Thursday, August 24, 2006

Faith and Powerlessness

Powerlessness is met by faith like two sides of the same coin. If we truly understand our powerlessness and if we understand faith, we are almost certainly off to a great start. But if we understand our powerlessness and have a false understanding of faith, we are of no use to the Lord. The question then is what is biblical faith.

These verses in the Sermon on the Mount are our guide in answering this question. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the powerless, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
When the Messiah preached, our Lord and our God He preached “the kingdom of God is within your reach, repent and believe the Gospel”. If we believe in an ever increasing experience of the kingdom of God in our daily life and we have faith that God will do for us exceedingly abundantly beyond anything we could ask or think as we place our faith in the Messiah and His work in for us, in us and through us, then we are beginning to have faith.

Static or Dynamic Faith
The bible teaches that the father of faith is Abraham. Abraham through faith left Ur and began a journey to the promised land. Abraham believed God and therefore in hope against all reasonable hope traveled from His home land to the promised land. He was promised a nation, a city in which righteousness dwells, a city whose architect and builder is God. So too we believe in a promised land but the difference is that the saints of the Old covenant did not receive but we believe for better things for us.

In my case, I am for ever aware of my compulsiveness and weakness, faith says, “If I follow the spiritual direction of Jesus Christ as taught in the Sermon on the Mount then I will find a day by day victory”. No regrets. No thirsting for a future that never comes but instead a day by day righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

We have often been taught that faith is belief in a creed or a series of immutable truths. Jesus is God; Jesus died for sins; God is all powerful all loving creator. All these things are true but they are not biblical faith. Faith in the Gospel is that I through faith in Jesus Christ can enter the kingdom today. Today is the day of salvation. This is not a faith in immutable truths but faith in change in our lives today. Change. Faith is faith for change. Radical complete change. Change from worldly passions to holy affections. Faith to go from materialism to generosity, from resentments and gossip to love and forgiveness. Faith to become fruitful for God. No matter how difficult or impossible it seems faith meets our powerlessness.

Therefore, faith if we hear the Gospel promises of power from God, is the answer that only the powerless can really have faith for. I am a hopeless cause. But in hope against hope, I place my faith in Christ for immediate deliverance. As I meet this powerlessness with a look to Jesus, I immediately am in His power and His presence.
This is the first great lesson: Powerlessness and faith. The greater the understanding of our powerlessness the greater prepared we are for power. The powerless the hopeless cases have no options. It is precisely our folly that becomes are greatest asset. If it wasn’t for the fact that my addictions have defeated me so absolutely, I wouldn’t really be so absolutely without any choice but to place faith in the Messiah and to reach out and say I will follow. Whatever direction you give, I believe. Here is f

Monday, August 21, 2006

Are All Sinners Addicts?

In “recovery”, men and women live one day at a time moment by moment in spiritual program so that they do not fall into their addiction and possibly or likely destroy their lives. But for us normies, our sin is not so bad or is it? My addiction is intellectual pride. It happens when I open my mouth. Using solves their problem. An addict is not a person who when they use they can’t stop and they ruin their lives. An alcoholic is not a person who can’t handle their liquor. An alcoholic is a person who can’t handle sobriety so they solve the problem in their head with drugs or alcohol or both. An addict is a person who is all messed up when they are sober and the only solution to their sobriety problem is to drink or use. The solution is to have a new state of being when you are sober that you can live with without having to use.

Man….I am exactly the same. Only my problem is much worse. I cannot live without talking. Talking is my whole gig. If I stop talking, I will completely cease to exist. I would be like the whole in the donut. Without being the man who talks or has the next answer to whatever the problem is then I wouldn’t be.

Hello, my name is brad and I am a talk-aholic.
I think if I try to not talk I would explode. It is hard for me to even imagine a life without talking or better giving answers. I quess I am brad and I am a “I got the answer-aholic”. I am a solution-aholic. The problem of my damning addiction is that it is worst when I am not talking. Talking solves my problem. I am exactly like the user who has a problem when they are sober and the drug or alcohol solves the problem and relieves the tension. The problem is the tension and the inability to stop. Then, when they get on a tear the results are a trail of damage. For me the problem is very similar though admittedly more subtle. Let it be said I can talk anyone under the table. When I am finished talking after a binge of words, I feel regret because I know I just defined the dynamic of the social interaction around myself. I just somehow became the center of the drama that I manage by talking. I just quenched the Spirit.

Let it be said I can talk anyone under the table. I like a real hopeless case start getting drunk with ideas first thing in the morning. And sometimes I am drunk all day. This is a totally life controlling problem. I am a hopeless “give the answer talk-aholic”. Brad’s drunk with words again. When this happens, people basically start to say stuff like, “Ah, we gotta go. I think I need to feed the fish”. When you are called to make disciples and teach people by example, my addiction totally undermines God’s plan for my life. Often when on the streets talking to addicts we say the same thing to them. Do you think this is God’s plan for your life? On further reflection I realize, that is the pot calling the kettle black. My addiction completely undermines God’s plan for my life. I realize this seems a little humorous but the reality is I am totally serious.

So what do I need to do if I am going to enter the full inheritance of the kingdom of God in my life? First, I need to realize I am powerless and that my life has become unmanageable. That is my story. My entire approach to life and my whole gig needs to be tossed. My whole approach to life has led to dawn to dust and late night self-centered intellectual pride. Unmanageable!!! I have tried to manage this problem before. I tried quitting on my own. I tried church and accountable relationships. Nothing worked. Now, I pretty much have resigned myself to a long painful talk-aholic death. I am powerless. My only possible solution is to find a power outside myself, a Savior, to give me a miracle.

The second thing I need to do is find someone who has been cured from this miserable disease I have and take a little spiritual direction from someone who has been down this road.

Also, I need two meetings a day. I am willing to go to any length to beat this addiction, one day at a time, so that I might be of some use to God and that I might show some other intellectually proud person how to beat this beast.

So if you know anybody else that suffers from this problem of a lack of control of the tongue or any other similar problem and they are sick and tired of being sick and tired then send ‘em our way because I think we found a solution.

Also, I got a friend who is money counter …but he found help too. Can you believe that even a money counter can get recovery. One day at a time. It works if you work it.


Friday, August 18, 2006

An Eternal Perspective

An Analogy
Imagine for a second that you are a day laborer and you just got hired to work at a big company. The boss says to you, “Today is the most important day of your working life. I have a challenge for you. If you work well this one shift, I will give you a career and a 20 dollar an hour raise. I will guarantee you a job for life and a career if you only work diligently and wisely this one shift.” If we were a young man with responsibilities trying and struggling to provide for our family and we were given such an offer, we would work hard. We would concentrate and work through our break. One hard day of work for a lifetime of security and provision for our loved ones.

Then the boss says, “ The key to yourself is that you have to ask questions. I know the answer to how you can be successful and I will help you be successful. The one who is successful is the one who asks questions. I built these machines you are responsible for running. I can teach you the best way to run these machines. If you ask me and work diligently and wisely and take my council, I guarantee success.” If this advise was given us, we would ask questions. How do I make the machine run smoothly? We would ask questions and get help from this brilliant benevolent owner engineer. And if we do, we are guaranteed success.

Our Life
Our lives are just like this analogy. Our lifetimes are but a brief moment compared to eternity. Our lives are like a shift of work followed by a lifetime of bliss when we compare our lives to eternity. How much more ought we to work wisely and diligently? How much ought we to work through our breaks and ask the Master to send us a helper? How much ought we to prayerfully seek wisdom from God who guarantees to send us wisdom that we might succeed in this endeavor called the expansion of the kingdom? Our lives are like a vapor here today and gone tomorrow when compared to the weight of glory that we shall receive at His returning. If instead we take extensions on our breaks and are too proud and foolish to ask the owner of our lives how we ought to live and to listen and obey, we are the most lazy and foolish. So I encourage you. Work today while it is still today that we may enjoy the pleasures of eternity forever in the presence of our Lord.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Is the Christian Cause Being Divided By Politics - Part 1

When I first started blogging, and as a pastor, I refused to speak on issues of politics. Recently, I have decided to begin to speak on politics not because I feel the arena of politics provides a solution to any essential problem facing our society or the church but because I am convinced that politics is not the place for Christians to attempt to reform society.
The twentieth century has taught us a few key lessons. The first is that the state is not the solution and that those who seek to use the state to better society on the left or the right cause great harm. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve the cause of the gospel and seek to simultaneously legislate, using carnal power, Christian virtue.
The family will not be served by legislation. Marriage will not be saved by laws. Such a faith in the power of legislation and laws to make or save society is in direct opposition to the our glorious Faith in the power of the Gospel of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
But recently just such a effort has been made in the name of Christ to better society or save institutions like the family through the state. Christians have been rallied to hold certain political positions as their Christian duty. Such efforts serve only to encumber the gospel with politics and to divert the Christian from his or her true duty to make disciples of our neighbors.
Many Christian walk their precincts for political candidates but few walk their neighborhoods for their Lord. This method is anathema to our mission as Christians. Many of us use the excuse that because we are not pastors or officials of the church that our “gifting” or life mission might be in the realm of politics. This is a subtle lie that can lead to great harm. It is a great danger when we attempt to live out our Christian mission, to bring the kingdom of God to people, through politics. Our hearts long for solution to the real problems of our nation and to look to politics to bring such solutions to what is ultimately a kingdom endeavor is dangerous even when pursued slightly.
The Real Problem
The real problem that Christians rightly agree upon is that our society is filled with unrighteousness and ungodliness. As Christians, we are grieved by the selfishness, the idolatry of celebrity, the greed, the violence and the sexual promiscuity all around us. We see before us the loss of our religious and in some instances Godly heritage that was the moral cohesiveness that held our society together and made our nation prosper. As Christians, we can be in unity as to the problem. The foundational moral values of our society are deteriorating. Let’s agree on this as the problem that we all get passionate about in one way or another. God is grieved and so, as worshippers, are we. The question that confronts us is not what is the problem but what is the solution
Law or Gospel
The gospel is the faith that by grace alone through faith alone is any spiritual good accomplished. Jesus Christ is the Lord of all areas of life and a people’s sexuality, their tongues, their emotions, their thought life, and their economics are all sanctified by grace through faith. If we instead seek to save the sexuality of our nation through law, we have turned to another Gospel, which is not a gospel at all. Do not be deceived. Look at the world around you. Be grieved by all you see and say to yourself, I will trust in the Lord. I will not turn to the carnal means of law to replace my own disobedience with respect to placing my faith in the gospel and acting upon this faith. I will trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the hearts of people. Some trust in horses and some trust in chariots, but we will trust in the name of the Lord. Political power is not our savior nor the savior of our nation.
There is only one reason our nation is deteriorating and that is because of the lack of obedience of the church to fulfill its mission to make disciples in the name of the Lord, to baptize them and to teach them everything Jesus Christ taught His disciples. Law cannot accomplish righteousness nor can anything beautiful come from law. Those who seek to divert the church from our true duty and turn our attention toward legislation must be opposed. This is not a both/and alternative. Some have said to the church, “This legislation is vital to the survival of such and such institution. Call your congressman”. I stand to differ. In the name of the Lord, I stand to differ. Your congressman cannot legislate our vision of a more religious and more Godly nation.
This does not mean that there is not a limited role for government. Government exists to protect the rights of all to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Government is instituted to punish those who threaten the safety and freedom of the citizens. Government exists to protect the rights of minorities who might encounter a loss of freedom due to some arbitrary characteristic like skin color or religious creed. We as Christians support freedom for all. But we must not turn our grief over the sinfulness of our society to legislate how individuals pursue their happiness. It is the gospel that we use to build righteousness in the actual arenas of life.
I have avoided speaking on politics because I ardently believe that politics is a false hope and a false gospel. But now as our society becomes polarized over the role of religion in politics it is time for those who put their faith in the Lord to side with grace over law, the gospel over politics, and the church as the means of social transformation and not the state.
May this message free us from the temptation to attempt through law to legislate our passions for a city set on a hill. May we instead turn to the gospel and fulfill our true Christian duty to use the foolishness of the Gospel preached to save both our neighbor and our nation.
God Bless, brad

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What is Meant by the New Monastic – Part 1

I have a saying that goes like this: “Christianity is learned more like gymnastics than geometry”. Gymnastics is a set of skills learned progressively with a mentor and on a team. It is both the interaction between the daily routine of practice, the interaction of the team and the leadership of the coach that determines the culture and the success of the program. This is exactly how Christianity works when it works.

The big difference is that the skills that a Christian is learning are spiritual skills which are quite difficult at times for people to explain and comprehend. A spiritual skill is a skill in how to interact with God through the Holy Spirit. Meekness for example is not a skill that can be practiced in the flesh. Meekness is not merely to cease fighting but Gospel meekness is to cease fighting because we are consciously aware that God is fighting for us. This type of meekness is allowing all our desires to be mediated by God. Gospel meekness is giving the fight to God and accepting whatever He wills. This giving to God and resting is a spiritual skill.

Why Monastic
The learning of this skill is not done alone. We learn it as individuals but we cannot learn such skills apart from the support of a coach and a team. Consider how difficult it would be to learn gymnastics without a coach and without a team. Is it even possible to learn a back handspring without a coach? As a learner how would I know the anatomy of a back handspring? Do I jump more up or out? How limber do I need to be before I even begin to try a back hand spring? Without a coach a student can not proceed. It is really impossible. How much more difficult is learning the secrets of the spiritual life. This is the essence of monastic life. Monastic is learning skills together. Monastic life is the community dynamic of learning skills daily, one day at a time. I define Monastic as a community which develops a daily routine through which they learn together the spiritual life of discipleship and mission.

Franciscan Model.
I personally look to the Franciscan model because the Franciscan focuses on both discipleship, the learning of skills to grow character, with mission skills, the skills of proclaiming the kingdom to the world around us.

In our Small Group we are learning both discipleship and mission together. We ask ourselves questions like: What does being aware of our powerlessness look like in prayer? What does it look like at work? How does a parent with an abiding sense of powerlessness parent their children differently that a more self sufficient parent? These questions are not easy to answer. We know powerlessness is a key spiritual principles for Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount by saying “blessed are the poor in spirit” but what does this look like in every area of life. What does it look like to live in powerlessness as missionaries in our neighborhoods? How do we keep this awareness on a daily basis? How do we encourage each other?

Daily Discipleship Discussion and Accountability
In order to have discipleship relationships, we must accept that we are to give spiritual direction to one another. None of us are leaders over another for Jesus says, “call no one on earth your leader” but we are required to encourage and correct and give direction to each other mutually. If we give direction, we need to follow-up daily. We would do this with our employees at work. So we call each other and help each other maintain the disciple of reflecting on our Lord’s teachings.
“In what areas are you trying to learn powerlessness?”
“Oh, in my parenting of my teenager. I need to pray and trust God and allow Him to be in the midst of our relating if I am to avoid exasperating my child.”
Daily we need to follow-up the assignments we give each other. We encourage one another in learning the ways of our Lord. This is what is meant by the new monastic.

God Bless,
; ;

Sunday, August 13, 2006

On the Shoulders of Giants: Sensitive talk

On the Shoulders of Giants: Sensitive talk. David BC Tan, of Malasia, blogs on the possible rise of Islamic Fundamentalism in Malasia. Here is the power of the new democratic media of bloging in action. Peace.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Matisyahu has it Easy - Heritage in a Time of Reformation

See 21st Century Reformation Matisyahu Concert Review Here

As many of you know, I took my son and some friends to see Matisyahu on Aug 9th. The next day after contemplating Matisyahu’s message I was struck by our own lack of heritage. Matisyahu is a Hassidic Jewish reggae musician with a very clear and concise message. His music is a proclamation to his Jewish brothers and sister to return to the fold. The message goes something like this. “I went out into the world. I got lost and was empty and troubled, but God is faithful. He sought me and found me and now I have come to realize that leaving our heritage is not the right path. I tried the world but God is good. He will lead us through the wilderness. He will see us through and exalt us one day. We are like the wanderers in Exodus. We need to stick it out and stay faithful and God will be our help and our redeemer. Return to your heritage”.

When I think of doing evangelistic work to the world around us, we do not have the luxury of calling people back to the faith of the fathers. For the world around us has no heritage. Also, when I think of my own children, what are the deep roots that they can turn to and embrace? Have we too forsaken our roots and our heritage?

Many people and families in the house church movement have left the heritage of their father’s and have found it necessary to leave the church in order to find healing from Jesus. This leaving comes with a great cost. What now is our heritage and our roots? What is the story of our people? Are we now a people without history? This of course is not true. We are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of the expansion of the kingdom throughout the centuries. But we need concrete heritage. We need some place to return to to connect with our roots. When these roots have four walls and a foundation, this has sacramental and concrete meaning for us as people. But when we live with little covenant commitment that can withstand generations and when we are a transient people, moving from state to state, then we lose any reality to our heritage.

We have only two choices?
We either go back to a people with heritage like the heritage of our father’s or we covenant with one another to build a people that have staying power beyond our own lifetimes. It is foolish and shallow to forsake the idea of heritage. To have no heritage is to have no story and to have no story is to have no identity and to have no identity is to have no community.

The answer is that we must dive into building a new move people which has connection to the kingdom story and has a personal story and history or we return to the established communities of faith around us. To simply sit as a people without a heritage without a place called home is to be the choose an option that is ultimately individualistic and altogether contrary to our most core value of Morally Beautiful Covenantal Community.
God Bless,

Friday, August 11, 2006

Concert Review - Matisyahu Live at the Greek in Los Angeles – August 9th, 2006

From the opening bass and drum version of RastaMan Chant
I hear the words of the higher man say
Babylon your throne gone down…
One bright morning when my work is done
I go fly away home
I say fly away home to Zion

to the closing lines of King Without a Crown, Matisyahu is faithful to the cause. That cause is the cause of encouraging his listeners to stay on the narrow road of spiritual hope for the coming promised land.

Overall Impressions
I would like to give some overall impressions and some conclusions before I go through the set song by song. First, the band is fantastic. Drummer Johan David is simply top notch. He is very hard hitting and very precise. Together with Josh Werner on bass and Aaron Dugan on guitar, I think Matisyahu has a lot to be thankful for. The long term viability of Matisyahu as more than a pop star lies precisely in the musicianship of his band and Matisyahu’s ability to convey a spiritual message that resonates with people of faith. After seeing Matisyahu live I think it is possible that he and his band are further along than U2 was after two albums. I make this comparison in the hope that Matis and Co. can stay faithful to the message and take their own message to heart and keep on pressing toward the goal of the upward call. If they do, I believe we might see Matisyahu become a truly inspirational music in the vein of U2 or dare I say …no I don’t dare say it.

The Set
Overall, the first half of the show was better than the second. The first half was composed of a series of songs that thematically built upon the theme of the journey of the spiritual people in a land of illusion toward the promised land or holiness and reconciliation with God the Father.

The First Half of the Set
After Rasta Man Chant Matisyahu went into This is Your Song. From the start it is clear that the band likes to push the tempo a bit, and the grooves do sound a little too rock for such a groovy style of music. The music is more groovy when the music goes into the more sparse dub style. At the faster tempos, the swing in the lyrics is lost and it feels like Matisyahu has to rush the lyric to fit it all in. Nonetheless, the crowd was with the lyric every step of the way as was evident in “Fire of Heaven / Alter of Earth”. When the bridge came around the sold out crowd could be heard above the music.
Fires burning Flames are dancing Don't burn the house down, lo
Heavenly fire only resides On an altar made from the ground
The crowd most certainly is a key player in the overall mode of the evening. This is not your normal reggae or rap crowd. The crowd is brought to its height of participation and enthusiasm not when the music starts jumping but when the lyrics resonant with the Jewish experience.

Matisyahu and the band need to be confident in their real message because it is the praise and the encouragement that moves the crowd. As the set started to gather steam so did the clarity and momentum of the message. From where I am at spiritually it was this portion of the show that reveals the message of what can make Matisyahu more than just a rapper or a pop star.
Chop ‘em Down

Here was the meat of the show.
Chop ‘em Down tells the story of the journey of the people of Israel from Joseph to Moses and makes an analogy for today. The modern world is the new wilderness and the new Egypt and as the song saws,
Its from the forest itself comes the handle for the ax.
Chop ‘em down chop ‘em down.
Such lyrics are calling the people to keep up the fight and sustain day by day the progress through the wilderness into the promised land. Don’t turn back. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t turn your back on your heritage and become like the secular world but keep the hope alive. God is faithful. We shall be “re-united like the days of our youth”. (from Warrior)
Next came Exaltation with its very straight ahead praise
This was then followed by Indestructible which though a so so song on Youth was, I believe, the best song of the show.
Matisyahu sang the last verse a few times through. A picture of the hero’s of the faith from Daniel to David.
Release me from their schemes
My distress you will relieve
Shield me on the path that's dark and slippery
They seek deception and futility I stand with integrity
Sneak to the roof of that building
Don't want nobody here to see me
To say that I'm living in a fantasy
But I believe in find and keep
And I plead in sincerity
Wont you utterly remove the cloud hangin over me
Wont cha wave that decree in the shade of your wings
Shelter me from the wicked who have plundered me
From my mortal enemies wont cha shield me

The Second Half
The second half of the show had a string of forgettable jams and a, share the stage rap, with some body whose name I didn’t catch. This part of the show would have been perfect for Aish Tamid and What I’m Fighting For but no such luck…

Tto get the crowd back, the set turned to Youth. This version of Youth was noticeably light and joyful as opposed to the more aggressive and forceful album version. By this time, Matisyahu seemed a bit tired. Maturity will bring Matisyahu the confidence that intimacy or intensity are needed to really move a crowd the size of the Greek Theatre.

After Youth came a less than perfect version of Jerusalem. Placing Jerusalem here at the end of the set is a perfect fit, but the beauty of the rhythm and the lyrics was undermined by another rushed tempo. Again, I think Matisyahu needs to learn that his strength is not in making a song rock but in the inspiration of his syncopated vocal rhythms and the passionately felt and delivered lyrics. In many instances, rushing the tempo undermined the beauty and the groove and certainly did with this my personal favorite Matisyahu song.

After Jerusalem, Matisyahu attempted a beat box that lasted about 30 seconds. It appeared that he was just too tired to pull a full beat box off. So after this low light, the set ended.

The crowd brought Matisyahu and the band back out for a wonderful encore of “Lord lift me Up” and “King without a Crown”. As an intro to "Lord Lift me Up”, Matisyahu began with a blessing and some soulful chanting. Again, he needs to find his home in this aspect of the music. The chants are great. The dub plus chant plus freestyle prayers definitely work. It is when he is more spiritual and more traditional that the beauty of the music and the message shines. “King Without a Crown” was of course fantastic and awe inspiring but not quite as tight and inspiring as the ‘Live at Stubb’s” version.

Overall, I loved the show but wished that Matisyahu fully embraced his "yearning of a prophet" message of encouragement and prayer that is at the heart of his music. I plan on attending every show he gives for many years to come. The question still remains as to if indeed this new voice of inspiration finds the full manifestation of his calling to encourage people of faith to seek the promised land.

God Bless, brad

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Christian in Politics - Love Your Adversary

This is my second post on the topic of how does a Christian express Moral distinction in the arena of politics. My first post contemplated the foundational Christian virtue of meekness. Meekness is vital in the life of the Christian and must express itself in the arena of politics as well as any other if we are to say that “Jesus is Lord of all”. By meekness I expressed that meekness does not necessitate a particular policy like pacifism but is a tempering virtue that limits the tactics a Christian can use as he stewards the awesome responsibility of wielding governmental power. A meek person’s worldview is permeated by the knowledge that God is sovereign and therefore the meek person does not find it necessary nor expedient in the long run to practice such tactics as gerrymandering or other manipulations of the rules which give an undue advantage to one party over another. Because we believe that God is sovereign, we can follow our principles even when it appears to be our undoing. Such an approach to the practical life of politics seems unrealistic to some but is not following Jesus a high risk act of faith.

In this post, I would like to consider another central tenet of the teaching of Jesus, love. Jesus Christ demands that Christians love their enemies. We are to bless them and not curse them. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is only lip service if we as Christians rationalize this cornerstone commandment if we state that such love and blessing does not apply in the realm of politics.
Jesus decreed in the Sermon on the Mount that to follow Him we must,
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

The realm of politics is filled with adversarial relationships in which this decree of Christ directly applies. How do we speak regarding our adversaries? Often, in the most zealous Christian circles including talk radio hosts, pundits who claim the name of Christ, talk of their adversaries as being, “idiots”, “dumb”, or “stupid”. I realize that this is all “good” fun but we must remember that Jesus said “woe to those who break even the least of these commands and teach others to do likewise”. Jesus said, “You have heard it said ‘Do not murder’ but I say that if you are angry of call your brother (and your adversary) “knuckle head” or “idiot” then you are in danger of hellfire." Oh, what a fire is set ablaze by our loveless speech in the realm of politics. Does not our even light-hearted speech betray a far deeper spiritual problem?

I can give numerous examples of how we show a lack of love toward our enemies in the realm of politics. We all remember the muckraking of the 2004 election. The right and some Christians were relentless in quoting Kerry’s, “I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it”. My friends, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Do we not all misspeak? Instead of having grace with his mistake, Kerry was depicted as a man without convictions and a flip-flopper. This method of doing politics is nothing short of demonizing the enemy. Such a practice is diametrically opposed to the commands of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do we have a partisan double standard in this regard? One side ridicules the other side’s mistakes and then complains when they are ridiculed themselves. When our adversary makes a mistake, we smell blood and take advantage and post it all over the airwaves and the internet. This type of attitude is not the Spirit of Jesus Christ and is a direct violation of the decrees of God. Of course the temptation to take advantage and to ridicule is pervasive and considered “fair game” but do not we as Christians follow a Holy God? We are to be morally distinct. Such a standard takes purity of heart and a strong desire to serve our Lord in holiness and love. Does it represent a heart of love and understanding when the right is painted as heartless and “fascist”? Does it display a heart of love and understanding when the left is depicted as Godless and immoral? No, instead it reveals an attitude which demonizes and judges our adversary and such a heart is contrary to the liberating power of the gospel.

The entire process of seeking to uncover mud on the other side and rejoicing in the discovery of a possible lapse of judgment by our adversaries betrays a lack of understanding of the ways of Christ. Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth”;

Jesus adds to this the command to love our enemies. Such a discipline of love needs to become the defining characteristic of the Christian in the realm of politics. Does not the principle of Jesus still stand to “Do unto others as you would have done to you”. Do we enjoy it when a mistake from our past is brought to the surface and we are ridiculed as a result of it? We can all think of instances on both sides of the aisle where these principles are violated. As individual Christians and as a community, whether red of blue, we need to take responsibility for our side of the street. In so doing we will regardless of our policies adorn the Gospel with grace.

God Bless, brad

; ; ;

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why I Don’t Believe in the Faith Based Initiative

Last night, a few fellow missionaries and I were on our rounds seeking men and women of peace who might be interested in a new quality of life in light of the fact that the Messiah has come and the kingdom of heaven is within reach through faith and repentance. So, we went to a place called Jurassic park in Bellflower. Jurassic park is a dope fiend dive beside the 91 freeway where crack heads and speed freaks sing the blues and missionaries go to find the poor in spirit.

Well, we were talking to some young men, and one young man was very receptive. He had spent most of his adult life in prisons for various dope related crimes and had, a few years back, been through a spiritual program. About a year ago, he tried to solve a problem the easy way and has been putting a pipe to his mouth and a bottle in a bag ever since. This man said he thinks he needs a highly structured program to help him out. He appears to have a Pentecostal background and is open to following Jesus.

Here is how this relates to government funding. What this man needs and wants is exactly what our church wants to give. He needs two prayer meetings a day. He needs a Christian community that provides a quality of life that is more joy-filled and more peace-filled than sitting on a rock under the overpass. He needs somebody to hold his money for a few years and to teach him a set of principles that lead to a truly blessed life. What he wants we give away, but we give it away only and always in the name of Jesus. We, as believes in Jesus Christ, believe there is only one name under heaven given by which the poor in spirit can receive the kingdom of heaven on earth today and every day, one day at a time. So can I expect the government to support me giving food to a fellow beggar in the name of Jesus? The strange truth is that the government is willing to give us missionaries grants to do the Lord’s work.

The bottom line is that if the government gave us money to bring development to our community that would amount to government funding for the establishment of religion. Our aim is to establish religion in this man’s life. The more established his religion is the better. So if this is the case, how could the government fund such a faith-based enterprise? Furthermore, if I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and my sole aim in life is to establish His kingdom in people’s lives by faith alone through grace alone through the bible alone, how could I ever in good conscious and in accordance with the constitution of our nation receive government funding?

The conclusion is that evangelical missionaries doing community development work cannot in good conscience receive government funding. Instead, the missionaries need to call the church to repentance. The church needs to sell their Sea-dos on Craig’s list and give to the poor via the missionaries of the church. The church needs to cancel their home additions to buy additional discipleship homes for the poor in spirit all around us. If the choice is between a two story garage to house all our toys or housing for the desperately needy, does a Christian really have a choice? As mission-minded evangelicals, the solution is not to support government funding of our gospel work but church funding of the establishment of the kingdom of heaven for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ, by faith alone, through grace alone, through the teachings of Jesus.

God Bless,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel Gibson's Repentance for Anti-Semitic Remarks While Drunk

Mel Gibson is handling this horrible situation remarkable well. Here is an example of real humility for a real shameful situation. Gibson's humble response might actually make this situation turn out positive.

Gibson said this morning:
"Hatred of any kind goes against my faith,” ... “I’m not just asking for forgiveness,” Gibson said. “I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.”

The following statement takes his humility and search for reconciliation even one step further. Gibson said:

I am “in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display” and hopes members of the Jewish community, “whom I have personally offended,” will help him in his recovery efforts.

Gibson is showing real humility here. He is saying:
1. I am the problem. I have a problem . I am sick.
2. I will do anything to reconcile.
3. I need help seeing what in me could be the real root cause. Again, the problem resides in my own spiritual and emotional brokenness.
4. I believe that I can be healed and that the relationship can be healed.

This is a great model of the reconciliation process. Gibson is taking he own moral inventory and he is seeking to make amends. WOW...I bet he has done 12-step work in the past.

Authentic Christianity doesn't mean that Christians are at all perfect but that we are on a journey of making progress by using principles of admission of our character defects, rigorously honest self-evaluation, and the making of amends to those we have hurt due to our moral short-comings.