A Culture Worth Defending

We have successfully endured the months and months of campaigning for the office of president. President Obama may have been the first president to utilize social media but President-elect Trump (yep.) has taken social media over. I have never enjoyed pictures of food, videos of everything minus politics, and Jaguars fandom as much as I have these last couple of months. They have been sweet pockets of sanctuary from Trump vs. Clinton talk.

On Wednesday nights I have been leading a series called “Church Life”. Our young adults have been discussing what our role is as the “bride and body of Christ”. One of the most recent points we discussed was our need to know truth so we can stand on truth so we may ultimately proclaim truth. The issue is that far too many Christians are content with not learning. We cease to hold onto the desire to learn about our faith. Wrestling with our faith is too much work. Searching truth is tedious and that process may take some time. So, christians sit back and grow complacent in their walk and allow errors to take root all around them. Unable to tell the difference because they do no know the truth. Unable to defend their faith because they do no know the truth.

Why does this connect with our recent political season? Well, if you are capable of knowing your candidates policies, vision, and desires but can not give a solid defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ then you have revealed to yourself and others who you worship. (Hint: It isn’t Jesus as much as we might hope.) If you know your opponents talking points, errors within their policies, etc. then you are without excuse as to why you are unable to defend the truth of who Christ is, why he came, and what he desires for each individual.

That is probably what bothers me most about the church during a time like this. Myself included perhaps more than I would care to admit. We have little issue with defending my political view, my candidate, or whatever else might fall under the umbrella of politics. We believe it matters. Our social media feeds are filled with men and women of the church fighting for and against policies and politicians. I would offer though that in the midst of those discussions let the church fight not for the culture at hand but instead, fight to present and display a radically different culture. A culture of men and women who fight for the truth of the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ. A culture that fights for her brothers and sisters because they are men and women who have been redeemed and partakers of a new nature. A culture that fights for the least of these. A culture that serves and loves because the One we follow has demonstrated a service and love that will forever go unmatched. That is the beauty of the bride and power of the body. That culture is one worth defending. That truth is worth knowing, defending, and proclaiming!

Being His Bride In This Political Climate

Politics. Trump. Clinton. #NeverTrump or #NeverClinton. It has been a consuming world, this one we call the American political system. Consuming in all the worst ways imaginable. The rhetoric of our candidates and their campaigns have led much to be desired and many of us with a hint of nausea. It is with no surprise that this season has brought many to verbal attacks, criticisms, and outright dismissals of peers. No verbal sparring is more concerning for me than that which has taken place between brothers and sisters of the Father, Christ Jesus, who hold different positions on the current political affairs.

The bride of Christ is beautiful. She is eternal. She is what Christ died for (Acts 20:28). She is a body made up of many yet moving as one. The very gospel she was founded on has been afforded her victory over Satan, hell, and death. She is the picture of Christ, called to put on display the gospel, grace, and refuge found in Christ alone. Oh, I implore you and me to truly understand just how beautiful His bride is. Yet, we seem to forget this the moment a dissenting voice within the body speaks. We are His bride. Intended to be satisfied with Christ alone. Nothing else will do.  Not even your “perfect” president. We would do well to remember this when we encounter a brother or sister on the other side of the discussion.

If anyone knows my brother and me you would know that we didn’t always have the “brothers who are truly best friends” type of relationship. We competed. Hard. We did so at everything and so much so that it often forced us to concede areas of our lives just to escape the competition. I played sports. He was athletic but walked away after some time. He enjoyed performing musically. I was an international sensation (thanks Word of Life) but walked away. All of this to say that while our relationship was not always one that viewed life from the same perspective, nothing, and I mean nothing, separated the bond that was created from us being family. He was my brother. He was mine and I was his. No circumstance changed that and when others might attempt to create genuine strife for him I would not hesitate to defend him.  Fight for him. When he wronged me or I wronged him, we would forgive and reconcile. We were brothers.

Church, remember we are family. When a brother/sister has stepped in error let us not run to twitter or Facebook. We might be successful in creating armies for our angst but we create an even larger chasm within the body of Christ. When a brother/sister articulates a position you can not understand, fight the urge to spit fire. Remember, Proverbs 12:18 is still in your Bible, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”.

Brothers and sisters, this political season will end. Empires will grow. Empires will crumble. Those is power will rise and they will fall. Why be so quick to cast all your cares on the very things we know will exist for such a fleeting moment? No, in the midst of all the noise, let us not lose our voice or our focus. We are His bride. We are beautiful. We are eternal. We are brothers and sisters. Let’s act accordingly.

“Love” of the Unknown

It takes little to no effort to gain some type of surface level knowledge on any given subject. I have the ability to discuss professional tennis for about 3-5 minutes and then I find myself reciting the words “Pete Sampras was really hairy”. Perhaps no other invention has allowed us to be content with this surface level knowledge or awareness like that of “Twitter”. 140 characters on issues all over the world. I choose how involved in the story I become. It really is a wonderful thing. I shape my understanding of the world.

I believe it can be said that the church has severely crippled herself due to the surface level knowledge of Jesus Christ she possesses. Paul discusses the knowledge of Christ as the “surpassing value” in comparison with all else that life has to offer. Philippians allows us to see Paul referencing all else as “rubbish”. Yet, Paul is not talking about the knowledge of Christ that was made known to him on the Damascus road. He states that it is his “goal to know Him”. It is present and future not limited to the past.

Yesterday, my pastor was found saying “Never leave Jesus on the cross. Always bring him from the grave.” The cross of Calvary is an obviously huge part in the Christian story but it is not the end. The same should perhaps be said for the Christian today. Our story does not stop at the cross. We should be careful not to leave our knowledge of Christ at the cross for our story does not stop there. It is not in the past. We press on towards what lies ahead. We pick up our cross daily. We desire daily to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Men and women all around us profess a knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ. Yet, the more I wrestle with my faith and seek his face, I find myself more unable to claim that full understanding. As S.M. Lockridge says after 4 minutes of intense description of Jesus, “I wish I could Describe him to you…”. The growing Christian is one who is not content with leaving their knowledge on the surface but instead seeks nothing more from life than to continue growing in the knowledge of Christ. Perhaps this is the remedy for an ailing church. The remedy for an ailing follower. To desire today and everyday, a further knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

A Story of Influence

There are two ways of recommending true religion and virtue in the world, which God hath made use of: the one is by doctrine and precept; the other by instance and example. – Jonathan Edwards, 1749

It has become increasingly evident to me the influence one holds over those around. Society tells us that celebrities, athletes, musicians, etc. are worthy of being influenced by. More than ever before, our culture clings to the words and actions of anyone who is captured on camera. I have experienced this kind of “superficial”influence. I discussed it a few posts ago when talking about Chipper Jones. However, the influence I hope to have over those around me is one that I still draw from when I was a teenager.

Having always grown up in church I was very exposed to Sunday school teachers and other men and women who played various roles. You begin to pick up on tendencies of everyone. My mind was one that poked holes in situations. I always looked at people and thought of ways I could challenge them. Having a father like I did, I recognized the standard of genuine Christ followers. In my mind, few people met that standard. If I felt like they did not, I would adopt the mindset that they offered me very little in the way of a challenge. Enter Jim Gibbs.

A little background may paint a clearer picture. The church I was attending handed out Metamucil and Geritol in the offering plates (may or may not be true). It was a smaller church. As a 9th grader, I was the oldest of the youth. Our youth pastor decided to bring in a church elder to speak to us every week on Wednesday nights. His name was Jim Gibbs. He did not have a dyed soul patch, affliction shirt, or a tattoo. He did not use amazing visuals, trendy speech, or video sermons. No, Jim Gibbs was unique. He would bring in his cracked and worn out leather Bible, pen marks on the pages, and we would speak. He spoke with a tone of humility yet, conviction. A voice that sounded weak but projected mighty words. Mighty words from a mighty man. It was this man that pushed me. His joy found in Christ was evident. It was genuine. It was influential. I would anticipate our Wednesday night meetings because of his passion. Passion to see others draw closer to Christ. He epitomized leadership.

Jim Gibbs and his wife recently started attending the same church as I do. He still has that look in his eye everytime I hug him. Age has not diminished his passion. Neither has it diminished his influence.

I wanted to take time and recognize this faithful brother because it should serve as a moment of encouragement for all who walk in faith. His influence could perhaps provoke thoughts and memories of those who have influenced you. Share that story. It reminds us as followers of Christ of the standard and that others are watching us. What kind of influence are we being?

I apologize

I once read a story from an author named Donald Miller. In this book, Blue Like Jazz, Miller describes how he and a few other followers of Christ set up a “confession” booth at their college campus. The occasional student would enter the booth with the intention of confessing their “transgressions” but instead they found Miller and the others apologizing to them. Miller confesses for the crusades, slavery, and other social injustices that the church played a part in. They apologized for their lack of influence today as well.

Why is this uncommon? Should the church apologize to those who it has done wrong? Is this concept farfetched and unnecessary? I would like to her your thoughts as I work on my own theory that I plan on posting before the weeks end.

the purpose…

i have been doing some thinking. dangerous. but still i went with those thoughts and talked to a few people about them to see the responses i would receive. i now want to see what the response of any reader who stumbles on this will be.

what is the purpose of the church? i understand that we can lay down some cookie cutter answer but give it some genuine thought. what is the purpose? the next question i have is do you see the church fulfilling that purpose now? why or why not? i would like to hear some responses before i lay out my very over thought answer.

unstoppable force…

i am currently sitting in my hotel down the orlando florida.  the place of mickey mouse and magic, universal and IOA, hard rock and the largest/coolest/most amazing mcdonalds of all time. that is where i am. i am here for a youth pastors summit. we have been able to hear from some amazing men who preach and live the Word. i want to share my thoughts on what francis chan spoke about in a session today.

are we (the church) an unstoppable force? are we truly the church that Christ talks about when He says the gates of hell shall not prevail against it? i am afraid to answer this question. so i plan to just ask questions to you the reader like they have been thrown around in my mind. 

if we look at the early church, we notice that they suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. the disciples and leaders were imprisoned, stoned, crucified, etc. then there is the story of the husband and wife who lie to God and the church about how much they were giving to God off of the property they sold. they fell dead when they lied about this. they fell dead because they were lying and stealing from God and the church which he had ordained.(see Acts 5) my whole reason for sharing these examples is because satan tried to tear apart the church. he sent men to lie and bring deceit upon but God would not allow it. satan brought death and the threat of death to the leaders but they were not scared for they were so convinced that what they had in Truth was worth dying for. is the american church and unstoppable force? francis chan said that if we change the service times that might seem to stop the church today. probably a slight exaggeration but there is some truth in that. 

think about this story and see which character the church could mostly identify with today. there is a story in I Kings 18 where the prophet Elijah has a “competition” with 450 prophets of the god baal. they would each make an altar for sacrifice and then call on their god or God to bring fire down upon the altar. so the baal prophets went first. (this is where this gets really intriguing) the prophets went through a special ceremony before calling upon baal. they were singing and dancing then cutting their wrists to show their devotion to this god baal. they were doing this for sometime and Elijah actually pokes fun at them for it. he asks them if maybe their god baal had gone to relieve himself (pee) and thats why he was taking so long to answer their cries. then Elijah gets a chance to call on God. he cries out to God and God delivers with a pillar of fire upon the altar. the prophets were in amazement and fell on their knees saying that the God of Elijah is the one true God.

i give that whole story to ask this. has church today become a religous ceremony that we think is showing devotion but no fire from God comes down? do we truly call upon God to send fire? i am afraid to answer this. you see i am am a young man who is often times wrapped up in the ceremony of things. i lose contact with God and become so comfortable that i no longer have true connection with Him. why? i would never get like that with my fiance. never with my friends or family. but the creator of the universe and giver of grace? i pray that my life develops into one where when people come in contact with me they walk away saying the God of Ryan is the one true God.