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We Christians (and I include myself in that group) are too easily offended at times. We are a passionate people given to strong feelings and even stronger opinions. Few in our culture are confused about what matters to us. Frankly, believers are known for what we are against, and the list is long.
Certainly, many of the issues we fight for are significant. However, and let’s be honest, some of the things we get irritated about have nothing to do with Biblical truth and are far more about personal preferences.
For the record, I’m an evangelical, Bible believing pastor and Christian.
I believe the Word is clear about what matters to God.
Mercy and grace
Forgiveness and eternal life
Discord within the Body of Christ
And the list goes on . . .
Without question, there are a lot of things that absolutely matter to God. However, there are many things that matter to some Christians, but not so much to Christ.
The volume of the worship music
When and how often a church should take communion
The appropriate translation of the Bible to be used in a message
Guys wearing hats in church
And again, the list goes on . . .
Rather than get all spun-out over our pet peeves, perhaps we should consider one simple, yet important question: What made Jesus mad?
As Christ-followers, it would seem obvious that what upset Jesus ought to disturb us. If it mattered to Him, it should matter to us. Conversely, if it didn’t seem to matter much to Jesus, perhaps it shouldn’t matter to us.
As a pastor, author, and blogger, on a regular basis I get an email from someone “deeply concerned” about something. The long emails usually have a bite, and they are generally written by a person who is extremely upset (the CAPS and !!!! are a dead give-away).
Yes, being corrected is a good thing when you’re wrong. In fact, I welcome constructive criticism. I never want to be above rebuke because I want to live a life that is above reproach.
Rarely, however, is their “issue” related to a doctrinal concern or Biblical error on my part. Typically, it’s about a matter of style or church practice.
I get it. People have opinions, and that’s fine.
I know that not everybody sees things the way I see them, and that’s to be expected.
What continually amazes me, however, is the mean and vile nature of some who call themselves Christ-followers.
I just listened to a phone message from someone who is, at best, an infrequent attender at our church. She called to complain about something that “really bothers her.” I can deal with the fact that she’s upset. I appreciate that she is attempting to communicate with me.
The problem? She was caustic, rude, and unkind. Not at all like Jesus.
I recently attempted to point out to another parishioner how important it is to be like Jesus when you’re outraged. He blurted out, “Yeah, but Jesus got mad! There’s such a thing as righteous indignation!”
I looked at him, and said as gently as possible, “Yes, Jesus did get infuriated at times, but perhaps it would be a worthwhile endeavor for you to study what actually ticked Jesus off.”
So, what did upset Jesus?
Hardness of heart (Mark 3:1-5)
Selfish ambition (Mark 8:31-38)
Spiritual arrogance (Luke 9:51-55)
Self-centeredness (Matthew 23:10-12)
Hypocrisy and fake religiosity (Luke 11:37-54)
Try as you might, you won’t find any passage in which Jesus got mad at sinners for being sinners. You will, however, find Him very angry with the so-called righteous.
You won’t find Jesus spouting off about Rome or the Emperor. He simply reminded His followers that His kingdom is not of this world.
You won’t see Jesus venting about people wearing hats in the Synagogue (they all did), or about the volume of worship (the Jews tend to like it loud, check this out).
Let’s own it: the stuff that ticks a lot of us off didn’t matter at all to Jesus.
Have your opinions. Be passionate. Express yourself.
But please stop being an angry Christian, unless it’s about something that also made Christ mad.
I love this quote by M.R. DeHaan, “We need not all agree, but if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable in our disagreements.”
What a concept. Rather than disdain, contempt, and scorn for others, let’s do our best, especially with our brothers and sisters, to live in humility, harmony, and peace.
In the words of one of my favorite NEEDTOBREATHE songs: be more heart and less attack.
“Dear brothers and sisters,
I close my letter with these last words:
Be joyful. Grow to maturity.
Encourage each other.
Live in harmony and peace.
Then the God of love and peace
will be with you.”
2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
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As I write this, you are giving your final speech to the American people as our 44th President.
I feel compelled, maybe even driven, to write a few things to you (even though they are words you’ll probably never read). Perhaps, what I have to say is just for me; writing tends to be therapeutic. Maybe it’s for my friends who need to hear what a white, Republican, evangelical Christian pastor has to say.
First, I need to say “thank you” for all of the sacrifices you have made to serve our country. Thank you for facing the unbelievably challenging task of leading this great nation. I lead a fairly large church, and the stress is unbearable at times. I can’t imagine how you ever sleep.
Thank you for staying dedicated to who you are and what you believe. Frankly, I haven’t agreed with you much, but I respect a man who is true to his convictions.
For the record, I voted for you in 2008 (sadly, some of my friends are shocked and looking for the unsubscribe button right now).
I didn’t vote for you because I agreed with all of your political positions. I didn’t vote for you because you were a great orator. I didn’t vote for you just because you were black either (although I’ll explain how that fact did influence my vote).
I voted for you because it was a personal act of repentance for me.
As a child of the 50s, I was raised with “an attitude” toward African Americans. I remember very well attending an all-white school in Abilene, Texas. I remember being told and believing that it was “best for Negro children to go to school together” (implying that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with white kids).
I was eleven years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I remember watching the story on the news and hearing, “It was only a matter of time; he was a trouble-maker who brought this on himself.”
My vote for you was my way of saying that “white privilege” and American racism must stop. I voted for you because I desperately wanted to contribute in some way to what I pray will be a lasting shift in our country.
If the trend continues, by 2045 most of those who are US citizens will have African, Asian, or Latin American ancestors. We will no longer be a white majority nation, and that fact demands a profound change in attitude and action if we are to thrive and survive as one nation, under God.
I know we still have a long way to go, but by voting for you, I was willing to sacrifice my political passions to see a little bit of that change in my lifetime. I am honored to say that I had an extremely small part in helping the first black man become President.
President Obama, I apologize for my brothers and sisters in Christ who spoke about you with so little honor and respect. I’m sorry for the vile things that were said and written by men and women of faith.
We Americans, and we Christians, too often allow our moral compass to become a weapon of hate. We also conveniently ignore the Biblical mandate to show respect and honor to those in leadership, regardless of their politics.
I’m sorry for the way you have been treated by some who profess to love God.
Some of my Christian friends will say, “NO true Christ-follower would ever vote for a man who supports the LGBT agenda and abortion!”
I would humbly remind them that no true Christ-follower can say they love God while maligning, belittling, or hating a leader, a race, or any group of people, no matter how much they disagree with them.
We can disagree, but we should never throw any human under any bus. In doing so, we dishonor our Maker.
Sometimes, sadly, we have made “being right” an excuse for being malicious rather than being gentle, kind, and loving peacemakers.
Forgive us. Forgive me.
I’m not sure how history will recall your presidency in a hundred years. I have no idea how you genuinely feel about the past eight years.
I recognize the ebb and flow of American politics will always be unpredictable and volatile. I’ve been around long enough to know that policies and presidents come and go, and yet my faith in God is still secure.
So I pray tonight that you know there’s an old, white, Jesus-loving, generally Republican preacher who hates some of Obama’s policies, but loves Obama as a man, and honors him as a president.
Because of Him, you are loved,
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I was downtown last week, and to avoid the cold, I went through our local bus transit center on my way to get a cup of hot coffee. Many cities have stations like this, and they often are filled with the poor, the homeless, and lots of street kids.
Apparently, the loitering laws aren’t enforced in a public place designed for people supposedly waiting for a bus.
I’ll be honest; my first thought was, “Wow. This place is just a little bit scary.” On a bench an older guy was sitting by himself and having a conversation—with himself. There was a scraggy-looking woman with a cart full of who-knows-what, and she smelled so bad I choked.
Several rough-looking teens were glued to their cell phones listening to something, and when one of them looked up at me, I could see the hopelessness in his eyes. Another emaciated young woman, probably a meth-addict, stood staring out a window.
That’s when another thought hit me, and this one was far godlier, “I’m pretty sure Jesus would hang out here, a lot, and He wouldn’t be scared or put off by anyone.”
Those I labeled losers, Jesus labeled love.
It’s funny how a change in my perspective brought about a significant change in my attitude. And attitude is one of the most important choices any of us can make.
In an instant I switched from concern for myself to compassion for others. The people in that transit building didn’t change, but I did.
Because I started to see the poor and the disenfranchised there as humans who are profoundly loved by the Father. Interestingly, these were the people Jesus felt the most comfortable with, and the lowly and impoverished always felt accepted by Him.
Of course, I know what the Word says about the poor. I understand our call to be generous, kind, and Christ-like. Good grief, I’ve taught about compassion for the marginalized many times.
But there’s nothing quite like a walk through a bus station, on my way to spend nearly four bucks on a cup of coffee, to force me to a profound realization.
Jesus didn’t just talk about the poor—He talked to them.
Jesus didn’t just teach about love—He loved the unlovely.
Recently, in my new favorite book, People of the Second Chance, I read this quote by the author and monk Thomas Merton, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. What we are asked to do is to love.”
Obviously, I still have a long way to go.
Maybe I should go on a bus.
“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
Although they cannot repay you,
you will be repaid at the
resurrection of the righteous.”
Luke 14:13-14 (NIV)
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It’s day three, and my withdrawal symptoms are raging. Shakes. Irritability. Difficulty focusing. Depression.
If you had told me I was “addicted,” I would have denied it, but apparently I am.
Okay, I’m a bit melodramatic. I’m not depressed, and the shakes are from a lack of coffee. However, it’s surprising to me how difficult my latest act of obedience has become.
I recently felt like God asked me to go without social media or television for 2017. That’s right, a whole year.
What no Facebook? No Twitter? No Instagram? No Madam Secretary or Designated Survivor?
Here’s a bit of the backstory.
I was one of the early Facebook users. I wasn’t, however, using it a lot or using any other social media sites until just before my first book, Epic Grace, got published. My agent and my publisher at Tyndale told me, “You need to set up an author page on Facebook and get on Twitter and maybe Pinterest to promote your book.”
I didn’t even know what Pinterest was (and it took me days to figure it out). I thought Twitter was stupid. But okay, I’ll jump in and do my best. So, I set up the accounts and downloaded all the apps on my smartphone and iPad.
Since then, I’ve posted thousands of pictures, pins, and pithy comments. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing to admit how much time I’ve spent on social media. It was the first and the last thing I did every day, and let’s just say my time on “the throne” also increased exponentially
For decades, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the idiot box (i.e. TV). In the early years of our family, we often chose not to have a television in our home. It seemed counter-productive to a healthy family environment, and we wanted our kids to be avid readers.
Then after a while we’d break down and buy a cheap one, and end up watching it too much until we tossed it again in frustration (or at least stuck it in the closet) after about a year.
For the last ten years or so, with all the kids out of the house and a bit more free time on our hands, my wife and I found it relaxing to watch a few of our favorite programs together each week.
But then a few each week became a couple each night. It was my fault. I’d say, “I’m pretty tired and stressed, let’s just veg-out tonight in front of the TV.”
Back in the dark ages (when I was a kid), most of the TV programs were limited and awfully stupid. Of course, I watched them anyhow, but you can only take so much of Gilligan’s Island or Green Acres.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of choices and many truly entertaining programs flooding the airwaves. Fortunately, I’m married to an action junkie like me, so we’d both get excited about programs like Alias, 24, Burn Notice, or NCIS.
Then NCIS became NCIS Los Angeles, NCIS New Orleans, and NCIS Spokane (still waiting for that one).
Of course, the fact that the Seahawks became fun to watch didn’t help reduce my TV watching either, and man those three hours go by fast.
Then God whispered to my heart a few days ago, “What do you think 2017 would be like for you without any social media or TV?”
“Uh, God, stupid, and boring, plus I’d probably just work 12-hour days instead of 10-hour days!”
The next day, I see this YouTube link about Millennials on Facebook, ironically. One of the things this Brit, Simon Sinek, is talking about is the negative impact of social media on the younger generation and our culture.
Seriously, Sinek, why are you so cynical?
But God was speaking to me again (btw, if He can speak through a donkey, He can speak through anybody, even Simon Sinek).
“Kurt, imagine the relational growth you might experience with your friends and family without TV. Imagine the new things you might learn without all the distractions. Imagine how you might better use your time to write more without social media. Imagine all the books you’ll get to read without all that wasted time.”
And now I’m getting excited!
Just this morning I read something extremely confirming to me by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp.
She wrote, “This is the year to engage silences regularly and retreat to the ‘back side of the wilderness.’ Because when you do not need to be seen or heard—you can see and hear in desperately needed ways. You find your true self when you look for your reflection in the eyes of souls—and not the glare of screens. Break free, break out of ruts, break idols—or they will break you.”
Hmmm . . . you find your true self in your reflection in the eyes of souls—not in the glare of screens. Wow.
So, my so-called experiment in “anti-social” behavior (at least via social media and TV) begins. I’m still using email, I’ll be on my computer writing more, and I need to enlarge my book budget, but I’m pumped to see what 2017 holds for me.
Maybe God has something to say to you about all of this?
Of course, my directive from God is not necessarily yours, but you might want to ask Him what He wants from you this next year.
It could be exciting.
Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who
hear the word of God
and put it into practice.”
Luke 11:28 (NLT)
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