The Racial Millstone

When I write about culture or current events, always in the back of my mind is what the Apostle Paul told the folks in Corinth: “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church…” I understand that as the Body of Christ we do speak prophetically into the world. We also desire justice and to see liberation brought to those who are oppressed. But as followers of Jesus, our understanding of these concepts and the means by which they are achieved differ greatly with the world. And so, when I speak of these things, knowing that those who are “outside” are of a different spirit and mind-set altogether, my conversation is primarily with those who claim to be believers. In other words, I don’t expect unbelievers to behave nor see the world as those who are in fellowship with Jesus. But when I see those who call themselves Christians carnally provoked, divided and at odds with one another I am more often than not moved to speak.

It would seem that American Christians have either forgotten or simply do not believe that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” A war involves strategy, and one of the strategies being employed by the Enemy at this time is to entrap believers in racial conflict. So many American Christians  are being deceived as the Enemy stirs up strife and inundates the media with coverage of racial issues/tensions. His goal is to distract, discourage, and “defile” followers of Jesus by soliciting strong, carnal, emotional responses. He knows how easy it is to push the “pride & anger button.”

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples…. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Racial conflict within the Church is always due to seeing and responding to things according to the basic principles of this world rather than by the Spirit of God. And the strategy of the Enemy is to bring about that kind of response in the believer. Answer honestly, when you watch the news and read the content so abundantly supplied by social-media, how many times have you become irate and thought, “Man, I can’t stand those ___ people.” How often have you as a Christian thought of your brothers and sisters in Christ as one of those ___ people instead of as a member of the Body of Christ? How often do you think of yourself as one of those ___ people instead of as a son or daughter of the living God? This type of mind-set is fleshly, of this world, and contrary to the Kingdom of God.

But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Finally, a word of caution to you who teach and have leadership positions within the Body of Christ. If you are using your affluence to influence others to adopt your carnal mind-set you will receive a more severe judgment. You would do well to remember the warning of the Apostle James, “Dear brothers and sister, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Jesus takes very seriously the way you feed his sheep, the way you molest his bride. Repent and allow God to heal you of the racism within your own heart, and then you will see more effectively how to minister and care for his people.

[Jesus,] you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TV, Seduction, Balaam, and Boiling Frogs

“…Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. (Rev. 2:14)

Lately, my wife and I have been praying more than ever about what we watch on TV. We’ve asked God for the willingness to let him change our viewing habits and for the grace to act once he speaks to our hearts. His response was immediate and there have been casualties! There were series that we had invested a lot of time in  (too much time) that have not made the cut. There has been no real discussion between us about which shows have to go, its been more like we’ll be right in the middle of an episode, and we’ll both just KNOW. The Holy Spirit is cool like that!

As I’ve thought about my relationship with TV, why it even matters, and the possible effects and consequences of our interaction; it was the story of Balaam and Balak that came to mind. For those of you who may not know the story: Balaam was a “prophet for hire” waaaaay back in the day. Balak, the king of Moab, had become afraid that the people of Israel were going to destroy him as they had several other kings. So, Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel and assure his victory. Long story short, Balaam was unable to utter any kind of curse over the Israelites, but what he did do was concoct a brilliant trap by which Balak could undermine Israel by causing them to defeat themselves. Seduction.

There is no doubt in my mind that Television and entertainment as a whole for that matter can be a tool by which the Enemy of our souls seeks to seduce and entrap us. And like never before, we as followers of Jesus need to seriously consider whether or not the TV shows (including the NEWS) we watch are causing and/or contributing to us introducing spiritual stumbling blocks into our own lives. Are the things I am willfully allowing into my heart, mind, and home hindering my walk with God? Is it hurting my family?

I can’t give you a list of shows that “you can’t be Christian and watch at the same time.” That’s something you’re going to have to work out between you and God. But seriously, how much of what’s passing as entertainment today can we embrace before we begin to suffer spiritually?  How desensitized have I already become to the things that grieve the Spirit of God? To what degree am I at ease with the seduction? Remember the anecdote of the boiling frog.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I want to go all the way. And I’ve learned that sometimes, the first step is saying, “Lord, help me to at least be willing to be willing to let you rule over every part of my world.” It’s frightening, but sometimes I wonder if the truth is that I doubt whether or not God can truly be enough to satisfy my soul should he  remove the things by which I am seduced and to which I have become addicted. God forgive me for making you so small!!

 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him…Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

 

 

 

Homeland

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

No, this is not a review of the upcoming season of the Showtime series “Homeland.” I’m sure that Carrie, Quinn, and Saul will continue to strategize, lie, cheat, seduce, and “disappear” the necessary bad guys in order to preserve homeland security. Instead this article is a result of my pondering on the verses displayed above and how they may apply to us 21st century American Christians, many of whom have forgotten just what/where their homeland is. And nowhere is this “lapse of memory” more evident than when it comes to American politics.thCK82J2W1

It doesn’t take too long a visit to the popular social media sights to figure out that many of us have forgotten who/se we are and where we’re going. I think it’s safe to say that a vast number of American Christians no longer see themselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” and have fallen in love with the “American Dream.” Instead of being Christians who happen to be Americans, they tend to see themselves more as Americans who happen to be Christians. Consequently, they eagerly support the political candidate they think will best keep the dream intact, i.e., please no one come and take all my stuff. I honestly do think it’s our “stuff” that we are so earnestly trying to guard, and we have forgotten that “strangers and exiles” are transient, rarely holding on to anything too tightly.

One also has to be saddened by the divisiveness politics reveals among Christians. So called leaders will vehemently endorse or oppose different candidates, their acolytes will rally behind the leader, and carnal arguments play out on Face Book for all the world to see. And it seems that nowadays, racism of all colors, shapes, and sizes figure into the arguments, creating further division and bitterness. I even read an article the other day in which a pastor blamed the “Left Behind” series for paving the way for a Donald Trump presidential candidacy. Now while I don’t subscribe to Tim Lahaye’s eschatological paradigm….REALLY!!!!?????  I could go on, but I think you get my point. Brothers and sisters, all of whom love the Lord, arguing the politics of a homeland that is not even their own.

We know that God works through, in and among the nations of this world. He sets up kingdoms and removes them. And the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that men and women of faith have been used of God to “conquer  kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, made strong out of weakness, become mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight.”But I would submit to you that most of what we see happening when American Christians become political today is a result of a people who have ceased walking by faith, looking for “that city whose builder is God” and have instead embraced the United States as their ultimate homeland. And out of a disposition of fear, they desperately desire a political leader who will shore up their treasured kingdom.

So, what is the answer to dilemma? First, we must remember that as Christians, our true Homeland is a “better country, that is, a heavenly one.” While we are of this world, this nation, we are now first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of heaven. But we are not merely holding on, waiting for Jesus to come snatch us away from all this trouble. No, in Christ we are men and women of faith who know that TRUE FAITH sometimes mean that the people of God have also “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Finally, it is our abiding intimacy with Jesus that ensures our proper understanding of homeland. He who is the author and finisher of our faith, the One who will rule over all the nations of this world, is the overcoming Lord who sits at the right hand of the Father until all his enemies are made into a footstool for his feet. We do not put our trust in political leaders. Nor do we allow nationalism of any kind to separate us from others in the Body of Christ. In fact,  I would say that perhaps it is nationalism itself that we American Christians must lay aside as “a weight and the sin which clings so closely,” hindering our walk with Jesus and his people.

Homeland. Home, the city prepared for us by God himself.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,  and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

 

 

Duck People

            Have we Christians of America forgotten who we are?  Have we become so enamored with our rights and the so called American dream that we have lost sight of the fact that even as our King suffered, we too have been called to suffer for his name’s sake? I think the reaction of many in response to the recent Duck Dynasty incident reveals a common misconception prevalent among us.

            Somehow, we who have given our lives to the One who said, “You are blessed when the world hates you. If they hated me, they will also hate you.” react with anger, disbelief and call for boycotts when persecution for the gospel is encountered. The cry to stand up for our rights drowns out the gentle whisper of the One who opened not his mouth as he was led like a lamb to the slaughter. Those who follow Jesus have been promised that they will encounter mistreatment at the hands of the world even as their Lord did. How is it that we as slaves have elevated ourselves above our Master?

            In the days ahead we spoiled and coddled Christians of the West may indeed face suffering the likes of which we have never known, and we must remember that it is not those who build dynasties and protest our mistreatment who will overcome. No, it is those who by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, who love not their lives even to the point of death who will be victorious. It is the cross, that nasty, despicable emblem of suffering, rejection and death which reveals true glory. While every fiber of our American being demands that we protest and be heard, is this really the way of our King who was denied his rights, reviled, falsely accused, beaten and crucified?

            “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

“The View” on Santa Claus

I was taken captive and tortured today! Maybe I need to explain a little better before Big Brother and/or the other internet monitors get nervous. I needed to have new tires put on my car today, and what should have been routine turned into a three hour debacle with me having to wait at not one, but two different locations. Now Kyle, you may say, while I may see your attempt at humor about being taken captive, that’s not torture. I will have to agree. But being forced to watch (or listen) to “The View” is most definitely TORTURE!!

At one location the ownership had “The View” on in the lobby, and even though I had brought a book with me, I could not help but hear the mistresses of the meaningless and mundane cackle over whether or not Santa Clause is white, black, Latino, man, woman, etc… They spouted off such clever notions such as, “We all see Santa Clause as a reflection of who we are.” and “Children don’t see color when they look at Santa.” and “Maybe we should rethink our vision of Santa Clause so as to allow for various ethnic and gender portrayals.” I’m sure there were other solutions provided regarding the Santa Claus problem, but my having to fight back waves of nausea made me unable to clearly hear them. Amazingly, despite the blood that was shooting out of my eyes, and the nausea that threatened to manifest itself in what would have had to have been a disgusting instance of projectile vomiting, I had a moment of clarity: “These people are actually devoting a segment of their program arguing over the best way to portray someone who does not even exist.” Instead of figuring out the best way to tell a lie, how about just simply admitting that there’s no such person as Santa Claus?!!! What da ya do?

Now, I’m not a bah humbug kind of guy, but in the culture we as American Christians live in, maybe we’re gonna be forced to rethink EVERYTHING. What was once cuddly, cute, and just a little white lie (for the children’s benefit of course) has evolved into a whole other level deception. I know, I know; I’ve lost my mind. Maybe, but consider this. If we lie to the kids about the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, should we wonder why they don’t believe us when we tell them about Jesus?

And oh, by the way, Jesus was not white.