Redeemed Natures: Chapter Three – The Teachings of Jesus (Part 2 of 2)

Click Here to see all posts in this series

Chapter Three

The Teachings of Jesus (Part 2 of 2)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matt. 5:9 (ESV)

John 2:14-17 – Overturned Tables

I would be dishonest to not address the passages that seem to contradict the viewpoint which I am advocating for.  This passage about Jesus in the temple is one of two that are commonly brought up in a discussion about this topic because some claim that  Jesus was also whipping the moneychangers. Let’s take a look at this passage:

“14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”(ESV)

I would like to start off by saying that if Jesus made the whips, and whipped the flawed human beings behind the tables…that would contradict everything that he preached about which is referenced in this chapter up until this point.  It would also contradict his common responses to sin, which is to love and welcome the individual, not the sin; examples being woman caught in adultery, woman at the well, and the man hanging next to him when He was crucified. Whipping people would make Jesus seem like a hypocrite and a lunatic.  

With that being said, I believe that Jesus made the whips like it is written, and drove out the animals with them.  Whether he whipped the animals, or cracked the whip in the air to drive them out is not clear in the text itself.  When it comes to the money changers, I believe that they would have chased their animals which were valuable assets to their business and livelihood, and were thus driven out with them.  I do not believe that Jesus whipped the moneychangers in any way.

If Jesus whipped the moneychangers to drive them out – why did he not do the same to the ones selling the pigeons/doves?  Instead, he addressed them after seemingly driving everyone else out and told them to take their things and leave.  He did this because he obviously would not whip a bird, or throw their cages out of the temple while driving the other animals out, and if he were to whip all of the other animal merchants, he more than likely would have whipped the dove merchants, and released the doves afterward.

To believe that Jesus whipped the moneychangers would require the reader to abandon reason, and context.

Luke 22: 35-38 – Sell your Cloak, Buy a Sword

“35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

This is another passage that is often seen in conflict with Christ’s message of nonviolence.  The issue lies in Christ telling his disciples to buy swords.  At the surface, in that verse alone (v.36), it would be the equivalent of Martin Luther King Jr., who grounded his civil rights movement on faith and nonviolence, instructing his closest men.. “Look guys, I know I said this before, but now, I need you guys to sell whatever you can to buy some guns to protect us”.

It just doesn’t make sense why Jesus would tell them to do this, especially at the end of his ministry, when he was accepting what would be done to him.

So, how can we explain this?

At this point, I’d like for us to re-read verse 37, which says:

“For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”(ESV)

This verse is in reference to a prophecy of the messiah that is found in Isaiah 53:12, and it explains to the reader why Christ would tell his disciples to buy swords; he needed to be counted among those that seemed to go against the law.  If this is not clear, the next verse will clear it up more.

Verse 38:

“And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”(ESV)

If Jesus was telling his group of 11 disciples (because Judas had betrayed him) to buy swords to defend themselves, or Him, how would two swords be enough?  When the people that would oppress them would either be roman soldiers, or religious zealots…how could two swords be enough to protect 11 people?

Two swords was enough for the group to be seen as rebels.  Two swords was enough for Jesus to be “counted among the transgressors”.

To imply that this passage is supportive of Christian self-defense is to completely ignore verse 37, as well as not carry verse 38 to its logical end. When a message and example of peace is so consistently given by Christ, this passage would go against that message if interpreted to mean that Christ told his followers to buy swords to defend themselves.  Essentially, that argument would be making Christ a God who doesn’t stick to his own word when times get rough. Such a view makes Christ appear weak.

The Influence of Christ’s Example Of Nonviolence

There can be no doubt about the influence of Christ’s nonviolence teachings to the early church and beyond.  As I will get to in later chapters, the New Testament writers, the early church, and many early church fathers all seemed to understand Christ’s nonviolence teachings, and sought to follow after them.  Some leaders and theologians during our our time are teaching the same.

Martin Luther King, Jr. urged his followers to not use violence as a means of protest during his civil rights movement, and he based everything on his deeply held Christian faith.  He said the following in his “I have a Dream” speech in 1963:

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Followers of Christ were expected to go against their natural tendencies in order to serve and worship God. Followers of Christ are expected to do the same today.

If Christ is God, than His words are worth reading, and His example is worth following.


 

Works Referenced

Berman, Mark. “‘I Forgive You.’ Relatives of Charleston Church Shooting Victims Address Dylann Roof.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 June 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Fletcher, Phillip. “The Good Muslim.” Gospel and Humanity. Phillipfletcher.org, 8 Dec. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech – American Rhetoric.” Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech. American Rhetoric, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2016.

Morris, Leon. “The Gospel According to Matthew.” Ed. D. A. Carson. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999. 100-01. Print.

“Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum.” Ancient Christian Texts. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2009. 107. Print.

Shapiro, Joseph. “Amish Forgive School Shooter, Struggle with Grief.” NPR. NPR, 07 Oct. 2007. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Sprinkle, Preston (2013-08-01). Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence (Kindle Locations 2103-2107). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition

Wink, Walter (2003-04-01). Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Facets) (pp. 10-11). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

*The Works Referenced list above includes all resources from part 1 and two of Chapter Three*

Redeemed Natures: Chapter One – The Call for Justice

Click Here to see all the posts in this series

The Call For Justice

“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.”  Proverbs 28:5 (ESV)

When we hear of, read about, or see a person being wrongfully treated, an anger builds up within us. And I would even go as far as to say that this anger over wrongful treatment of another human being, or animal, is a Righteous anger because I believe that this anger is a result of our godly call of upholding the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We want to fight for others because we have a sense within us of what is right/fair and what is NOT right/fair.  N.T. Wright, a well-regarded New Testament scholar and Christian author, even starts his book “Simply Christian” with a first chapter that is dedicated to proving just this; that humans have an innate sense of Justice, and how that sense comes from God.

It is in this understanding that we can understand how a Christian supporter of war would justify their position in stating that the military is fighting against and preventing further injustices, and that it may even be quite Christian to join the fight themselves.

I believe that to desire to act against injustice is Righteous; however, where I part ways with many is when I make the claim that any use of violence against another human being (no matter how “bad” they are), that is not blessed or commanded by God, is against how God calls the Christian to respond to their world.

To give you an insight into who I am, and how I come at things:  I was raised Mennonite, which is a tradition that has consistently advocated against Christians engaging in violence since its inception.  However, I am also a gun owner and I have handled rifles and shotguns ever since I was a young child under the careful supervision of my father who always taught me that guns are never toys, and that they are a tool used to help us hunt and provide for our families.  I own a shotgun now because I would like to get more into Deer Hunting (My area is Shotgun only), and I also have an itch to go for water fowl as well in the future.  I tell you these things so that you can know that I am not someone unfamiliar with guns, and I am not writing this post with the agenda to take away anyone else’s guns – this is NOT a political post…I am writing this post out of my devotion to Christ, and out of my discontent over how many of His followers do not bat an eye over the prospect of killing in War, Service, Self-Defense, or Intrusion.

I do not take this position out of ease, but out of a direct calling for me, the Christian, to FOLLOW Christ, and as a good friend reminded me of the other day – to be a SLAVE of Christ.  It is in recognizing that I am a SLAVE of Christ, that I am affirm that Christ is my Lord. This affirmation would naturally necessitate complete obedience in as much as I am able, and it would also place the call and Lordship of Christ over my life over all else.

But even in recognizing all of those things, even in carrying that logic through, I still am a man who wrestles with this very topic because my nature is one that would retaliate evil for evil if I saw injustice before my eyes.  This nature to retaliate with violence is not just my nature, but it is human nature, and I would also argue that it is our fallen nature.  In this understanding I derived the title of this project – Redeemed Natures, for our Natures need to be redeemed in order to make sense of NOT responding to violence with violence.

I would like to think that I would remain steadfast in my pacifistic confessions in the midst of trial, but no one knows for certain.  My only hope is that I would be able to resolve any given situation without killing anyone, and if I do not “fight” for non-violence NOW in the intellectual sense, how will I ever truly desire to go against that which comes naturally when the time comes when action is needed?

Before I go on, it is important for the reader to know that I hold the position I do because of careful study of the Scriptures, through engaging conversation with people of many beliefs, and through prayer.  I believe that the bible clearly says that murder/killing is wrong; not only within the Words and teachings of Jesus, or in the Ten Commandments, but all throughout scripture (I will expound on this later).  And to make the line even finer, I do not think that there is a difference between killing someone, and murdering someone; to kill is to murder, and to murder is to kill.  This is important because I have spoken with several people who would make the distinction when the duties of a government position calls for the use of violence. Their reasoning stems from Romans 13, in which the Government is allowed to “wage the sword” (We’ll get to that one later on as well).

A Glimpse of my argument from the Old Testament

Most of us know Christ’s famous words “turn the other cheek”, and “love your enemies”; however, we also know that the Israelites in the Old Testament were notorious for war, they were good at it, and that God even helped, and commended them in battle.  A quick read through the books of 1+2 Samuel, and 1+2 Kings will tell you all that you need to know about how God used the kings, prophets, and soldiers of the nation of Israel to carry out His will during those times. 

These truths are present in the Scriptures, and they are not to be ignored.  However, I have come to realize a pattern in the Old Testament in regards to warfare, which I will expound upon in more detail in the next chapter.  To provide you with a glimpse of the argument I will be presenting, I wish to provide you with this:

 

  1. The Lord is justified to take life
    • If anyone is justified to take a life on their own authority, it can only be God who is perfect in knowledge, and who has absolute authority over all creation.
  2. The Lord is justified to command others to take life
    • We see this in the Lord permitting, blessing, and commanding the Israelites to take life in war.
  3. Man who kills without the Lord’s command/Instruction/blessing will be punished because it is doing that which is outside of the Will of God. 

In Conclusion

I am simply a follower of Jesus who desires to share the message of Christian non-violence because I believe that we are commanded by God not to kill, and that that commandment extends to Christians in government, and it even extends to those messy situations where violence seems like the only hope.  I desire this message to spread because it is one of the most noticed yet overlooked commands and messages of Jesus, and I believe that Christians should take His word’s seriously.  In having this desire, I also realize that the people who are okay with Christian involvement in the military most likely do not hold the position that I advocate for, or are simply unaware of a consistent biblical argument for Christian non-violence that extends past an individual’s every day interactions. That is the purpose of this project: to humbly attempt to make a biblical case for my deeply held convictions addressed to an audience who may not have heard one.


Works Referenced

Wright, N. T. “Putting the World to Rights.” Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. 3-15. Print.

Book Review: Blurry – Bringing Clarity to the Bible

*The following is my review of “Blurry – Bringing clarity to the Bible” by Ryan Lokkesmoe published by CLC publications.*

Context of the Review

I am a Youth and Young Adult Minister by vocation so reading this type of material is truly a part of my ministry to the local church so that I can suggest reading material to those under my care, and also to fellow members of the church I am at if they would be interested.  In the subject of reading the bible, based on what I have observed through the different churches I have been a part of, one of the main reasons that teens, college students, young adults, and even adults do not read the bible often is because they are intimidated by its length, formality, and overall complexity.  People may desire to read the bible, but they do not know where to start, how what their reading at the moment fits into the broader story, and they were likely never taught about the different “genres” of the bible – Historical, Law, Poetic, Prophetic, Gospels, Epistles, Wisdom Literature.

In bible college, I remember reading a book that provided a fantastic summary of the bible, its story, and it included a historical telling of the inter-testimonial period.  That book impacted how I came to the Bible in a drastic way – No longer did I fear the Old Testament; I understood its importance, and had a desire to read from it more. But that book is probably a little too “meaty” to pass around to a wide age group that includes teenagers.

I wanted to find a shorter book that was easier to understand, but still provided the same basic overview, the same great historical telling of the inter-testimonial period, and the same great message about the different genres of the bible.

I found that book in “Blurry: Bringing clarity to the Bible” by Ryan Lokkesmoe.

Summary

“Blurry” is a book that takes on the task to provide an overview of the Bible, including its various genres, to everyday Christians.

Lokkesmoe decided to complete this task by taking 4 books of the bible from different genres of scripture, and taking you through them to provide examples on how one should read certain passages.

Review

Ryan Lokkesmoe did an awesome job ensuring that his book was written in a way where it was clearly meant for any person who desires to learn more about the Bible; readers do not need a formal Christian education to understand what he is saying.  To me, that is one of the biggest assets of having this book in my ministry library.

I really liked the author’s approach to the subject by going through different books of the bible to teach the difference in genres through example.  He also did a great job explaining the narrative of the Old Testament, Inter-Testimonial period, and an overview of the New Testament.

I believe that the book is very good at not only providing an overview to help understand the Bible, but also to give the reader some valuable commentary of specific passages that Lokkesmoe highlighted to give examples.  This book would really give someone a valuable foundation to grow upon as they seek out the Bible on their own.

Pros:

  • Everyday language is used
  • Excellent Overview
  • Great Examples
  • “Blurry Points” were scattered throughout the book and were practical tips on how to read the bible
  • Great and helpful lists in the back of the book for further understanding and study
  • Brief in length, but thorough in content
  • The physical quality of the book is also something to be mentioned: This paperback book’s cover is thick and high-gloss, the binding is solid, and the paper is thick enough to make under-liners, and highlighters like me happy.

Cons:

  • The only thing I would say is that there was at least one point where I felt that the author took a theological position that didn’t need to be made in the context of what he was writing about.  And while this did not bother me, others may read it, and decide not to read further depending on how seriously they take that issue.

Favorite Quotations

  • “To acknowledge that the Bible is like an anthology [a collection of many books bound together] is to acknowledge that God used variety to communicate His truth: a variety of people, in a variety of places and circumstances, through a variety of literary genres.  This is the starting point for bringing the bible into focus.  When we understand that, we understand that not everything in the Bible can be read in the same way or with the same expectations.” – Pg. 23
  • “God created everything in the world out of nothing, and it was all good.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of Eden by eating the forbidden fruit.  Because of this disobedience, sin came into the world and put distance between God and humanity.  The relationship was broken.  God was not OK with that, so he began to intentionally pursue humanity” – Pg. 41
  • “I believe the church is in need of a Josiah moment.  We need to rediscover God’s Word.  We need to find it, dust it off, and return it to its rightful place in our lives.  We need to recommit ourselves to knowing and following God’s Word, and we need to remove all other competition-because make no mistake, there is competition all around us.” – Pg. 134

Recommendation:

Yes/No:  Yes – it is a book of great wisdom that is easily communicated.

For who:  I would recommend this book to anyone who does not already have a basic understanding of the bible, and its genres.  I would feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone aged 15 years old, to an adult who simply desires a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, but doesn’t know where to start.

Ranking: 10/10

This book does a very good job at presenting its stated case to its intended audience.  It is a book that any Minister could keep on hand to provide to their flock.

Links:

Purchase the book Here from the publisher

Purchase the book Here from the author, via amazon

Follow the author on Twitter Here

Learn more about the Publisher Here

Never Forget – 9.11.01

Today is September 11, 2015. 14 years ago, a major act of terrorism struck our country, and the whole nation mourned over the tragedy of the lives lost.

I am sure that those of us who are old enough to remember, even if we were very young, are thinking of the fear and disbelief that fell upon us as we kept seeing those horrible repeated scenes on our TVs as we sought an answer to why this was happening.

A lot of us will feel anger and pain when we think back on this time for the years to come. But it is in these times that we must remember something else:

The pain of the terrorism that struck us is experienced throughout the world on a more frequent basis. There are communities and families who fear EVERYDAY of being killed, bombed, or crashed into.

This is not to minimize in any way the pain that we experienced from this event, but it is to say that Anger and Prejudice are worldwide afflictions. Normal people can become so angry towards a particular person, or group of people, that they start creating stereotypes, start dehumanizing them, and they start to see everything they do as inherently evil. Eventually, this hatred can breed evil action.

As Christians, the Gospel calls us to Love others, to forgive others, and to not harbor hate in our hearts towards anyone. Each one of us has the potential to become a hateful and evil person if we let anger take hold of our hearts and vision. Germany was once taken out of poverty by a leader they trusted and admired, and then that leader led the whole nation into evil, prejudice, and racism. Normal people became supporters of an evil reign because of fear, anger, and frustration.

So on this September 11th, as we mourn those lost, as we reflect on where we were 14 years ago, as we are still completely confused how the terrorists could be so angry and hateful against us, let us remember to continually fight against anger and hate in our own lives, and in our communities in which we call home.

Never Forget – September 11, 2001

9.11.15

Passionate Spirituality: A faith that keeps walking

I grew up in a Christian home, went to church every Sunday, attended Sunday school, youth group, and I accepted Christ at a very early age.  For years, it was Enough for me to simply be involved in the church, pray at meals, and wear “W.W.J.D” bracelets.

But over time, it wasn’t enough; it didn’t sustain me.

I started to realize that the faith that I had, though it was genuine, was based more on my upbringing and memorizing bible verses than it was based on my personal wrestling with the questions I had already been told the answers to.

In 11th grade, I started reading the bible for the first time on my own, and I started to pray more throughout my days.  I began to notice a thirst for knowing more about God that wasn’t there before, and I knew that I wanted to continually seek Him.

The story of life includes various seasons that bring both high hills of productivity, determination, and passionate interest, as well as low valleys of depression, doubt, and failure.

Oftentimes, we get so hung up on our imperfections that it stalls our progression of faith.  We think that God will puppet our lives according to how much we pray, how we “feel” about God at the moment, or how much we sin.  In thinking this way, we forget that God has called the imperfect to do his perfect Will since the days of Noah.   In thinking this way, we deny the full power of God’s Grace over our lives, and we assume that a God willing to die for the world won’t love us as much if we mess up just once.

Noah was a man God called to build the Ark, and once the flood waters subsided, Noah settled in with his family, grew a vineyard, and got drunk….Noah wasn’t perfect.  (Genesis 9:20-21 – NRSV)

Abraham was a man named Abram who did not seek God (as best we know) before God called him to be the start of the Nation of Israel.  Abraham did not Trust that God would give him a son through his own wife, so he slept with a servant….Abraham wasn’t perfect. (Genesis 16:1-2 – NRSV)

David was called to be the King of Israel, was described, by God, to be a man after God’s own heart. David committed adultery, and then sent the woman’s husband to the front lines of a battle…David Wasn’t perfect. (2 Samuel 11:2-15 – NRSV)

The Apostle Paul, before he was a believer, would hunt down followers of Jesus and persecute them.  After he became a believer and was called to be an Apostle, he still did something(s) that he did not wish to do…Paul wasn’t perfect. (1 Cor. 15:9, Romans 7:15-20  – NRSV)

So please, can we, myself included, move past the “I’m not good enough” mentality?  God sees us as Men and Women of God – we just have to follow Him.

Passionate Spirituality isn’t about doing all the right things all the time…its about having the desire to move forward, even when your life seems to be telling you to give up.   It is not about having faith that never doubts; but having a faith that seeks to grow from having those doubts.  Passionate Spirituality is a drive to know God more, love God more, love others more…all while going through our hills and valleys of bliss and despair.

So when we go to Church on Sundays, rejoice in knowing that God loves you, and you have the opportunity to join other believers to Worship and Know God more.

When you see your bible at home, do not see it as a scary book that is only for the “good” people, see it as God’s story of redemption.

When you pray at meals, in the morning, at night…Know that God loves you, and calls you to more than yourself – YOU are a part of His plan for the World.

Passionate Spirituality is a lifestyle centered around knowing God more.

If you want to grow more in your faith, but you do not know where to start – email lambtheology@gmail.com and I will see if I can help.  Or comment below!

——————————————————————-

Discussion Questions:

Why do we go to Church?

What do you do in order to grow closer to God?

What book, chapter, or verse in the bible has been the most meaningful in your life? Why?

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…

———————————————————————————————————————-

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…

——————————————————————————————————————–

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

 

A devotional on insecurity hindering potential

On their album, “Continued Silence”, Imagine Dragons produced a song called “Demons”, and the lyrics of the chorus are shown below:

 “When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide” – Imagine Dragons – “Demons”

In the song, the band conveys an honest aspect of humanity: Imperfection.  The “Demons” mentioned in the song are insecurities and past mistakes that make a person vulnerable.   We try to hide the dark parts of ourselves from others, and in some instances this self-censorship becomes a hindrance to our progression as friends, spouses, and even as Christians.  We think we are not “good enough”, so we hold ourselves back.  We think people won’t like us, so we remain silent.

In another song by Jon Foreman called “Equally Skilled”, Foreman laments over his own and humanity’s imperfections, but he ties it up with some ending lines that tell of God’s perfection:

“Both of His hands are equally skilled
At showing me mercy, equally skilled
At loving the loveless, equally skilled
Administering justice, both of His hands, both of His hands” – Jon Foreman – “Equally Skilled”

These two songs communicate humanity’s imperfections, but Foreman’s lyrics give us a hope that at least God has got it right.  Which brings me to the following point:

Humans can be good, or bad.  We can have insecurities and imperfections, BUT in being made in the image of God…we have GREAT potential.  Our “Demons” can hold us back, while God, accepting who we are – including our imperfections, calls us to move forward and to be His Hands on earth.

The early church wasn’t perfect.  The early church was composed of a bunch of new people who needed a lot of direction and correction to keep moving forward together, and to advance the faith.

In Acts 4:22-37, a passage which I wrote about HERE, the early church is spoken of as sharing their possessions so that there was “no needy person among them”.

They weren’t perfect.  They likely worked hard for their money, and were hesitant to share.  But they got past their “demons” of pride and selfishness, and became self-less in order to be God’s caring hands to those around them.

What can YOU do to help your fellow person?

Faith of Our Fathers: Reflecting on the imprint of my Grandfather

As a boy, I remember going to sleep over at “Grandpop’s” house at their old stone house.  During the morning, I would watch some cartoons while Grammy Bauman made me some delicious eggs, and I always got to choose between “Grandpop’s” Yellow American Cheese, or “Grammy’s” White American Cheese.

During the day, I sometimes walked with Grandpop in his garden, and he would show me his attempts at growing brussel sprouts and carrots, and we’d walk through the more tried and true plants like tomatoes and corn – all while he wore his traditional outfit of jean overalls, a white button down shirt, and a straw hat.

In the evening, I’d get tired and go up to the spare bedroom where there was a bed waiting for me, and as I drifted off to sleep, I saw the dim glow of a desk lamp on grandpop’s desk as he read his bible and took notes just a few feet from my bed.

Grandpop was a man of great faith – always reading the bible in the evening, reading other books for Christian study, leading a Sunday school class every Sunday morning, and every day of the week he showed the Love and mercy of Christ to others.  Grandpop was a man who exemplified consistent Christian Character.

He and my Grammy Bauman raised 7 boys together in the Lord, and while I do not know the faith of all of my uncles, the ones that I do know of have a very deep faith, and a faith that keeps wanting to grow. When my father sits down at the dinner table and says his prayer for the family, and for the food, sometimes his voice has a slight tremble as he is speaking to God, and thanking Him for all of his and our family’s blessings.

My Dad is a man after my grandfather’s heart; he will bend over backwards to help people – especially those he loves.  He once drove up to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Canada just to help them out with things to do around their property and house.  During that week, he fell off the top of a large wood pile, and we were all worried about him.  During that week, he also went to an auction, and got me a $400 guitar for $50.00.   When he came home, he got out of the car and I went to hug him, and he said,  “Wait, let me get your guitar”, and I said,  “Dad, I’m just glad you are home safe”.

Today, I sit at my desk in my Church office, writing plans and lessons for the school year to come for my position in Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and I just think, “I wish Grandpop was here so I could talk to him…”.  In November, when I married the woman of my dreams, I really wanted Grandpop to be there; I wanted him to meet this wonderful godly woman that I get to spend the rest of my life with.

There are many times when I just want to talk to Grandpop.  But today marks 7 years since he passed away, and even as I write this, I get teary eyed.  Surviving Grandpop in our immediate family is my Dad who, together with my mom, raised his three boys in the Lord, and each one of us today has a deep love for God, and a deep love for people; just like Grandpop.

The Faith of our Fathers is a blessing.  I cannot express enough how fortunate I am to have received time, instruction, and conversations from my Grandpop.  I miss him so much, but his impression on me is deep and long-lasting.

May God watch over our family and yours, and may God show us the love and mercy that we can pass on to others. Amen. 

11828583_899381735009_2233735867572723754_n

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.

The Sermon On The Mount: Part Seven – Summary

**This post will is the seventh and final post of an exciting series on the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, as translated in the English Standard Version of the Bible.  You can read the passage online by Clicking Here so that you can gain the most value and context for these posts.  Please subscribe to this blog to receive updates on new posts! You can read the whole series in order by Clicking Here**

A Summary of Matthew 5-7

In the last six posts in this series, I have gone section by section through Matthew 5-7, commonly known as, “The Sermon on the Mount”.  In this famous sermon, Jesus covered a lot of topics for Christians to consider, and gave a lot of instruction on how a Christian is Called to Live.

We have learned that Christianity is NOT just saying a prayer and going to church.  Christianity is NOT just about writing sermon notes, reading the bible, or wearing a cross necklace.

Christianity IS About committing to a life centered on Jesus by:

  • Striving to be defined by the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)
  • Being Salt and Light to the World (Matthew 13-16)
  • Fighting our Anger (Matthew 5:21-26)
  • Fighting our Lusts (Matthew 5:27-30)
  • Fighting Against Divorce and Bad Relationships (Matthew 5:31-32)
  • Not taking Oaths (Matthew 5:33-37)
  • Non-Violence and Loving our Enemies (Matthew 5:38-48)
  • Giving to the Needy with a Humble Spirit (Matthew 6:1-4)
  • Seeking God’s Will and Kingdom (Matthew 6:5-13)
  • Forgiving Others (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • Praying and Fasting Humbly (Matthew 6:16-18)
  • Not letting money become a God (Matthew 6:19-24)
  • Trusting God with our lives – whether poor, or whether rich (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • Not Judging others (Matthew 7:1-6)
  • Asking the Lord for Help (Matthew 7:7-11)
  • Treating Others the way we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12-14)

And finally, following Jesus is about having faith in him, and following him with all that we have, so that our actions, words, and thoughts are reflections of His influence on our lives.  (Matthew 7:15-29)

Following Jesus is a high calling that EVERY Christian is called to.

Are we ready to LIVE like Jesus?

Are we ready to APPLY His teachings to our lives?