The Brains God Gave You

“My oldest son recently became a teenager and I attended a meeting for youth group parents at my church. The leaders said they’d be tackling a myriad of topics this year, ranging from respecting one’s parents to unpacking the transgender phenomenon permeating our local high schools. A parent asked, “What curriculum are you using?” The leader responded, “The Bible.” We need more of this, please and thank you.”

A really insightful article today at Uncomfortable Grace discussing our need to use the brains God have us when discerning who and what we pledge our allegiance to. In this age of opinions and outrage, we must be careful to not set our minds to autopilot when it comes to deciding where we plant our own flag.

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Rejecting and Reinterpreting

“Oh be careful little eyes what you see… be careful little ears what you hear… be careful little hands what you do… be careful little feet where you go… be careful little mouth what you say… there’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love… so be careful little eyes what you see…” 

Anyone know that song? It’s Sunday school 101, my boys used to love driving and listening to it. They would cover their eyes and ears and mouth as they sang it and yell “be CARE-ful eyes! be CARE-ful ears!”  Oh my stars how I wish we could still practice that little exercise. The song randomly popped into my head this past week and I was humming it for a good few minutes before I stopped to wonder why I was singing a kid song from years ago. I had been reading some quotes on Instagram from Rachel Held Evans new book and they had me all knotted up. The world we live in today allows for such easy sharing and spreading of ideas. This isn’t a book I would ever buy, but thanks to the glory of the internet and enthusiastic book reviewers, little pieces of it found their way to me. I don’t mind when this happens, I think we need to at least examine ideas we disagree with and know why we believe the things we do. I’ve been focused lately on the unchanging Word of God, the unchanging character of God and what that means to us living in a world that is rapidly changing. Anywho… here’s kind of the crux of her new book:

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“Spiritual maturation”… sounds excellent. “Wholeness” also sounds downright lovely. How do we become mature and whole? Her answer is apparently by downright rejecting or reinterpreting certain Biblical stories that no longer suit our cultural sensitivities. Her writings have a distaste and disdain for God’s word and character that make me question why one would even continue to give this Jesus the time of day. I’m all for critical thinking and asking the hard questions, but reinterpreting the Bible to fit your tastes is backwards. Her insistence that God’s word didn’t quite turn out the way it was meant to is blasphemous. I don’t mean to sound like an old curmudgeon, but the beauty of the Bible is that it is pure and true for all mankind, no strings attached. The obsession with divisions and differences has changed all that:

“By that I mean we’re all actually interpreting the Bible in a context. We’re all bringing our backgrounds, our gender, our socioeconomic status or race. We bring all of that to the Bible, so we’re limited in how much we can really learn from it because of that, unless we deliberately and willingly and joyfully hear what other people have to say. Somebody coming from a minority community is going to read the Bible differently than I am. 

So. Many. Buzzwords. It’s a given that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. However, it is not correct to assume that because of those differences we all are limited in what we can “learn” from God’s word. The Bible continually reminds us that we must receive before we learn. We receive Christ as a gift. We receive wisdom and truth through the Word and through the Holy Spirit. These are not intellectual pursuits, but spiritual ones. Learning is fantastic but not until you have first received. The same surrender that is required of a servant is also required of a king. You see, her way of studying God’s Word is doomed from the start. It may be interesting to turn stories on their head and reinterpret them, but this is powerless Christianity. In trying so hard to make the Bible relevant, she’s completely neutered it. If that’s what you’re going for, by all means enjoy the study. I am of the opinion that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.

I picture it as a river in which God is upstream from all of us. His love and truth flow downward to us all. There is no discrimination or altering of any of it. We all get washed with the same truth. It may be cold, but it’s pure. That truth is our starting point. Doing it backwards leads to confusion and obsession over the wrong things. Trying to get pure water from our little downstream inlets just doesn’t work.

This stuff is a hit with those who want to be told it’s ok to be blasé about God’s Word. It’s a fun study, but an utterly feelings-based and humanistic one. It’s the kind of thing I feel like my college-self would have been drawn to. It’s artistic and witty with a touch of intellectualism. Before we fully experience the sufficiency of God’s Word and the joy that comes from it, we are eager to find something new and exciting, but it’s akin to getting blood from a turnip. No amount of human creativity can compare to the power that lies in His word. The idea that we can just enjoy all these poems and letters and stories for the distant writings they are is very scholarly, but they put Jesus on the same level as any other historical figure.

The truth of the Word convicts us of our sin and asks us to sacrifice. It frees us from habitual questioning and doubting and guides us into a place of joy and trust. We don’t check our brain at the door or stop asking questions, we simply start from a place of holiness instead of offense at the scriptures. Books like this are rebellion in its purest and sneakiest form. We aren’t called to sit in judgment of the Bible and decide for ourselves. Sliding down the path of least resistance, consuming whatever is tossed out to us is not a path to victory. Little by little, the repetition of the narrative chisels away at our foundations making us shaky and unsure. Park yourself in God’s Word. All of it. Most of these arguments can be refuted with a basic understanding of scripture. God is not a genocidal maniac and Jesus isn’t a mild-mannered pushover who wants us to be nice.

God’s stories are not harmful nor are they as complicated as they are made out to be. We don’t need to do a large-scale sociological study on them simply because they are offensive to our current ideals.

Our experiences are valid, but we are not to be defined by our sin, no matter how much attention it may get us. Start with God. Begin with Him, and let everything else fall into its proper place. True maturity and wholeness come not by picking apart God’s attributes, but by surrendering our offenses and hurts to the One who came and died for us. Freedom is found by narrowing in more and more on Jesus and His Word, so that we become an arrow pointing straight to Him.

-Leading seekers to an abiding relationship with Jesus? Yes.

-Pointing people back to themselves and wallowing in victimhood? Pass.

-Putting out a slick message that embraces rebellion and waters down the necessity of a Savior? Nope.

-Speaking honestly and sincerely about hurts while trusting God’s Word holds the balm we need to be healed? Absolutely, all day long.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

God is upstream to us. That’s our starting point. Don’t let human interpretations muddy your waters and get in the way of your most sacred relationship.

Be careful little eyes what you see.

Do Your Own Lifting

Been on a longer than anticipated break from writing, all the end of school/beginning of summer shenanagins had me spinning around faster than I’m used to. Wanted to jump back in by sharing a fantastic article by John MacArthur about how we discern, judge (is that a bad word now?), and rightly relate to Gods word. It is easier than ever to see the Bible as a kind of side dish, but we must remember it’s actually supposed to be the “daily bread” that sustains us. Don’t ever let anyone do the work for you… taste and see that He is good, that His words are truth and life to our very bones… we do ourselves such a disservice when we rely on secondhand spirituality.

Here’s some good words from John MacArthur:

“False teachers flourish where there is no scrutiny. That’s why so many of them set up camp in environments where there is little to no biblical discernment—where God’s Word is nothing more than a supplement to personal experience, anecdote, and embellishment.

Why do the heavy lifting of careful Bible study when one can simply “let go” and be drawn into the gravitational pull of a religious guru? Our short attention span and quick-fix culture is easily preyed upon by charismatic sideshows, feel-good philosophy, and the television hucksters of modern pseudo-Christianity.

But we are derelict in our Christian duty if we allow that to happen to us and our churches. When the apostle Paul says to “examine everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), he is calling on all Christians to practice careful biblical discernment in all realms of life.

That may surprise some Christians who see discernment as uniquely a pastoral responsibility. It is certainly true that pastors and elders have an even greater duty to be discerning than the average layperson. Most of the calls to discernment in the New Testament are issued to church leaders (1 Timothy 4:6-7, 13, 16; Titus 1:9). Every elder is required to be skilled in teaching truth and able to refute unsound doctrine.

As a pastor, I am constantly aware of this responsibility. Everything I read, for example, goes through a grid of discrimination in my mind. If you were to look through my library, you would instantly be able to identify which books I have read. The margins are marked. Sometimes you’ll see approving remarks and heavy underlining. Other times you’ll find question marks—or even red lines through the text. I constantly strive to separate truth from error. I read that way, I think that way, and of course I preach that way. My passion is to know the truth and proclaim it with authority. That should be the passion of every elder, because everything we teach affects the hearts and lives of those who hear us. It is an awesome responsibility. Any church leader who does not feel the burden of this duty ought to step down from leadership.

But discernment is not only the duty of pastors and elders. The same careful discernment Paul demanded of pastors and elders is also the duty of every Christian. First Thessalonians 5:21 is written to the entire church: “Examine everything carefully.”

The Greek text is by no means complex. The word “carefully” has been added by the translators to make the sense clear. If we translate the phrase literally, we find it simply says, “Examine everything.” But the idea conveyed by our word carefully is included in the Greek word translated “examine,” dokimazō. This is a familiar word in the New Testament. Elsewhere it is translated “analyze,” “test,” or “prove.” It refers to the process of testing something to reveal its genuineness, such as in the testing of precious metals. Paul is urging believers to scrutinize everything they hear to see that it is genuine, to distinguish between the true and the false, to separate the good from the evil. In other words, he wants them to examine everything critically. He is effectively saying, “Judge everything.”

Typically someone will be quick to push back against that command citing Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” As if that somehow rules out any kind of critical or analytical appraisal of what others believe. Was Jesus forbidding Christians from judging what is taught in His name?

Obviously not. The spiritual discernment Paul calls for is different from the judgmental attitude Jesus forbade. In Matthew 7, Jesus went on to say,

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:2–5)

What Jesus condemned was the hypocritical judgment of those who held others to a higher standard than they themselves were willing to live by. He was certainly not suggesting that all judgment is forbidden. In fact, Jesus indicated that taking a speck out of your brother’s eye is the right thing to do—if you first get the log out of your own eye.

Elsewhere in Scripture, we are forbidden to judge others’ motives or attitudes. We are not able to discern “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). That is a divine prerogative. Only God can judge the heart, because only God can see it (1 Samuel 16:7). He alone knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21). He alone can weigh the motives (Proverbs 16:2). And He alone “will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). That is not our role. “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

What is forbidden is hypocritical judging and judging others’ thoughts and motives. But other forms of judgment are explicitly commanded. Throughout Scripture the people of God are urged to judge between truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil. Jesus said, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say” (1 Corinthians 10:15). Clearly, God requires us to be discriminating when it comes to matters of sound doctrine.

We are also supposed to judge one another with regard to overt acts of sin. Paul wrote, “Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. ‘Remove the wicked man from among yourselves’” (1 Corinthians 5:12–13). That speaks of the same process of discipline outlined by Jesus Himself in Matthew 18:15-20.

At least one other kind of judgment is expressly required of every believer. We must examine and judge our own selves: “If we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). This calls for a careful searching and judging of our own hearts. Paul called for this self-examination every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28). All other righteous forms of judgment depend on this honest self-examination. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “First take the log out of your own eye” (Luke 6:42).

Clearly, then, the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “examine everything,” in no way contradicts the biblical prohibition against being judgmental. The discernment called for here is doctrinal discernment. The conjunction at the beginning of this verse—“but examine everything”—ties it to the “prophecies” mentioned in verse 20. But this command would certainly include any message that claimed to carry divine approval or authority.

The unusually gullible Thessalonians seemed to have a problem in this regard. Like many today, they were eager to believe whatever was preached in the name of Christ. They were undiscriminating. That’s why Paul addresses this continual lack of discernment in both of his Thessalonian epistles. There is evidence in the first epistle, for example, that someone had confused the Thessalonians about the return of Christ. They were going through a time of severe persecution, and apparently some of them thought they had missed the Second Coming. In chapter 3 we learn that Paul had sent Timothy from Athens specifically to strengthen and encourage them in their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2). They were unaccountably confused about why they were being persecuted. Paul had to remind them, “You yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).

Evidently someone had also taught them that believers who died before the Second Coming of Christ would miss that event entirely. They were in serious confusion. Chapters 4–5 contain Paul’s efforts to correct that confusion. He tells them that the dead in Christ will rise and be caught up with the living (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). And he assures them that although that day will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), they need not fear being caught off guard (1 Thessalonians 5:3-6).

Incredibly, shortly after this, Paul had to write a second epistle, again assuring the Thessalonians that they had not missed some great event on the prophetic calendar. Someone, it seems, had sent them a counterfeit epistle claiming to be from Paul and suggesting that the day of the Lord had come already. They should not have been duped by such a ploy because Paul had written so plainly in his first epistle. He wrote them again:

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you be not quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)

There was no excuse for their chronic gullibility.

Why were they so vulnerable to false teaching? Surely it was because they lacked biblical discernment. The Thessalonians did not examine everything in light of God’s Word. If they had, they would not have been so easily hoodwinked. And that is why Paul urged them to “examine everything.”

Article “Judge Everything” from Grace To You ministries

Thieves of Liberty

“Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” TS Eliot

The Information Age. It’s our blessing and our curse. I often joke I was born into the wrong era because I don’t always love everything that comes with technology, but feeding at the buffet of the inter webs is a part of life as we know it now. Whether we realize it or not, our minds are soaking in ideas that change the way we think. Given enough time, these little ideas can change the way we act as well. I’m always struck by those memes that pop up everywhere that sound nice but send off alarms in my head. Sometimes I think I overreact to this stuff, but I fear bad ideas start small and grow into destructive beliefs. Exhibit A:

Ummm… ok. Like, on a silver platter? I think I deserve a Friday off of work once in awhile, but my coworkers might disagree. I know I deserve some help with the towering laundry piles in the living room, but my kids may not agree. You deserve to be (insert happy adjective), you are entitled to (insert benefits). Actually, Biblically speaking, we don’t deserve much. The “universe” can’t serve us up anything. Now, if you want to talk about what we deserved vs. what we got, look to Jesus first. He stepped in to take what we deserved, and we enjoy life and freedom because of it. This idea that things will just shake out because of karma or good intentions is not only dumb, but dangerous. What happens when they don’t? We blame God. All along, He was calling us to Himself, to know His will, His truth, and we looked past Him. We can’t have one hand reached out to Jesus and the other to the vacant “universe” and expect to have clarity. We can’t just absorb things that sound nice without thinking how they shape the way we see God.

Exhibit B:

There’s a lot happening here. Some may read it and have no feeling, some may think it’s a bit quirky. Others have a BS detector that is having a meltdown. I’m not sure what it means to “steward your destiny” exactly, but I do know we are called to be good stewards of “the grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). That means all of Him, truth included. I’m not sure about incubating strategies, but I know better than to have someone tell me when to speak or when to be quiet. This isn’t Biblical. People are preying on our inability (or unwillingness) to seek out answers from the Word for ourselves. When we share Jesus, we point to Him. We don’t point people back to ourselves. When someone starts focusing more on a method than the person of Christ, we need to take heed.

Again…

Please standby… I’ve got to go to lunch and run some errands, but come back to instagram later for this crucial message! I joke, but this is the kind of stuff we scroll past, hit ‘like’ on, say amen to and soak in. Pretty little lies about God creeping into our heads that affect how we think about Him. Read enough of this stuff and you end up with complication where there should be simplicity, and tangled lies where there should be freeing truth.

Paul dealt with this in his letter to the Galatians when he spoke of “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (Galatians 2:4-5)

I’m struck by that phrase, people coming to ‘spy out our liberty’. They are coming to take it away, to put us back in bondage. Whether it’s on purpose or not doesn’t really matter, a false gospel leads us back to chains. Paul tells them of people who are parading around preaching a different gospel, a distorted gospel (Galatians 1:7). He warns that even if it were an “angel from heaven” promoting these things (v. 8) we should dismiss it. That’s the problem. These things present themselves as attractive, relevant, and sensible. They are heavy on human initiative and performance and light on Jesus.

We’re being spoon-fed information on a minute to minute basis, but we’re losing our ability to sort through it. The “universe” is throwing out garbage and we are piling it up like a trash receptacle. Paul prayed that we would have both knowledge and discernment (Philippians1:9) and that we would be able to approve what is worthy of our time and hearts.

It’s almost Christmas, a good time to take a step back perhaps from the noise and recalibrate ourselves. Take a little fast perhaps from the information onslaught and enjoy some simple silence with Jesus. Clear out the cobwebs a bit of the accumulated stuff and make room for the Christ child. Find the life you may have lost in all the “living” these past few weeks. Ask for wisdom instead of information. Don’t allow anyone to come in and spy out your freedom, it’s a precious gift that came at a great price. We owe it to ourselves and each other to not fall for the pretty little lies that surround us at every turn.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy this season, make some time for silence, and enjoy the gift that has been so freely given to us all.

The Feelings Train Has Left The Station

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I love me a good ‘satire-as-truth’ article, so here’s a little bit of reality-based humor from over at the Babylon Bee:

SEATTLE, WA—After reading several chapters from the gospels over the weekend, local progressive believer Wendy Butler reportedly published a Patheos blog post in which she criticized Jesus of Nazareth for “not being very Christlike.”  

The blog post took Jesus to task for His “unloving and problematic” teachings.“He devotes entire sections of His sermons to ranting about archaic religious concepts like hell and the last judgment instead of just coming alongside the marginalized and affirming their sins,” Butler said. “Very little of what He did on earth I would describe as life-giving. Frankly, I do a better job of being Christlike than Christ Himself.”

Zing! Is anyone offended?

Our experiences lead the way when defining how we think about God, its partially true. It isn’t right, but it’s true. How can some have such a reverent outlook while others dismantle Jesus down to nuts and bolts only to put Him back together how they’d like to see Him? To be fair, it plays out on both sides of the fence, the end result being the same, a kind of build-your-own-Jesus that never really resembles the real one.

I’ve known people whose Jesus still lives up on a cross , defeated and sad. They revere Him but know none of His power. Others take a more charismatic view, Jesus is their sandal-wearing buddy, here to serve or comfort in time of need. We conveniently take certain passages from the Good Book and use them to reinforce ‘our Jesus’. Each side has their go-to verses they like to use: “He hung out with sinners!” vs. “He turned over the tables in righteous anger!” and everything in between.

Here’s the rub: we are all human with vastly differing views and experiences. The minute we start trying to form the Word to suit our agenda is the moment we might as well toss in the towel. We have to begin with Jesus. He is our starting place. We don’t need to pull out passages that prove our point, we need to just point to Him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 
We are told in Proverbs that wisdom and knowledge is found when we seek it out like treasure and when we cry out for discernment (2:3-4). We do have the answers, and they actually are kind of a “one size fits all” in the sense that Jesus is who He is. Now, of course He deals with us on a most personal level and it is a beautiful thing, because we are certainly not one size fits all people. He knows our life road map that got us where we are, our quirks, our wounds, the silly stuff we believe that may not be entirely true, He gets it. He just offers us all a clear lifeline out of the muddy waters and into the Living Waters of truth.

There’s a lot of buzz lately in Christian (especially womens) circles about the need to be brave and fierce and true to your ‘tribe’. It’s all about that ‘tribe’. That’s all fantastic, provided your tribe is grounded in the truth of God’s Word. We are meant to support one another, but we are not meant to replace Jesus for someone else. That’s the thing about following the feelings, they aren’t solid and what’s true today may not be six months from now.

There’s a lot of truth to the satire, we decide we know whats best and what Jesus really meant when He said such and such. We tweak it a bit to fit our desires. And it takes off like wildfire into the next thing and the next, and before we know it, Biblical Jesus is a blurry image in the rear view mirror and we are taking off full steam ahead on the feelings train that we have no business driving. When you have voices inside Christianity doubling down on distorting the gospels to fit a hurting culture, you wind up with half the listeners believing a lie and the other half left either in fear of speaking up or disgusted confusion.

“Your Jesus is meeeeaaannn. I don’t like mean. I like tolerance. Jesus loves everyone. It isn’t right to hurt and exclude people the way you do.” 

“Your Jesus is a hippie. The real Jesus stood for truth and justice and would never put up with sin. It isn’t right to be so permissive of outright sin.”

While we’re busy firing off cheap shots at the other camp, that ugly snake slithers away hissing and grinning at having performed his duty to perfection.

When Jen Hatmaker and others came out in support of gay unions as godly and permissive, the church understandably fired back. I read a LOT of the responses and fallout when this happened and I can honestly say the disagreement was for the most part, civil but strong. Her response to it all was to attack the ‘Christian Machine’ that oh so predictably called her out on her claims. There were many heartfelt, well thought out responses to their very heartfelt departure from Biblical teaching. I’m not attacking her, I’m pointing out that when we place our self and feelings at the center of our arguments its a losing battle. When the argument becomes about ‘you’ it’s over. The vast majority of people weren’t attacking her, they were standing up for long-held Biblical truth, which, by the way, we are supposed to do in love. If our response is to shut others down and (like the lovely young lady in the satire article) imply we have the upper hand on compassion that Jesus Himself doesn’t seem to have, well then, prepare for some healthy debate coming your way.

We are all fallible and prone to wander. We all want the latest hot take of how to make this life thing work to our advantage. Most Christians I know of, Hatmaker included, want to mend hurting hearts and bring people to Jesus. Nobody wants to be smacked upside the head with a hard cover King James and told they’re scum. And those who have been pulled from the ledge will tell you they don’t want to be coddled in their sin either. (See Rosaria Butterfield’s beautiful essay on that topic if you want to be encouraged about speaking truth in love).

We are mandated, by Jesus Himself to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) AND honor Christ as Lord, being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; doing it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). So the two dueling-Jesus guys actually do meet up in the middle! They both exist! Let the truth speak for itself. We miss so very much when we try and mold Jesus to be how we want Him to be. Let the entire Word of God be your home base, your safety, your map; the real Jesus will show up in ways you’d never expect.

 

 

sober silence

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“I want to to suggest that, at 41, if you still feel pressure from the culture to say something, then you’re probably not prepared for the hard cultural onslaught that is coming in the next two decades that will bring you to 61.

For sober silence rather than self-indulgent promotion might just get us through the cultural squeeze we are about to face in the coming decades, and reform us in a manner we desperately need.”  Stephen McAlpine

Our pastor at church has begun a series he’s calling “Unselfie: How to Live Selflessly in a Selfie World.” I think it’s one of the most important topics he could possibly address right now, how Jesus calls us to be sacrificial and authentic while culture says we must filter and promote our latest pursuits. We really are up against some powerful messages from the world about how to best present ourselves, and it’s a tidal wave that I think promises to sweep us away completely if we don’t actively fight against it.

The pressure to say something. Anything. If not on the internet, then in real life. Not everything is a battle worth fighting, although knowing the difference is becoming more and more crucial. I tell my kids most of what they watch and hear online is useless information at best that just takes up more space in their heads that was meant for something better. This isn’t a battle that’s easily won.

The other day they were watching a uTube video of a little boy reviewing Kraft Miracle Whip. My first question was, of course, “WHY are you watching this?! Who cares about a six year olds opinion of condiments?” They just thought it was funny. That’s it. They can’t comprehend my hatred for uTube and stupid videos of useless stuff. I can’t quite grasp it either, but it is high on the list these days of things that baffle and perplex me.

I’m pushing forty now and maybe it’s just because I don’t feel like I have the headspace for all the random junk that’s out there. I’m more about quality over quantity these days. I don’t believe in reading every new book that comes out, and there are a lot of them. The messages of the day are self, self and more self. Everything has become really grey, as people whom we trust or who have a platform to influence believers cave to culture while tossing in a bit of Jesus for good measure. In the end it’s about selling feel-good stuff that gives you the readers equivalent of a sugar-rush and then inevitably, a crash.

I think the internet has (wrongly) taught us that the most important thing we can do is put ourselves and our faces out there with our big opinions and clever takes on everything from mayonnaise to Bible reading in order to be seen. The manic need to self-promote over Jesus-promote is such a sign of the times we are in. We are convinced that we need to make some kind of phony platform for ourselves so we can get noticed so we in turn can share some truth.

I think it works in reverse. Each of us already has a platform from which to start discipling right where we are at. It starts at home and in our little circles. It starts when we stop self-promoting and put others ahead of ourselves. It flourishes when we stop fretting about what culture wants us to say and ask Jesus what He wants us to say. There must be times of “sober silence” when that old flesh of ours has to be crucified a bit, because there’s a world out there that needs to hear solid truth. Not “my truth” or “your truth”, but Biblical truth that doesn’t change with the winds of opinion.

That pressure we feel from culture to “say something” doesn’t have to steer us. How amazing if we would all just take some “sober silent” time to see what Jesus would have us say before we run amok with our words. He absolutely wants us to speak up, and when the words are His, they are powerful.

Lord, help us see the difference between self-promotion and promoting YOU. Help us lay down our selfie life and choose to put others ahead of ourselves so that Your kingdom can be promoted here on earth. Give us discernment to know when to keep silent and when to speak up.

Unity at all Costs?

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“You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away, know when to run…”

Thanks Kenny Rodgers, this is some wisdom right here. I’m going to tie it in with some Charles Spurgeon, so bear with me here…

The idea of compromising in order to win people to your cause seems pretty relevant today. Prophets turned promoters, teachers whose sole focus is on loving and embracing everything are pretty mainstream these days. Is God really asking us to unite no matter what and avoid division at all costs?

“If good men were all for union and bad men for division, or vice versa, that would simplify things for us. Or if it could be shown that God always unites and the devil always divides it would be easy to find our way around in this confused and confusing world. But that is not how things are. Light and darkness are incompatible; to try to have both in the same place at once is to try the impossible and end by having neither one nor the other, but dimness rather, and obscurity.

Truth is slain to provide a feast to celebrate the marriage of heaven and hell, and all to support a concept of unity which has no basis in the Word of God. When confused sheep start over a cliff the individual sheep can save himself only by separating from the flock. Perfect unity at such a time can only mean total destruction for all. Power lies in the union of things similar and the division of things dissimilar. Maybe what we need today is not more union but some wise and courageous division.” Charles Spurgeon

Unity at any and all costs isn’t Biblical. Unity amongst believers isn’t the same as unity with the world. We are many times warned against it:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

In John 17, Jesus is praying for His disciples and repeatedly acknowledges that “they are in the world” (v.11) but “they are not of the world” just as He is not (v.16) It’s a popular Christian saying, I think there’s even a popular song about being “in it not of it…”. But Jesus follows up this distinction with something pretty important: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (v. 15) He continues by saying that He has actually SENT us INTO the world (v.18).

So we are in the world, but we do not really belong to the world. The danger isn’t our existing here, it’s that we are living side by side with evil. His prayer for us is not that we be plucked out of the world, but that we be kept from the evil one. How is that accomplished?  Discernment.

Spurgeon reminds us that light and darkness cannot “coexist”. We are inhabitants of this world but we are never once asked to conform to it or compromise with it. We are sent to speak the truth in love, but that truth cannot be compromised to please the masses. Promoters are all about publicity,  popularity and pleasing the masses. Disciples bring the truth, regardless of circumstances or how it may be received.

The concept of “shaking the dust off your feet” is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 10 as a way to deal with those who reject the message. It’s ok to fold ’em and walk away. In 1 Timothy we are warned to withdraw ourselves from men who suppose that “godliness is a mans of gain” (v.5). 

If we want to avoid being an offense to the world, we are in the wrong business. The gospel is more often like a surgeons knife than a band-aid. It’s often bitter before it’s sweet. It cuts to the soul and calls all the darkness inside us out to the light. If we cling to His truth and know when to walk away from what is not of Him, we find our sweet spot. Not all unity is blessed – and not all division is bad. Truth makes us grow, while compromise kills.

Lets see what can happen when we let God show us what to hold and what to fold.