 


1 Samuel 17:1–49

I remember sitting with my parents a few months ago at their place watching an old Christian movie about David and Goliath that was almost two hours long, and it was only and solely about the big fight. It was the cheesiest, most drawn-out movie I have ever seen. 

But Goliath was a bodybuilder. And David was a twig. 

The Philistines were an established nation and force. And the Hebrew people were just starting out. 

So when the Philistines offered to forgo the big battle in exchange for a champion vs. champion fight — the Hebrew people were tempted, but they remained silent. 

No one wanted to fight Goliath. They would rather die in a big battle than die at the hands of a man who probably had the most gruesome rumors spread about him. 

David stepped up to the plate, and those around him probably thought he was being sarcastic…but he wasn’t. This crazy shepherd boy who plays the harp actually wants to fight a bodybuilder who could have torn him limb from limb. 

David’s faith motivated him to overcome his fear, and it drove him to face his demons because he had the God of the underdogs and the oppressed with him. He knew that God was on his side. 

Goliath fell victim to an inexperienced and ill-equipped boy with a slingshot because of the power and compassion of a Mighty God who stepped into a situation that an entire nation could not handle.


2 Corinthians 6:1–13

Facing giants isn’t a new theme for Judaism or Christianity. It is riddled in our history as an integral part of our identity and our relation to God. 

We do not worship God because we want our best life now. We worship God because God is worthy of our praise, even when we are facing giants, or in the deepest of valleys. 

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The Judaic/Christian faith is an honest faith. The Psalms are full of celebrations and laments. It’s not all rainbows and smiles — and I like that. It is life-giving, hopeful, but it also lets us mourn, grieve, cry, and even get angry. Therefore, our faith cannot be reduced to an encouraging bumper sticker on a car headed to a junkyard — as if all hope is lost when life hits us hard— our faith is more like the family and friends who surround us and support us after the wreck.

The Apostle Paul is an important influencer on the Christian faith, but he can sometimes be an intimidating character to imagine. There are times when you’d want to invite him into your living room for a nice chat, and maybe so that he can encourage you, and there are times when you’d like to leave him at the door. He’s kind of like that family member who gives you some tough advice that you really don’t want to hear in the moment, but then later you realize how right they were in that advice, and how their roughness around the edges was motivated by their intense desire to see you succeed and grow.

Paul wasn’t like a TV preacher with a shiny suit, and a Mercedes. What he said to those who were suffering was born out of his own experiences as one who had previously caused much suffering, and as one who currently suffers for the very message that he was presenting to the church. 

In 2 Corinthians 6:1–13, Paul writes of all that he has gone through in his pursuit of God, and in the pursuit of spreading his message. He lists that he and his peers went through “beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger”, but he also maintains that unrelenting hope that we’ve been talking about. He writes, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

A beaten man who had been thrown into prison on multiple occasions continues to seek and follow God because hope was no longer a manufactured emotion, but an implanted sense of direction to lead him through his calamity.

God is on the side of the weak, the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. And God sends out others to wade into brokenness and to point to when all things will be made new. il_fullxfull.438193639_q47r.jpg


Mark 4:35–41

As a Christian, no figure brings me greater hope than Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Gospel accounts. So much of how we should treat one another, how we are to understand Gods love for all (including ourselves), and to what great depths God was willing to go in order to redeem a broken world, is found in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Gospel of Mark is an intriguing read. In it we find Jesus who is equally concerned about the people’s spiritual and physical needs — but Mark focuses on spiritual warfare and power, unlike any other Gospel account. 

In the first few chapters, you find story after story of Jesus performing exorcisms; literally casting out demons. In Mark 3:23–30, Jesus gives this INCREDIBLE explanation of why he is doing it; he said that when a person breaks into a house, he binds the strong person of the house so that he can gain control of the house, and take what he wants. He is saying that by casting out demons, by binding the devil, he is debilitating the effects that the powers of evil have — Christ is taking over control of the house. 

The people, who were formerly demon-possessed, used to be outcasts of society; their family disowned them, they could no longer go to the temple, and the religious folks gave up on trying to help them. But now they were free from the strong man that bound them, and they were free to escape their calamity and shame. Christ took over the house.

After this, Christ spends some time teaching parables — stories — that explain the importance of faith amongst, and despite of, the reality of turmoil and struggle. It is only fitting then, that the author of Mark places the next scene in the middle of a stormy sea. 

Image 06.jpgThe wind is howling, the waves are crashing, and water is beginning to get into the boat. The closest followers of Jesus on earth are scrambling to keep the boat afloat while Jesus is sleeping on a pillow — as if nothing was happening. 

Frustrated, they woke up the one person who may know what to do, and they asked him, in pure panic, “Don’t you care that we’re drowning??”

Jesus arose from his slumber and ordered the winds and the sea to be still.

All was calm. The boat remained afloat. And these followers of Jesus were left scratching their heads as they wondered who this man really was…the man who had control over the winds and the sea. 

Jesus demonstrated power and authority over the storms of people’s lives, and the storms that would cause them to lose their lives. Christ took over the house.


Application

There are times when we feel like those early followers of Jesus in the boat on the stormy sea — we cry out to God and we desperately ask: “Don’t you care what is happening to us?? Wake Up! Move! Do Something!”

And there are times when we observe others going through turmoil, shame, abuse, oppression, persecution, prejudice, and heartache, and we cry out to God with those same words.

But it is in times of destruction that renewal can most clearly begin to formulate in our vision — like a dead-looking tree in winter that begins to bud in anticipation of spring. We may see the leaves and the flowers, or maybe we won’t — but we now know that that tree is not dead. All Hope is Not lost. 

And when we realize this great hope that we had to have implanted within us, we are then called to share the source and the sustenance of that hope with those who need it most. 

In remembering the words at the beginning of this message:

God is a God who is “on the side of those who struggle with things that they cannot handle (Psalm 9:9–20) because God has experienced human pain and emotion to the fullest extent.” This calls us to stand with those who are hurting, broken, and oppressed.

 “This then necessitates the belief that God stands against those who oppress others; those who intentionally do harm to children of God.” This calls us to stand against the powers of evil in this world — to bind them and gain control for the Kingdom of God.

We may not be able to handle things on our own, but we have an ever-present God, and an ever-expanding support network to hold one another up.

“God is on the side of the weak, the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. And God sends out others to wade into brokenness and to point to when all things will be made new.”

Hope is already, and Hope is yet to come. Amen.

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Gospel Without Borders: Romans 13 & The Children

Those are the words of a friend who messaged me this past weekend, searching for an answer to the anger she felt over Jeff Session’s defense of separating immigrant families by using the bible, as well as the anger she felt towards the bible passage itself.

I responded to her later in a jesting manner by saying “Don’t let Jeff Sessions be your biblical interpreter”, but I knew that the problem was deeper than that.


 

This blog post is not a news article. I am not here to inform you of the topic any further than seeking to tap into our common morality that will hopefully bridge the gap between competing political opinions.

Regardless of when this policy started, or when some of the pictures are from, lets agree with this, no matter the side you are on:

Separating children from their parents, or anyone who would care for them, for an extended period of time is NOT okay

Agreed?

We know that illegal immigration is still a problem, we know that the immigration system is a broke system.

Let’s start the reform that is needed by figuring out what to do with these children, who regardless of what some may think of their parents, deserve our compassion AND action.

The compassion of the Gospel knows no national borders. 

 


Getting back to Romans 13

While we may accept that something isn’t right here, Jeff Sessions is sweeping morality under the rug of Romans 13.

Romans 13 has hidden many messes in the past, so I am not surprised that it is being used to hide this one.  What better way to shut up the religious folks than saying, “Hey, God appointed your leaders, and you are to do what they say and respect them!”.

Just recently, I saw a post on facebook from someone explaining that although they don’t like what is happening to the children, Romans 13 gives the government the authority to punish those who break the law.  Thus, any progression to help the children is halted by the crimes of their parents, and this individual cannot do anything because they are called to respect their government.

But Romans 13, if taken 100% literally, 100% of the time, would mean that Paul should have stopped preaching about Jesus when Nero said to stop.  It would mean that the early church should have ceased to exist when Roman rulers before Constantine outlawed it.  It would mean that the Nazi regime should have never been resisted by the confessing church in Germany.  It would mean that Christians should never resist evil, so long as evil is coming from the government.

Something is wrong then in how Jeff Sessions is interpreting Romans 13.  I am confident that Paul never meant for his writings to be applied like that.

Maybe Romans 12, and the rest of Romans 13 after verse 7, are meant to show the contrast that is supposed to be there between those who have come into the faith community of Jesus, and those who did not, including secular governments.

Perhaps Romans 12, which tells us how Christians are to act, is meant to be a way for us to interpret when the government is not following the will of God in their actions and laws…


When Paul wrote Romans 13, Nero was the emperor.

Nero was a known tyrant, and after this letter would have been written, there was a fire in Rome that was falsely blamed on the Christians, and Nero then started the state-sponsored persecution of Christians.

“But he was appointed by God.  We are to follow his authority and rule. ”

Yet, Paul, the author of Romans 13….didn’t follow the law of the land.

Paul did not live in a democratic republic like the United States.  He did not have a political voice. But he rebelled to the point of death when his higher authority superseded his earthly authority.


We have one authority that deserves our allegiance.

All other authorities in our lives are superseded by the authority of God.

If an authority on earth goes against our call to action from our supreme authority, we must not support the action of a lesser authority.

And in situations where we have a voice in the political sphere, we are called to speak up when we feel that a wrong is committed.

And that wrong is what is being done to the children. We agree on that.

For our God is concerned about the oppressed, and the broken, the foreigner, and the immigrant.

The book of Amos is full of God becoming angry at the arrogance and wealth of his people, while others starve.

Even Leviticus calls the people of God to care and welcome the stranger – Leviticus 19:33-34.

The bible cannot be held by a political party. And our politicians cannot be our pastors.

But what is being done should not require articles and podcasts that seek to get Christians to rally against it – we should be leading the resistance.

Let the church rise against the evils of the State, and be the example that we were always meant to be to the world.

The compassion of the Gospel knows no national borders.

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I thought this cartoon got a good point across.  Source Link – Click Here

 

 

 

The Passionate Kingdom – Reflections for Holy Week (Part 1)

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Palm Sunday just happened.

Churches throughout the world preached on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey, and on the people laying down Palm branches and coats on his path as they honored him as a King.

 

In our church, the Pastor speaking mentioned that as Jesus was marching into the city from one direction, Pontius Pilate was marching into the city from another direction (Click Here for an Article on that).

I’d like to walk through that story here, and maybe reflect on what happened the day after Jesus walked into the city.


A Tale of Two Kings

The religious season was Passover.

Jewish people flocked to Jerusalem in droves to celebrate the release of Hebrew slaves from the land of Egypt through the power of God.

lambThey remembered the plagues that Moses called down from heaven.  They remembered the blood of a lamb that had to be put on doorposts in order to save them from the justice of God that was coming for the people in power who kept refusing to release the people of God.

And as they prepared themselves for these reflections, and in the midst of this Passover season, they saw something odd…

 

A man named Jesus was marching into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey.  Rumors of Jesus got around – he healed the sick, cast out demons, knew the Torah well, and opinions on who he was were varied – was he a prophet, lunatic, agent of evil…or could he be their Messiah?

 

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Icon from Afon

 

Their attention focused in on the Donkey that he was riding – this was prophesied to be something that the Messiah would do!  And so, the Jewish crowds gathered in suspicious anticipation that this MAY be the King they had been praying for; the King who would free them from Oppression! They laid palm branches and their own cloaks before his feet as they thought…

“Maybe this is the Justice of God coming…Maybe we will be freed from our oppression…”


centurion.jpgOn the other end of the city, the most immediate source of that oppression marched in.  Swords, spears, helmets, and shields were glistening in the sun as this ruler made his grand entry in a show of force and power to meet the possible threats of crime and uprising as these rebellious Hebrew people flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

This ruler was feared, and some of the Hebrew people were seeking to overthrow his power.  And yet, he marched into a city that was under his domain like a conquering war machine – demanding the people’s respect and allegiance.


The people gave Jesus the pomp and circumstance that Pilate desired.

The people chose to lay down their cloaks – their symbol of status, and protection from the elements – for a rebellious young teacher riding a farm animal.

The people wanted Jesus to overrule Pilate.

Their laying down of palm branches was an act of rebellion against the Empire of Rome!

So why did this crowd of people who shouted “Hosanna!” in an act of desire for deliverance…join the crowds of taunters to shout out “Crucify Him!” a few days later?


One King Knows Best

Jesus did not come to earth to overthrow earthly powers. He was not the great military leader that others expected him to be.  He did not satiate their blood-thirsty palates in carrying out God’s justice on Pontius Pilate and Rome itself.

He was a leader of a movement who did not resist arrest.

He turned the other cheek, and some viewed him as weak because of it.

He was a leader on a donkey with no army behind him.

They rejected Jesus because he wasn’t the King that they wanted.

Jesus was surely a Rebel, but he rebelled against Empire by demanding total allegiance to himself DESPITE earthly rulers; He didn’t need to overthrow an earthly ruler to demand complete allegiance, and have complete power.  And Mark’s Gospel makes it clear that he came to not only turn earthly powers on their heads but to bind the source of the powers of evil themselves – demons and Satan (Mark 3:22-27).

 

And so, Jesus really was the Messiah riding in on a Donkey – declaring that he was there to overthrow power…But his plans were longer lasting than what others expected.

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Questions for Reflections:

  1. Would we consider Jesus to be a weak leader to face today’s problems?
  2. When there is an injustice, how do we normally expect justice to be carried out?
    • How is this similar and different from the ways of Jesus?
  3. Did my line about Jesus demanding COMPLETE allegiance rub you the wrong way?
    • What would this mean politically?  What would this mean personally?

Subscribe to read Part 2 soon!

 

When taxes point to God

Context:   Ever since January, I have attempted to use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) as a basis for my youth lessons, and for any preaching that I was asked to do during that time.  The RCL is a set list of scripture passages that is used by churches throughout the world as a basis for their messages on Sunday mornings.  I liked the idea because I like the “bigger picture” that it paints; I have always liked the idea of learning, saying, and doing things with Christians throughout the world, and throughout time.  I record most of these messages, and I put them out as a Podcast, which you can listen to by subscribing to the “Uncommon Lectionary Podcast” on your favorite podcast application, or by clicking here.  The following is one of those lessons put into “blog” form. 

Let’s read the following passage together:

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Matthew 22:15-22 – Common English Bible (CEB)

15 Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. 16 They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17 So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

18 Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19  Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked.

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.

A couple things to point out:

  • The Pharisees were strict adherents to the law of Moses, and they weren’t too keen on being ruled by the Romans who did not worship their God and charged high taxes.
  • The Supporters of Herod, called Herodians, were Jewish people who thought that being ruled by Rome wasn’t as bad as others thought, and they actively supported their local ruler (like a Governor) named Herod.
  • They went together to Jesus as two opposing opinions seeking to trap Jesus.  If he responds that people should pay their taxes, the Pharisees write him off as a heretic and his ministry is affected drastically.  If he responds that people should not pay their taxes, Jesus may be reported by the Herodians and be killed before his time.

And how does Jesus respond?

The empty-pocket celebrity asks to see a Denarion (a coin that equals a day’s wage) because he has none of his own.

He examines the coin and asks: “Who’s face is on here?”. The people respond that is it Caesar, and so Christ responds, “Okay, so give what is Caesar’s what is his, and give to God what is his”.

The people, confused and frustrated, walk away.

I have a hunch that Jesus responded this way to point out at least two things:

1) God is bigger than money, and money shouldn’t be something that distracts you from God (Speaking to the Pharisees).

2) God is greater and more powerful than any government on earth, even ones that demand complete allegiance from its citizens (Speaking to the Herodians).

And both of these two points relate to trusting in God: His rule, His provision, His truth.

Let’s take it a bit closer to home.  Let’s look at our US Dollar – think of a few things that stick out:

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We have George Washington’s face, 1, ONE, an odd Pyramid, the eagle, and of course we have “In God We Trust” written on our currency.

What does it mean to trust God?

What does it mean to trust and honor God with our money?

This dollar could be used for so many things that are not what we are called to do as Christians.  It could be used to buy drugs, buy CDs that degrade other people, and at a government level, it could be used to buy bombs and missiles, with no guarantee that those bombs would only kill “Bad people”.

So, while a dollar bill can never truly say “In God we trust” on it without being slightly ironic, you can, as individual Christians.

We trust in God when we use our dollars to help others who are needy, to go towards a church’s or other organization’s good deeds, or even to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones.

We trust in God when we start to see God as being more important than Money.

We trust in God we don’t let the pressures of this world…taxes, tension, war, heartache…cripple, or get in the way of, our belief in God. Sometimes, it may not make sense…but in those times, we still have to trust God.  Even in paying taxes, we are reminded that we, though we are citizens of our nation, are ultimately citizens of God.

So, the next time you see a Dollar, ask yourself….am I trusting in God? Or something else…

“There’s life after death…and taxes…” – Relient K (Link)

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On Josh Duggar – Again: Sacred Cow Celebrities, Grace, and Justice

It was not that long ago that I posted my response to Josh Duggar’s molestation of his little Sisters, and how people, especially Christians, responded to it.  To sum it up in one single quote, read the following:

“Saying “what he did was terrible, but he is a changed man” is not enough.  As Christians, we understand that the power and forgiveness of Jesus is powerful, but we also know that sin is crippling, addictive, and harmful to us, and those around us.”  (See that post Here)

Following that train of thought, it is with a heavy and perplexed heart that I write this blog post today. Yesterday, I read an article on Relevant Magazine‘s website about how Josh Duggar’s email address had been leaked by hackers who exposed all of the email addresses who signed up on the popular cheating-on-your-spouse website – Ashley Madison.   Josh was not delayed in his Apology for his actions, and to be fair, I will post that apology below:

“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly, over the last several years, been viewing pornography on the Internet. This became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him … I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.” – Josh Duggar, as quoted on revelantmagazine.com.

In finding out what he had done, I was pretty frustrated at the sin, and if I am honest, I was pretty frustrated with Josh.  I saw the Revelant article in my facebook feed, so I decided to look through the comments that other people had left, and within the comments, many people said things similar to the following:

“He did something wrong, he apologized, lets move on…”

“Jesus forgives him, why can’t you guys…”

“Grace should be given to all…”

And people, I get the forgiveness and Grace of God – I really do.  If Josh really has repented to God, than by the marvelous Grace of Jesus, He is already forgiven.  BUT, and I say that with a heavy heart, he did do wrong, he did violate God’s design for Marriage, and he did it all while staying on a high horse.   So while I will stand with you when you say God’s Grace can cover him, I will depart from you when you do not have the courage to stand against pornography, adultery, and when you have a tendency to brush off the sin, in order to defend the example.

I will stand with you when you affirm the Grace and Love of Jesus…

I will stand with you when people speak hate against any person, including Josh Duggar…

I will depart from you when you make an idol out of Christian Celebrities (Sacred Cows), and when you are blinded to their wrongdoing…

I will depart from you when that same marvelous Grace you speak and preach about is limited to a certain demographic…

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Side Bar

That last point brings me to the following quote from a young woman named Megan who commented on the Relevant article on Facebook:

“I find it interesting that white evangelical Christians can muster up sympathy for Josh Duggar but not Michael Brown or Eric Garner. This thread is amazing. Rape culture and racism continally leave me in awe. Who we choose to extend grace to says so much about the culture.” – Megan

Do you HEAR her?  Do you hear her honest questions about how the loud voices of the evangelical Christian community can sympathize with Josh Duggar after hearing that he has apologized, when this same crowd, by and large, sided with the cops RIGHT AWAY in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others. 

Why do we jump so quickly to defend Josh Duggar, and the cops, while saying about Michael Brown and others.. “Well, they shouldn’t have run…”.  We show Grace to Josh without a second thought, and we show condemnation to Mike Brown, Eric Garner – and we assume that everyone raving about racism in america is out of their minds…

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Sacred Cows, Grace, and Justice

My Brothers and Sisters, we are called to follow Jesus each day, to preach Truth, to love others, and to reject false teachings and ways of living.

May I propose to you something controversial? 

When we, as Christians, elevate the status of a Christian celebrity in our minds, we have to be VERY careful.  We have to be careful because in some of these instances, we elevate the celebrity so much that we become blind to the wrong and hurtful things that they may say or do.  We essentially make idols out of them; making them our “Sacred Cows“.  If someone says one word against them – we are quick on the defense.

We do need to show Grace, but can we be consistent, and show Grace to all?

Finally, can we join together in the name of Justice in a fight against Christian Celebrity Idolatry, and adultery?

And as a Facebook user, Megan, observed, can we as a Church use our efforts of defense to defend those suffering racism and prejudice, corrupt police systems, etc.?

Church, I love you.   Lets take some time in thought and prayer, and let us ask God how we can make the world a better place.  Let us ponder how we can strengthen the bonds of our own marriages, and the marriages of those around us.  Let us ponder strategies to combat lust, pornography, adultery, racism, and rape culture.

This is a Call to Action.  Will you Join me in being a voice?

-Jon

Please tell me your thoughts and opinions!

Links:

Revelant Article

Relevant Facebook Page

Lamb Theology – On Josh Duggar (First Post)

Lamb Theology – Post on Racism

Lamb Theology – Post on Living the Love of Jesus

 

“There was not a Needy person among them…”

In my personal reading, I have been wading thoughtfully through the Book of Acts, and studying how the Early Church functioned.  After Christ’s ascension, a whole new faith existed; it was Judaism coupled with the revelation and teaching of Christ.   This new faith became known as “The Way”, and eventually, its adherents would be called  “Christians”.

Something that I have seen as a fundamentally good and Christ-like practice that they did in the early Church, and that is not necessarily a focus of the modern Church, is to sell your earthly possessions, and distribute the church’s communal wealth so that the needy would not be in need any longer. Two passages that communicate this practice are: Acts 2:43-47, and Acts 4:32-37.

I’m not saying we’re to become homeless and wear rags, but I am trying to suggest that for the Early Church, meeting the needs of the Poor among them was very important.

Church, Are we meeting the needs of our Poor?

Biblical Insight

Internal:

  • The church takes care of their own so that there is “not a Needy person among them” (Acts 4:34, NRSV).

External:

  • Luke 14:13 – “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” – Jesus
  • James 1:27:  “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

The early church in the book of Acts, as well as other writings from the Scriptures, clearly communicate that the CHURCH is commanded to aid the Poor.  The poor are in our communities, and the poor are within our Church doors. There is no Excuse why people should starve or freeze within a close distance from a Church of God.  And there is absolutely no excuse why any member, or regular attender, of a Church of God should ever be lacking in food, clean water, shelter, or warm clothing.

Stop for a moment . . .

Think about your own Church.

Is there any person, or family, within your own fold who is suffering financially – whether because of unforeseen life expenses, loss of a job, or even bad spending choices?

Sometimes, people in need will not make mention of it out of fear of judgement, or out of embarrassment.  Does your church have a system in place that allows them to discreetly tell you their needs, and a board or committee that discerns how to address these needs?  If your church has something in place to address the poor within their doors, they are doing well.

What does your church do to help the poor with your doors, and/or outside of it?  Please leave a comment.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.” – The Prayer of St. Francis

**All Scripture passages are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible**

Charleston Shooting, Racism in America, and the Christian Obligation to Action

My wife and I watched “The Butler” last night, which is a movie about one man’s job as a butler to the president of the united states through the terms of Eisenhower through Reagan.  The film tracked this one man’s experience and thoughts during the civil rights movement, and the struggle of thought between activism, and hoping your country will get it right soon.

As a white boy, growing up in the 90s in the northeast, I did not notice a lot of racism.  When people talked about racism, and white privilege, I assumed that was all done with by now.

In 2008, as a 16 year old, when I heard from fox news, or somewhere else that African-Americans voted for Obama just because he was black, I thought it was ridiculous that people would do such a thing…

Now? I don’t find it so ridiculous.  Not because I am a big Obama fan, but because it had taken WAY too long for there to be an African-American president; it had taken WAY too long for African-Americans to gain true, and protected equal rights.

From the 1700s to the late 1800s, slavery was legal in the United States, and it was present in the Americas since its colonization.   From the late 1800s to 1965, African-Americans were legally told that there was a “white” side of a restaurant, and a “colored” side; a white water fountain, and a colored water fountain.  They were excluded from places, and even when they were oppressed against the law, the “Law” was a group of White policemen who regularly beat them, sprayed them with a fire hose, and some of these policeman were members of local white hate groups – KKK or otherwise.  These segregation laws, called Jim Crow laws, remained in effect until 1965 – just 55 years ago.  Going along with this government-driven racism, we have to think about what this did to the African-American community.  A quality and an equal Education was difficult to find, going to college was a rarity, and all of this, combined with the reality that equal pay was still not enforced, results in poverty and a lack of trust in the white man, and in police officers.  Can you imagine growing up and hearing stories from your mom, and your grandfather about how policemen would beat your people to death simply because of the color of your skin?  With this in mind, when an African-American talks about racism, they are not only talking about the slavery of long ago, but of the blatant racism that existed in the lives of themselves, their parents, or their grandparents.

Fast forward 55 years to 2015.

We have an African-American president, equal pay is enforced- for the most part, there is no more “colored” or “white-only” schools, restaurants, churches, etc..

BUT

  • When Trevon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012, MANY conservative news agencies and people took the side of Zimmerman.  Although an altercation may have taken place between the two people, not much was known about the situation at first, but many conservatives were quick to take the side of Zimmerman over Martin because Martin was a “suspicious” black guy in a black hoodie walking around a neighborhood in which he stayed.
  • 2014 – When Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson, again, with not many details out, many conservatives took the side of the officer. I am not a Democrat, nor am I a Republican, I just know what I have observed.
  • 2014 – When Eric Garner was held to the ground and was audibly heard saying “I can’t breathe”, policeman kept him down, forcibly restraining him until he died, and there was an outcry against police brutality.
  • 2015 – When Freddie Gray sustained injuries within a police vehicle, there was an outcry against police brutality, there were riots, both violent and non-violent, and still…the conservative news agencies and people took the side of the officers, even though these officers were later found guilty of the brutality in which they were charged.  Conservative articles circulated about how Freddie Gray was a known criminal, and how he had multiple charges against him in the past…as if any of that mattered..as if any of that justifies the acts committed by the police…
  • 2015 – This Week on 6/17/15 – An early 20s White man walks into a historic African-American church in South Carolina, sits with them in prayer for an hour, and then kills 9 black men and women, leaving three survivors.
  • In 2015, the Confederate flag still waves high at the South Carolina State Capitol, and it is protected by State law to not be lowered or taken down because it is part of South Carolina’s history. 
    • Can you imagine, as a black person, seeing the same flag spoken of as waved by KKK members, being flown at your state’s capitol?  I realize that for some, the flag is more about country music and rebellion, but it nonetheless has extremely racist meanings to a lot of people, and should never be displayed by any American Government.

Racism is not dead; Racism exists in these instances, and racism exists in how people respond to these instances.  Regardless of our political party, combating racism and prejudice should Never be thought of as conflicting to our political views, and if they are, as a Christian, I submit to these folks that if Christ was their ruler, they wouldn’t be so quick to defend the subtle racism that exists around them.

When the Black community is united against racism that they have seen and noticed, white politicians, news anchors, and people do not have the right to brush away what they are saying.  Every instance should be examined.

If you are quick to defend the police before all facts are out..

If you are quick to point out that there are innocent White people attacked by black people too…

If you are quick to think that you can’t speak up because of how it may make you look..

You are part of the problem. 

If you are a Christian, and you honestly believe that you should follow Christ, then you should be at the forefront of people uniting against racism, in all of its forms.

If you are a Christian, and you hear of a White, Black, Asian, or Hispanic person being mistreated because of their race…You should be the first to defend them in Word, and in non-violent activism.

Jesus commands us to more, and to love all of those we come across.  Jesus broke racial prejudice when he told the parable of the good Samaritan who stopped to help a beaten man on the side of the road.  The Samaritans were a different race than the Israelites and there was a lot of conflict between the two; Jesus showed his followers that we are all people, and we can all show compassion.

Will you take a stand against the racism that is still alive and well in this country?  Will you take a stand against your own inclination to remain silent?

On Josh Duggar and Sexual Abuse: The Church needs to do more

Why does abuse prolong in Christian Churches and environments?

Why is sexual scandal so prevalent?

And whats worse….Why do some defend the Abuser, rather than the Victim?

Recently, Josh Duggar, now an adult, was exposed through many articles and news agencies for molesting several young girls (Including some of his sisters) when he was himself a minor.  His parents found out and sent Josh to counselling away from home for punishment. It took a few days for the articles to actually start giving some details about what happened, but almost immediately, Christians started defending Josh saying that he had repented, that his family handled it, and that he had changed.  This same rallying would more than likely not be done for someone of another faith, or an atheist if they committed the same; in fact, the rallying in these instances could be negative – all coming from the same group of people.

But Josh Duggar is not the only example of this.  From the world-known sexual abuse cases done by Catholic priests, to the instances of Protestant pastors and Youth Pastors doing the same, this issue is an issue, and Christians should NEVER by any means make light of it, or take the side of the accused, if found guilty.

Saying “what he did was terrible, but he is a changed man” is not enough.  As Christians, we understand that the power and forgiveness of Jesus is powerful, but we also know that sin is crippling, addictive, and harmful to us, and those around us.

In the case of Josh Duggar, it is too late to take legal action. But as an article on usatoday indicated, the Duggar family lied to the police officer they told, and even though they had lied, what they told the officer should have been followed up with an investigation. The family, and the police officer were at fault for not taking proper legal action.  After some counseling, the Abuser and the Victims still had to share a house together.

Christians should be disgusted, let down, and mournful over the Sin…not JUST supportive of Josh. The main focus should be on making sure the victims receive proper care and counseling, to make sure the law is upheld, and to see where it failed.

To make myself clear:  If Josh Duggar truly repented, I affirm his forgiveness in the name of Jesus, and I do not condemn him.  Though my main point thus far is this:  In his example, the sin is very grave, and effects of that sin are real, and we need to do a better job at addressing the issue instead of just defending a Christian celebrity.

Do we need more examples of how sexual abuse, and rape culture take place within the church?

  • A Youth Pastor who sexually abused several boys, and clear signs were shown that should have stopped him.  Read Here
  • A girls story of being sexually abused by her brother in a Christian home, and not being taken seriously… Read Here
  • An excellent article on one woman’s experience with Rape Culture (Warning: Graphic Language)…Read Here

The question, “what could have been done better” is an example of what Christians should be asking, in addition to “What are the signs”, and “What can we do now”.

Oftentimes, these sexual abusers are those who people trust, those that no one would suspect anything from, and they could also be a family member.  In these issues, when comments, concerns, or questions are spoken…we cannot view the accused through Rose-Colored glasses…we have to view them, and the situation through a very critical lens.

But we live in a sub-culture that has a tendency to esteem Men over Women, to put leaders of the church on pedestals, and to not question authority or speak up.

We live in a culture that governs what women are to wear and that lets the men wear whatever they want.  We focus on what the women can do for the men to “Keep them from stumbling”, while saying “Boys will be boys” instead of teaching our boys self-control and respect, and being men and women that respect and care for all people.

We need to be a people known for the safety of Children, not the molestation of them.  We need to have boundary training, set procedures to follow, have open door policies, and we need to encourage anyone to speak up if they suspect anything.

We can no longer be silent.  We can no longer turn a blind eye. We can no longer blindly support a person because of their status or religion, while diminishing their wrongful actions.

We need to be a people that is at the forefront of advocacy against rape culture, sexual abuse, and all other forms of abuse.  Imagine if the people in our church knew that EVERY Man or Woman in the church would stand up for them and with them in these instances? Imagine if our little girls and boys were protected by men and women who would protect them, and guard them against any pretitors because they were educated on what to look out for.

Jesus calls us to more.

The Church is called to more.

Stop being a part of the problem, and stand against abuse wherever it is found!  If you see or hear of anything that could be suspicious: Speak UP!

In the comments, let me know how your church protects both Children and Itself from these instances.