Monday, July 31, 2023

Like Jesus

Of course, we would all be better off if we were more like Jesus. That's the point, right? Maybe you read my post on Friday and thought that we need to pay less attention to the disciples, to the New Testament church, and even to the crowds, and just focus all of our energies on being like Jesus. 

It sounds good, but...we can't. 

Why not? 

Because we have to think about it. 

We are a people who have to think about whether we're being like Jesus or not. We have to think about the kinds of things that He did and whether what we're doing is like that. 

When we do that, we create categories in our heads. We create types of things - events, persons, behaviors. We're constantly putting things in boxes, even if those boxes are "Jesus-like" and "not Jesus-like." It causes us to see the world in a way that, I'm telling you, Jesus never saw it. 

Jesus didn't look at Zacchaeus and see a weasel-y little tax collector who everyone hated; Jesus looked at him and saw a beloved child of God. 

Jesus didn't look at the sinful woman and see someone of ill-repute; He saw a beautiful child of God. 

Jesus didn't look at the cripple and immediately think, "That's a cripple." No, He immediately though, "This is my brother, a beloved child of my Father." 

Then, we set out into the world to do Jesus things, to try to be like Jesus, and how do we describe our ventures?

"I helped a poor person today!" Sorry, but that's not like Jesus. Jesus wouldn't recognize that person as a poor person. 

"I prayed with an addict today!" Nope. Sorry, again, but that's not how Jesus would identify that person. 

Do you see what we're so guilty of? The more we try to be like Jesus, the less we're actually like Him because in trying to prove how much like Jesus we are, we classify other persons in a way that Jesus would never classify them. That Jesus would never even give first thought to, let alone a second thought. 

And, I think, we're always going to be this way. It is a rare person, a very rare person indeed, who is ever able to look at every single other person and think, "This is my brother, my sister - a beloved child of my Father." Even if we start that way, we don't end it. 

"Hey, you remember that smelly brother who showed up at church last week? I let him come use my shower." Nope. Missed it again. The minute you put any single social descriptor word with "brother" or "sister," you throw every bit of your acting like Jesus down the toilet. Every bit of it. 

That's why we need the examples of the disciples, of the New Testament church, of the crowds - because they were real folk like us. They were the kind of persons we can't seem to help but be. They're the ones who put all the words around "brother" and "sister" in the stories written for us...because they see how we see. 

But they also, often, come to love like Jesus loves. 

And that's why we need to pay attention and learn from them.  

Friday, July 28, 2023

Like the Crowds

The church (as an institution and as a body of believers and as individual believers) has a lot to learn from the crowds, and sadly, it's a source of encouragement and discipleship that we often miss. 

A lot of churches have established themselves as wanting to be like the "first church" - the church in Acts. We call ourselves New Testament churches, and we seek to do things the way they were done when the first churches were established not long after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We figure there must be something about the way they did it, something important, especially since God included some information about them and their processes in His Holy Word. So we spend a lot of time in the New Testament after the Gospels, trying to uncover what we can about how to do church. 

This gives us one set of ideas. It gives us ideas about preaching and worship, about elders and deacons, about meeting together and breaking bread. And these are important things. But they aren't everything. 

So then, we usually go and try to uncover what we can about discipleship and faithfulness from, well, the actual disciples. We go back to the Gospels and look at guys like Andrew and Peter, James and John. We read what they wrote, we read what was written about them, we take in their experiences as best as we can and try to build on the things they got right. Who doesn't want to be more like Peter?

This gives us another set of ideas, which we add to the first. It gives us ideas about discipleship, about following Jesus, about learning from Him, about mistakes and faithfulness. It even starts to give us an idea about coming as we are - each of these disciples was a different individual, and so are we. And these, too, are important things. But they aren't everything. 

So we go back again and this time, we look at Jesus Himself. (I'm not sure why it always takes us this long to get to looking at Jesus as an example, but it seems to be the case more often than not.) We look at the way He walked and talked. We look at how He interacted with others. We look at His devotional life, His miracles, His teachings. The way He invited Himself to the sinner's house or humbled Himself in the Upper Room. 

This gives us a third set of ideas, which we add to the first two. It gives us ideas about living a holy and faithful life in the world, about how to hold onto the very good things of God even in a dirty place like this. We want to be like Jesus. Ask any Christian, and they will tell you - we want to be more like Jesus. And this is a very good and important thing. It could be everything. (Actually, if it were, it would solve a lot of our problems.) 

But there is one more place to look, a place we often don't look - and that place is the crowds. 

The crowds are the closest thing we're going to read about that mimic the kind of life we're actually living. In the crowds, we find the church. And the disciples. And Jesus. And...the world. It's all there. There's a hodgepodge of sinners, believers, seekers, saints, the religious elite, the poorest of the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the clean, the dirty. Everybody's there. The crowds are our life, busy with stuff, pressed in from every side, surrounded by things we know and don't know, like and don't like. It's in the crowds where we see something of the faith that the New Testament church and the disciples don't quite show us. 

And it's stuff like we've been talking about this week - stuff like how to be so single-mindedly focused on Jesus that we don't have time to gossip about the bleeding woman in our midst. That we don't think to push her out or push her away. That we might even bend over and whisper right to her, "Look! There He is!" 

Yes, there's something about the crowds that would make us a better church. Are we willing to learn from them?

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Focused on Jesus

So how does the story of the bleeding woman pushing unnoticed through the crowds help us to make our churches a better, safer place for sinners and seekers? 

We have to take our example from the crowds. 

Remember how we said on Tuesday that the reason the woman was able to make her way through the crowds without being called out for who she was is because everyone in the crowd was focused intently on Jesus? The same could be true in our churches. 

If we were coming to our churches to worship more than to gossip, to encounter Jesus more than to be noticed by our friends, to truly come to God...we wouldn't really notice anyone else. 

I mean, we'd notice them - how could we not - but it wouldn't be a thing. We would notice them the same way a fish notices the fish that's swimming beside it. It knows the other fish is there, but it recognizes more than anything that that fish is just swimming in the same direction. It realizes they are headed to the same place together. 

I like to imagine that every so often in that crowd, the whispers worked their way to the bleeding woman herself. The excitement over Jesus started spreading like a ripple effect through those gathered. I like to imagine that at at least one point, if not several, someone leaned over and whispered out the side of their mouth to the bleeding woman about the amazing Jesus who was just a few feet away. About what He was doing. About what He was saying. 

And even in this, whoever was whispering to her didn't recognize her unclean condition as the most true thing about her. No. Someone leaned over to whisper to a fellow traveler, and all they knew was that this person was going in the same direction they were. This person was working just as hard to get to Jesus. This person was here for one reason and one reason only: the Teacher. 

Can you think for a moment about how much gossip and judgment and trouble it would take out of our churches if we could be more like this crowd? If we were so focused on Jesus that we didn't have time to notice anything but that those around us are moving in the same direction that we are? 

It doesn't matter what you look like. What you smell like. How much money you make. How you showed up to church today. What your past is. What your present is. What your story is. 

Today, your story is that you're here, pushing your way toward Jesus. And if we were all doing the same, if we were all there for the very same reason, we would just happily lean over, full of excitement, and whisper out of the corner of our mouths at one another, "There He is." We wouldn't have time for all of this judgment nonsense. 

No one called the bleeding woman out of the crowd, but I don't think that means no one truly noticed her. I don't think that means no one talked to her or interacted with her. I think, in fact, that several probably did. But that they were too focused on Jesus to even process in their brains what they were maybe supposed to think about "someone like her." I think they were so focused on Him and on following and on getting there that even this unclean woman just sort of got swept up and carried along in a way that wouldn't be possible if even one person in that crowd would have let themselves get sidetracked by...rules. Or ritual purity. Or social norms. Or whatever you want to call it. 

Our churches could learn a lot from these crowds. They really could.

Just imagine....  

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Into the Church

The story of the bleeding woman pushing through the crowd totally unnoticed intrigues me. It also convicts me. 

One of the greatest fears anyone has walking into a church for the first time is how they are going to be judged. Are they wearing the right clothes? What will someone say about their tattoos? Is someone going to comment about the way they smell or how their teeth look? What if the people in that church find out about the sin in their lives? Do they smell like alcohol? Is addiction written all over their face? Will they recognize the prison tattoo? 

And on and on and on it goes, and we're not just talking about persons with obvious "pasts" - pretty much everyone has this fear. Divorcees. Victims of abuse. Low-wage workers. High-wage workers. 

Everyone wants to know, when they walk into a church, whether they are going to be seen as a precious child of God with the inherent dignity of being created in His image...or whether the persons in that church are going to look at them and see everything they hate about themselves when they look in the mirror. 

How can the church not notice a bleeding woman? Certainly, the church will see who I am at my worst. 

Sadly, too many persons are finding their greatest fears confirmed. We know, sadly, that the church loves to gossip. The church loves to talk about everybody but themselves. The church loves to notice what does and doesn't fit with the image they're trying to project. 

The church too often notices all the things that those who walk through our doors wish that we wouldn't...and we too often fixate on those things. 

Everything from physical appearance to gender to gender identity to economic status to biblical literacy to regular literacy. We seem to be experts at noticing things. 

It doesn't seem to matter to us that picking these things out is the reason that persons who walk through our doors once don't come back through them again. Actually, too many churches seem too proud of that fact - they pride themselves on who they keep out. 

And they hear a story like the bleeding woman, and all they can think about is how she should have identified herself. She should have been crying out, "Unclean!" even as she worked her way through that crowd. They can't believe that she would be so bold as to put every single one of those persons at risk just because she wanted to be in that place - how selfish of her. There was a reason that someone like her couldn't be on that street. Shouldn't be on that street. Yes, when they read this story, they actually become upset with her. How dare she? 

But if we're not so busy being self-righteous, the rest of us can learn a tremendous lesson from the story of the bleeding woman that would revolutionize our churches and the way that seekers encounter them. You're probably already putting the pieces together yourself, but tomorrow, I'll lay it out point blank.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


So a bleeding woman, known to everyone as unclean, especially after twelve years, works her way through the crowded streets to get to Jesus, and no one seems to notice? No one cries out, no one screams, no one pushes her away, no whisper starts about this unclean woman among them. Nothing. 

This society was so invested in clean and unclean, in ritual purity, in following the rules. How does this even happen that no one notices?

Simple, I think:

They were all focused on Jesus. 

Every person in that crowd had one thing on their mind: they wanted to see Jesus. They wanted to get closer to Him. They wanted to hear Him speak. They wanted to watch what He would do. They wanted to know where He was going. 

They were focused on Him. Period. 

Take the story of Zacchaeus as another example. Everyone knew the man; they all hated him. But we're told the reason he climbed that tree is because he couldn't see. Not because everyone was pushing him out. Not because they were telling him to go home. Not because no one wanted him to be there. Just because he was short. 

No one seemed to notice Zacchaeus until Jesus did. After Jesus spoke to him, and invited himself to the tax collector's house, everyone seemed to suddenly realize the "wee little man" was there. 

So here we have two stories of two persons who, under normal circumstances, would not have been able to hide in a crowd - a hated tax collector and a woman known for twelve years as being unclean. Yet, in neither case does the crowd seem to recognize them or even notice they are there. At the very least, we don't see the kind of reaction that we would expect. 

Because everyone is too busy with Jesus. 

Everyone is too busy listening for His voice. Everyone is too busy looking for His face. Everyone is too busy trying to get closer to Him. The crowd becomes nothing more to them than a sea of faces all looking in the same direction, everyone trying to be part of this crazy thing that's going on in the streets of Jerusalem. 

Some might be there out of a need for their own healing. Some might be there in thankfulness for a healing that's already happened. Some might just be curious about this Man they've been hearing so much about, this Teacher unlike any other teacher they've ever known. Some might be looking to criticize; some might be looking to boast. Some might be looking to find something bigger than themselves. Some might be looking for understanding. Some might be looking for acknowledgement.

Whatever it is, they are all there with this one thing in mind: Jesus. That's it. Nothing else on those streets mattered to them. 

Not a wee little tax collector. 

Not even an unclean woman. 

Monday, July 24, 2023


Can we talk about something? (Of course, we can. It's my space, and I decide what we're talking about. ...okay, it's God's space, and He decides what we're talking about.)

It's about the bleeding woman. 

Remember her? Her story is told in the Gospels, in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8. This woman has been bleeding for twelve years. She has exhausted her resources seeking a cure, but nothing in this world can heal her. We don't know how old she is. We don't know if she's married, divorced, never married, a virgin. We don't know if she has kids. We don't know a whole lot about her. We don't even know where she was from, except to know that she happened to be in that place where Jesus was - but does she live there or did she travel there? We just don't know. 

But I guarantee you that everyone from her town knew a whole lot about her. I guarantee you that everyone local knew her story. 

She was the woman who couldn't be in relationship with anyone. If she was married, she couldn't have relations with her husband; if she was single, she couldn't be betrothed to someone. How can someone unclean have a relationship? If she had kids, she couldn't help raise them, couldn't hold them. She was unclean. She couldn't go to the Temple to worship; there wasn't a place for the unclean there. She probably had regular meetings with the priest to assess that, yup, she was still unclean. She couldn't go to the market. She couldn't prepare the food for others. She couldn't fetch water at the well while others were there. 

This woman was totally isolated by virtue (or lack thereof) of being unclean. For twelve years. 

And yet, everyone would have known her. Or, at least, known about her. 

They would have known to stay away from her if they ever had a chance encounter. She would have been trained to shout out "Unclean" as she walked anywhere, just in case. But the persons around her already knew. She was a woman, strangely, who was not seen but who at the very same time couldn't not be seen. 

What a way to live. 

And then, we have this story. 

We have this story of her showing up on a very crowded street. We have this story of her pushing through the crowds. We have this story of her bumping her way through a sea of persons, trying desperately to get to Jesus. one calls her out. No one screams. No one shouts, "unclean!" No one chides her, "Woman, you know better than to be here." 

Even after she touches Jesus's garment and He turns around and says, "Who touched me?" no one seems to notice her. Not enough to call her out. The Gospels don't tell us that the crowd went into an uproar because she was an unclean woman. We aren't told that a whisper worked its way through the people about who she was and what she had just done to everyone in that crowd that she had pushed through. (In their understanding, she would have made them all unclean.) No one was grumbling. No one was accusing. No one was shaming. No one was even recognizing, it seems. 

How does this happen? 

How does a woman who couldn't not be seen get through a crowd totally unseen? How does a woman who has spent twelve years calling out push through a sea of persons and not be called out? How does the unclean woman make it all the way through all of these folks and all the way to Jesus without an uproar breaking out?

I have a theory.... 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Failures of Faith

We have to give voice here to one of the major outcries of the "deconstructing" Christians, and that is this: the church has failed. The church has failed to live up to its own truth. It has failed to live the love of Jesus. It has failed to practice what it preaches. The church has failed to show that faith actually works because the church isn't living its faith. 

Doesn't this make it only reasonable to look elsewhere? Doesn't this mean that what the church has can't actually be truth?

We are talking here about both real failures of the church and imagined failures of the church, which often get conflated into one and the same thing in the mind of the former believer (and the world). Real failures include things like child abuse, sexual abuse, financial schemes designed to take advantage of others, divorce - the things that remind us starkly that we are fallen human beings in need of a Savior. 

The world rails against these things and offers them as evidence that the truth of God is not all it's cracked up to be. If it were, we would not be sinners, the world concludes. Then, it convinces these young persons to run into the world's open arms to escape these snake oil salesmen and pedophiles and other rabble. Pretending, of course, that the world doesn't have its share of the very same folk. Forgetting, conveniently, that Jesus ate with these folks even while the world tried to pretend that they did not exist (as it still does - because to admit they exist in the world would be some kind of flaw to the world's psyche). 

But then, the world rails against the imagined failures of the church just as hard, and once it's got the former believer in its grasp, it doesn't take much to convince them that these imagined failures are actually real. Here, we're talking about "failures" like believing there is a design for human relationships, asserting that there is only one real God, believing that there is only one way to Heaven (through Him), disciplining children, holding certain moral standards. 

These are not actually failures of the church, though the world keeps pushing us to apologize for them. Rather, they are failures only if the world's truth is actual truth. They are failures only if the world's ethic is the real ethic.

Still, this is how the world gets you - it seizes on the truth that the church is full of broken persons (because we are all broken), then it expands that to mean that the church itself is broken, and it makes those two things into one narrative, woven so tightly together that how could any reasonable person not reject it?

So let's be clear: yes, sin happens in the church. Having the truth does not prevent human beings from being broken. Adam and Eve lived in perfect relationship with God, and they still ate the fruit He told them not to eat; having His truth didn't keep them from breaking it. Nor does it with us. And we should absolutely hold one another accountable to truth and address sin as it happens, demonstrating even greater aspects of our truth, like forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love. 

Sin happens in the church, and sin happens in the world. Having the world's truth doesn't keep humans from doing bad things in the world, either. It's just that the world's truth is a little more fluid, and it's harder to hold anyone accountable for these kinds of failures by the world's standards. 

And finally, not everything the world says is a failure is actually one. The world has conflated our actual shortcomings with imagined ones to create one dominant narrative, and our challenge, as we learn to continue to live in this world, is to force a separation of the two so that we can stand on our faith, strong in the knowledge that what we have is real, vital, and life-giving. 

This is, really, what it boils down to. This is how so many young persons end up going down the deconstruction road. They can't separate real failure from imagined failure. They don't know how to pick the baby out of the bath water. So they find themselves with nothing to stand on when, in fact, the foundation of truth isn't as unstable as it seems. 

So yes, the faithful fail sometimes, but we all do - faithful or not. The beauty of the church is that it has the structure and the framework to address these failures; the world doesn't. All it can do is rant and rave and rail and pretend it has the moral upperhand, shining a light on the church's dark places while continuing to dwell in its own. 

And that is no reason to leave the church. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

A Foundation of Truth

There's one fundamental statement that underlies everything the world tries to sell us, tries to convince "deconstructing" Christians of, and that statement is this: "I know the truth."

That's it. That's all it takes. The world comes along and tells a young person, "I know the truth," and the young person's eyes grow wide as he or she "discovers" this truth and decides, "Wow! This really sounds great!" 

From that point on, that young person takes the truth that the world offers as fundamental and establishes it as the starting point for every other thought and idea. And, of course, once the world's truth is fundamental, then the church and the Christian faith can never measure up. 

Somehow, in the parallel universe in which this all happens, Christianity ends up being the "stupid" thing, the thing that claims truth but doesn't really have it. 

These young persons rail against Christianity for even claiming to have the truth when, obviously, it doesn't even start with the same basic fundamental facts that the world, which really has the truth, does. 

Do you see what has happened? Using exactly the same fundamental statement as the church - "I know the truth" - and, as we saw yesterday, the same basic expository forces - books, authorities, curriculum, coloring pages, etc. - the world has shifted the burden of proof from itself to the church. It has demanded to hold the church to account for its claim of the standards of the world' of...truth. 

What we don't hear, at least by far not as often as the "deconstruction" group, is young persons who go out and encounter the world's truth for the first time and say, boldly, "Prove it." 

We don't see Christians, trained by books and authorities and teachers and curriculum, going out into the world and encountering other books and authorities and teachers and curriculum and putting the burden of proof on the world. 

Doesn't that strike you as strange?

It's not a new phenomenon by any means. But it's more widespread in this generation than it has been for a long time. I'm not sure to what we can attribute that; it is more complicated than to just say that it's one thing. But what's important for this discussion is that we acknowledge it, that we recognize that this generation of young Christians has not been raised with the strength or the courage to stand up to the world and make it declare itself. Rather, for whatever reason, they just take the world at its word and turn their back quickly on God and His Word. 

See, just to put this all in perspective, these young persons were raised in a church that said, from the very beginning, "I know the truth." They were then taught what that truth was, what it means, how it works. They were shown how to live knowing this truth. And then, someone else came along and whispered "I know the real truth" and they just up and walked away. 

They are, as the Bible would say, lukewarm. Or as my vernacular would say, wishy-washy. They don't have a firm foundation anywhere. They're just running around trying to land on truth, having had it and turned away from it, and they follow it almost anywhere...except back to where it all started. (Some do, we must say, find their way back to the church and discover that it had the real truth this whole time. But man, they are so loud in their wandering and their foundness is this really strange, quiet thing. It's bizarre.) 

There's one piece of all of this that we haven't really touched on yet, and we must. So let's hit one more thing tomorrow. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


So we're back to where we started, with a generation of Christians "deconstructing" their faith for the simple reason that the world told them how it thinks and they simply like that better. 

If you pay attention, you'll see the troubling truth about all of this deconstruction: it's happening in exactly the same way as the faith that they are now renouncing. 

These deconstructing Christians will talk boldly about how they didn't have a choice but to believe in God because that's what they were taught. The adults in their life told them about it, showed it to them in books, put it on flannelgraphs for them, hung posters, created curriculum, made them color pictures of Jesus and the disciples in Sunday school. They lament that they just accepted these things without thinking much about them, that they didn't have a chance to think about them. The faith was just handed to them as truth, and they took it. 

Then, they say, they discovered that maybe it wasn't exactly the truth that it was cracked up to be. 

Because the world came along and gave them a different truth. A truth at odds with everything that they had learned as children in the "clustered" world of religion, "cut off" from "real" learning. 

But...check this out: the reason they believe the truth this world gave them? It's because the grown-ups in the world told them about it. Because they showed it to them in books. Because the world created presentations and lectures and curriculum. Because the world hung posters and gave them pretty pictures of a forest in bloom to color. 

These wannabe former Christians hate the way they were "indoctrinated" into the faith through lessons and teaching and books and propaganda, and as a result, they have traded the truth of the Christian faith for the metanarrative of the world, which has been presented to them through lessons and teaching and books and propaganda. 

And they don't see it. 

They don't see that they've taken the world's truth exactly the same way that they once took the church's truth. They don't see that the tools the world uses are the very same ones they rail against being used in the church. They don't see that they've taken the world's truth in just as unthinking a manner as they claim they took the church's truth. 

They hate that they weren't given a choice, but were expected to just believe what was handed to them, and in reaction, they have gone to...just believe what was handed to them. 

They rail against the "authorities" that gave them the faith - the church, the pastors, the priests, the elders, the parents and grandparents - but they have gone on to worship the authorities that give them the "truth" - the doctors, the politicians, the media. They worship them so wholeheartedly that even when the narrative keeps changing, they still accept and embrace what these authorities say. 

And they don't see it. 

They don't see it because they have bought hook, line, and sinker into the most fundamental statement that the world has made, while at the same outright denying and refuting the church's exact same fundamental statement as invalid. What is that statement that changes, somehow, everything? 

I'll tell you tomorrow.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

An Inconvenient Truth

So let's just be real about it - the reason the world says that Christianity doesn't "work" is because the world doesn't want it to work. The world doesn't want to live the way that God says they should live, so they just outright reject everything wholesale. The world knows if they confess that there is a shred of truth in any of it, there must be truth in all of it. 

And nobody wants that

The world doesn't want boundaries. The world doesn't want parameters. The world doesn't want rules and regulations. At least, not the kind that God sets. 

We shouldn't be surprised by this. That's been the case with the world from the very beginning. Human beings have rejected God even while they dwelt in His perfection in the Garden. The Bible is full of stories of peoples outside of Israel who rejected the ways of the Lord. God has to repeatedly remind His people that they don't live the way the world lives. 

Not only that, but He tells them plainly that they will have trouble with the world because of it. He tells us that the world will reject us. He tells us that the world will mock us. He tells us that the world won't buy into what we're doing with our lives. And, just in case we don't understand what He was trying to tell us, He picked up a cross and showed us that all of this was true.

Still, we seem to have an entire generation of mostly young persons who encounter the message of the world that is counter to Christianity, and they conclude - with the world - that Christianity is the problem. 

This, too, is nothing new. Christianity has been the world's problem since the very beginning of it, since there was a baby born in a manger to a virgin mother. And a star to light the way. 

And let me tell you this - Christianity is not the world's problem because it doesn't "work." If Christianity didn't work, the world would just laugh it off. The world would just ignore it. The world would just turn away and keep on living its own life. 

But the truth is that even the world knows that Christianity is the only way that does work. That's why it has to invest so much time and energy fighting against it. That's why it has to scream until its voice is raw trying to drown it out. That's why it has to resort to name-calling and use of, at least, verbal force. (In many places and in my ages, even physical force.) 

You don't fight that hard against something that's not a real threat to you. You don't waste your energy on a battle that's meaningless to win because you have already won it. You only fight when something you hold dear is at stake. 

So the very fact that the world keeps coming after your faith ought to be proof number one that your faith is something legitimate. Something real. Something powerful. Something meaningful. Something the world feels threatened by, even while it pretends to be laughing you off. 

It wouldn't fight so hard if it wasn't. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

What's Right

The world is right about one thing - if you are trying to live in this world, the Christian worldview just doesn't work. If you want to fit in, to be just like everyone else, to live a "normal" life, to understand the references others make when they talk, then being a faithful Christian will keep you from all of those things. 

In fact, if you want the Christian life to "work" for you, then you have to have an entirely different set of definitions about what "working" means. 

But once you make that switch, once you adopt a different standard for what the good life means and what you consider meaningful, the Christian life is the only one that actually works. 

The world's philosophy - it just leaves so many lost, and I'm not talking about the eternal salvation of their soul. 

Some say that Christian marriage doesn't work because Christians are getting divorced at the same rate as non-Christians. But if you look deeper into the statistics, there's something else going on. Persons who only call themselves Christians, but don't actually pray, read their Bible, go to church, or make any reasonable attempt at all to live a life of faith, are getting divorced at slightly higher rates than the world-at-large, but committed Christians - those who pray, read their Bible, go to church, and live a life directed by faith - have a stunningly low rate of divorce. 

So we're at a place where what we really need is to define what is actually Christian before we just start lumping together everyone who wants to claim that name. Some call themselves Christians because their parents are Christian or they grew up in church or there is some societal benefit in their current position for them to claim it, but they aren't living that lifestyle. Thus, they are skewing all of our statistics away from a clear demonstration of a faith that works. 

On the basis of this, the world has tried to diminish marriage. It could take it or leave it. It claims that it isn't really a successful thing, so it doesn't matter all that much. This leaves a lot of individuals just floating around, trying to find meaningful relationship but not even knowing what that looks like any more or whether it's even possible. It is possible, and Christianity shows the way. 

The same is true about sexuality in general. The world has accepted a philosophy that "love is love." Anything goes. Whoever you love, that's cool. And whoever you love, they have a word for that. So we have an entire generation of folks trying desperately to figure out who they love, who they're attracted to, what is a fulfilling relationship for them, and if they can't nail it down, they'll take just about anything...and the world affirms this for them. Take anything. It's all the same. It's all good. 

Thus, we have a world full of persons in unfulfilling and unsatisfying relationships (both homosexual and heterosexual) because they've been told it's up to them to figure out what kind of love is their kind of love. No one ever set a boundary for them. 

Christianity, on the other hand, makes it clear from the start - if you are a man, you were created for a woman; if you are a woman, you were created for a man. (And in both cases, you were created first and foremost for God.) There's no more floating around. No more trying to figure out your compatibility. No more angst over identifying that thing that's missing, that thing that you need most from a relationship. It's right there. Christianity has identified it for you. 

And that's really what Christianity does - it puts boundaries around our living. The world says this is a problem, but we're seeing what kind of a problem the world's free-range philosophy really is. If you don't have a fence that tells you to stay in, you can go and wander anywhere and one day, you look up, and you don't even recognize where you are or how far away you've gone. 

The boundaries of faith help us by putting us into a framework that tells us how far we can go. We have freedom within the pasture, but the beauty of Christianity (in part) is the pasture! (And the Shepherd, of course.) The beauty is that we aren't left lost and floating and wandering and trying to figure everything out because the whole world is open to us. No. We know where we belong. We know our boundaries. We know where we can go. And this helps us make better choices. 

If you turn an animal loose in a strange land, it's probably going to go browsing around and taste a lot of poison berries before it can figure out what is good to eat. But keep it in a cultivated pasture, and the whole thing is safe. It's all good. There's no fear, no worry. 

That's what Christianity does.  

Friday, July 14, 2023

A Working Theology

While the world boldly (and often, powerfully) tells the church that it is wrong about, well, nearly everything, its biggest criticism is that actually, faith doesn't "work." The things you believe about God don't work. The way that you think God has told you to live your life doesn't work. It doesn't lead to a productive and successful existence. 

You cannot, this world says, keep turning the other cheek and expect anything but to get beaten severely.

The world chides the church for having created a generation of mal-adapted individuals who hold to tenets that are unrealistic in a "pluralistic" society, where they will encounter all kinds of ideas that are very different from the ones that they hold. The better way, the world says, is to raise free-thinking individuals with no boundaries, those who can encounter literally anything and find a way to embrace it in the name of tolerance and "love" (a word the world uses only because they know this word means something to Christians; the world never means it the way that we do).

If you save sex for marriage, you'll never be ready for your husband. You won't know what you like and don't like because you'll be a stranger to your own body. You'll hate your own body and your sexuality because you will have built such a fence around it that it will become impenetrable even to you, and you'll spend your life at odds with even yourself. 

If you insist that there is a real, objective, legitimate truth, you will never understand the experiences of others in this world. You will never know how to connect with anyone else because they have a different idea of truth than you do. Therefore, you will always be a judgmental, bigoted, whatever-phobic individual who does not contribute to society, but hinders it. 

If you believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, you will never understand how anything in this world actually works. You will throw away even the best of science and forfeit understanding for this thing that you call faith, and you will navigate this world naively, not able to tell one thing from another or take an active role in moving the human species forward in any meaningful way. 

If you contend that there is a complementary relationship between males and females, or that humans can even be categorized in this way in the first place, you neglect all of the very real benefits of relationships that are formed outside of the marriage bond, and you will never reap the rewards these relationships can offer. 

If you believe that God has all of the answers, you'll never go chasing the questions and thus, never encounter the information that could change your mind and open your eyes and revolutionize your worldview. (In other words, if you keep believing in God, you'll never come to think the way that the world thinks.) 

Thus, you will always be mal-adapted. You will be the problem with society as we know it. You will be forever holding the human race back. 

But, friends, let's not forget that the Christian worldview, the Christian faith, is the one thing that hasn't failed this world. It's the one thing that hasn't fallen apart. And, in fact, it's the Christian faith that has most often, overwhelmingly, been the thing that has moved this world - and the human race - forward. 

It's Christians who started the first hospitals. Christians who started the first schools. Christians who started the first charities. It is Christians who stepped up to care for the widows, the orphans, the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, the defeated. It is Christians who led the way in science, initiating the explorations that led us to believe that we even can. And it is the Christian worldview that creates the framework for knowing that we can - because we have a knowable God who has put His fingerprints all over His creation, and that is all that science is ever really discovering. 

The world tells us that our theology doesn't "work," but the truth is...our theology is the only thing that ever has. 

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Sins of the Church

Once the world establishes that you, the Christian, don't really understand anything, it then blames you for all the things that get broken by trying to hold onto a Christian worldview in a secular society. 

The church's definition of marriage between a man and a woman, and the saving of sex until marriage, is the reason everyone feels uncomfortable in their own skin. 

The church's insistence on grace is why justice is having so much trouble. 

It's the church's fault that young people can't function in a real society because they don't understand the most basic things about life. 

The church has been blamed for electing politicians that challenge the world's narrative, thus "setting us back" decades, if not centuries, in all the "progress" we've made. 

(The same book I referenced yesterday takes vicious aim at "evangelical" voters for electing Donald Trump and thus destroying the fabric of everything as we know it. But in the same breath, it also states plainly that evangelical voters make up roughly 25-30% of all voters in America and that only 81% of evangelicals actually voted for Trump. If you do the math, that means less than half of Donald Trump's votes came from evangelical voters...and yet, the church takes all the "blame" for his election.) 

The church gets called out for trying to "legislate its morality" when Christian lawmakers speak, act, write, and vote on the basis of their Christian conscience. The world fails to recognize that it, too, legislates its morality - it speaks, acts, writes, and votes on the basis of its conscience, which is guided by something, even if it's not God. It has simply arbitrarily decided that whatever guides its conscience is not offensive, whereas God is highly offensive. 

The church is chastised for "always looking for evidence that backs up what it already believes." But, again, the world does this, too. It ignores everything that is contrary to its own narrative and constantly seeks to back itself up. The world accuses the church of being easily duped into conspiracy theories, but if you look objectively, you'll see that the world has formed its own great big conspiracy about the church. 

You'll notice this, by the way, in a lot of these books and conversations about "deconstruction" - there's nothing salvageable in the church. The church has completely destroyed those who have left it. Its ideas about the world and about humans and about morality are so backward that they, ironically, cannot be saved. There's no conversation, no voices, from those who have benefitted from the church or those who have effectively put its doctrine into a livable lifestyle. 

The conversations these days have taken everything a step further, and now, we're not just seeing the "church" blamed for everything that's wrong with society, but we're seeing the "white church" blamed for it. I recently saw the "white church" named as the culprit in some kind of "war" on homosexuality, as though sexual orientation and race are so intertwined. 

It's the way that our world uses language. That's all it is. It's the postmodern use of language as a weapon. It's the belief that if you say something loudly enough, with enough venom, and repeatedly over time, it makes it true. And indeed, that's what we're seeing in the hearts of those who are "deconstructing" - they have heard the world call out Christianity over and over again, and the message is so loud that they can't ignore it any more. 

They start to think this world might be right about something, and they adopt this narrative that it is the church, not the world, that is broken. That it is the church, not the world, that is holding us back. That if the church would just get out of the way, we'd be a better people as a whole. And even, as the world tries to throw in there, more like Jesus. More like Jesus would want us to be. 

That's the real deviousness of the whole thing. Throughout it all, the world just keeps telling us that because we hold a different morality, because we maintain a different understanding, because we hold to an inherent dignity, because we believe in certain standards of living, that we are not like Jesus at all. Then, they throw words like "love" in our face and dare us to do anything but spit.

And now, here we are. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Animal Morality

Once the world convinces you that your worldview (Christianity) cannot account for even the most "basic" of scientific "facts," it's not a big step to then tackle your morality. Or lack thereof. 

See, what you fail to understand, as a Christian with a certain understanding of the inherent dignity of human beings, is that human beings at their core are just animals. We're no different than the monkeys (and just look at this weird fossil we found to prove it! No, no, don't offer us any other explanations. We like the one we have). And if we're no different than the monkeys, then you have to understand that we can only really be expected to act like animals. 

There's no reason to save sex for marriage. Sex is a biological function that is driven by our passion and desire and besides, it feels good, and since the animals are doing it whenever the urge strikes them, so should we. To save sex for marriage is too restrictive, and it makes us think there's something about it that we're missing in our pure animal instincts, and that raises a pathology around it. So it's better that we just fornicate as much as possible. 

(One of the books I'm currently reading suggests that sexual exploration before marriage is crucial to a successful marriage because if you're never "played around," then you don't know what you like or even the basic mechanics of things, and it makes your wedding night really awkward. So this author, who grew up in the church and left it for "deconstruction" says you're doing your future spouse a favor by having sex before marriage. She seems to not understand at all that the trouble she claims waiting introduces on the marriage night is the same trouble everyone has the first time they engage in sex, even outside of marriage. So...her point is null. Not that you could explain that to her.) 

Homosexuality? Why not? We are just animals following our urges. There's nothing wrong with the kind of urges that you have; you just are the way you are. (And of course, here, the world reminds us that homosexual encounters occur in nature, in animals, so there must be nothing inherently wrong with them in humans.) 

Violence? That's par for the course! As animals, we are driven by our need for dominance. So when a perceived threat comes our way, it's only natural that we show our strength. 

Which leads us to a few more complicated matters. Because we are animals wired for perversion and dominance, we must create laws that rein us in. We have to have gun control because we're not wired to control ourselves. We must have laws that tip the scales of justice one direction or the other because we cannot be trusted to figure out justice on our own; rather, we will always be driven by our own selfish needs. 

We must have access to abortion because all of our animal fornication leads to unwanted pregnancies sometimes, and we have to be honest and say that this isn't a great place to raise a child. (Notice how the church, with its definition of marriage and family, has never had to say it's not an appropriate environment for a child...until the world came along and accused the church of "indoctrinating" children and adopted a narrative that the church is the most dangerous place for a child.) 

But do you see how this all happens? First, you don't understand science. Christianity doesn't account for the basic "facts" of the world as we know it. And second, knowing what we know of science, we see ourselves as merely animals - like all other animals - and Christianity doesn't account for this either because it thinks there's something special about being human. But suddenly, because you have a Christian value system, you don't know anything about the world or about humans. 

So strange that the world faults us for holding to the narrative of a fallen nature, claiming how destructive it is to the human psyche to believe you are a sinner in need of grace, but at the same time, the world insists you're nothing more than an animal and hopelessly dominated by instinct, which must be dominated by "society" for your own good. 

It's enough to make your head spin. But that's exactly what the world wants.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Wisdom of the World

"Deconstruction," for most Christians who claim to be going through such a thing, almost always starts with an interaction with the message of the world - something the world says that someone then takes as true because the world says of course it is true and it must be true - that then calls into question, in some way, the message of faith. 

It started, and it often comes back to, something called "science." At least, such is true in our lifetime. (There have been other "wisdoms" raised from the very beginnings of the faith.) So let's talk about science. 

Science makes claims like, "the universe is billions of years old." They do this in a few ways - by calculating very rough speeds from very far distances based on very specific algorithms that they've had to adjust multiple times over the course of developing them to arrive at where they currently are, and underlying this is a lot of assumption - assumption, for example, that things have either always been traveling at the rate they are traveling now or that they have always been slowing at a rate they are slowing now (and therefore, were once moving much faster, a rate we can also calculate with some kind of algorithm). There's nothing at all to say that any of this is true, but the world says that it is true, and if you ask questions, it's because you "don't believe in science." 

But we know the way that planets in our own solar system orbit, how they both rotate and revolve around their various paths. We know that some things wobble. What if some things wobble more than others? What if the amount of distance traveled during a wobble is greater in some cases than others? What if our lifetimes are so short (and our knowledge of space, thus far, so limited) that what we're seeing is a wobble and not a movement, and we just haven't seen it wobble back the other way yet? Science can't answer these questions; they can just call you stupid for asking. 

The same is true about carbon dating. The earth, too, science claims, must be billions of years old. We know this because of the way that carbon acts, so by using the carbon, we can figure out how old things are. But we only know how carbon acts in the environments that we've tested it in, and science itself claims that the earth has gone through different eras and eons and scientific stages and changes. What if we're wrong about how carbon acted during an ice age - which science tells us have existed? Then all of our carbon dating is wrong because we have no way of knowing how carbon actually acted in the environment in which it existed. 

This is why global warming is a problem. Science tells us the earth has gone through periods of coolness and warmness and that we're now entering another period of warmness, but that this one is "unprecedented." This one is caused by our own human activity. How do we know? What caused the other periods of weather change? Science won't say.

Then "science" goes on to make claims about human nature, human development, evolution, homosexuality, disability, and so on, and it tells us that our Bible is just not compatible with these things. It tells us these things are true, and whatever claim we want to make on faith has to account for these scientific "facts" or we are blind, naive, stupid, backward, and uneducated. We're "uncultured." 

Well, nobody wants to be uncultured or stupid, so even those in the church start saying that these things are our starting point - this "science" is the set of facts that we must deal with, then we start changing the faith to meet them. Changing things like our understanding of the creation of the world or of the dignity of human beings or God's intent for man. We start to say that our Bible doesn't really mean what it says here or here or here, and that makes it easier to say that it doesn't mean what it says there, either, and all of a sudden, we're left with a faith that we're trying to build on the basis of "science" instead of fitting the science to our faith. 

Remember, friends - science has changed a ton even over a relatively short period of human history. It wasn't that long ago that humans believed the earth was flat or that the sun revolved around the earth. It wasn't that long ago that we believed HIV was a curse brought on active homosexuals for their sin or that red-headed children were more likely to be possessed. And yet, "science" wants to stand in front of us and claim that it is the authority for truth? Even while it confesses that it continues to change and grow and develop? 

And we believe that? We believe that so much that we're willing to throw away thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years of consistency in what God has said from the very beginning, all of which, by the way, has been shown to be true over and over and over again. 

But this is how it starts....  

(For the record, I believe that faith and science are not necessarily at odds with one another, that there are ways to harmonize them that doesn't require compromising either, but requires us to be fully honest about both.) 

Monday, July 10, 2023


It's a popular term in semi-Christian circles these days - "deconstructing." You hear it all the time - "I'm deconstructing my faith." What they say that this means is this: "I have left the church that I grew up in (or have attended for a long time) in order to re-evaluate the things that I believe and attempt to put them back together in a more efficient way." 

They say that the ultimate aim in all of this is that they come to a faith that is closer to the heart of Jesus than it is to the religion of Christianity, that they will come to a place where they are a better Christian after having left all the accoutrement of the religion behind them and re-emerging into a new "sacred" space.

It sounds like a good thing. Who wouldn't want anyone to get closer to the authentic Jesus? 

The trouble is that, in practice, that's all just language. 

I read a lot about the deconstruction movement, from persons who are proudly engaging it. I read a lot from "ex-vangelicals" - those who boldly proclaim their departure from the church. And the actual truth underlying the vast majority of this movement is stark. 

Every single story I have ever read, despite all of the good-sounding language they try to couch it in, boils down to basically this: "I have believed in Jesus for a long time, but the world has a different story, so I'm stepping away from my faith in order to search for a Jesus that is more in harmony with the wisdom of this world." 

That's it. That's what is really at the heart of it. And every ex-vangelical story that I've read or heard has come back around to a place where what they have is a Jesus that this world thinks more highly of than the Jesus of the Christian faith - a Jesus who is "tolerant" and "loves and affirms everyone" and "has no hate" (meaning He disapproves of nothing). 

Deconstruction is, at its core, a movement designed to try to harmonize Christianity with a world that is actively walking away from it. Not by asking the world to change, but by asking Jesus to change. Or changing Him against His will. 

And friends, that just doesn't work. 

Jesus told us that we'll be in conflict with the world, that the world doesn't believe the way that Christians believe. He told us that His wisdom makes the world look foolish...and that it looks foolish to the world. He told us that we are set apart from this place, that we are in the world but not of the world. He told us this was how it was going to be. 

Yet, here we are with an entire generation of mostly young persons who have grown up in the church, then heard the message of the world and said, you know what? I like the world's message better. The world seems to understand Jesus better than the church does. 

But the Jesus of the world is not the Jesus of the church. 

And listen, I'm not saying that the church has everything right. I'm not saying that we're not getting some things wrong. I'm not saying that there is not sin in our body. We know that there is. But what I do contest is that it isn't as bad as the world says that it is...and that it isn't a reason to take the holy wine of Jesus and turn it back into water so that He doesn't offend anyone. 

Let's talk about this for a few days. It's important. 

Friday, July 7, 2023

Sacred Spaces

When we say that we are the sacred spaces to where the innocent can run for refuge, that doesn't mean exactly what the world thinks it means. 

See, the world thinks that if we say we are a refuge, then everyone ought to be "safe" here. Everyone ought to be able to come and to be protected, exactly as they are. We ought to wrap our arms - and our walls - around anyone who would come to seek refuge in our sacred space. 

And, indeed, the history of the church is that she has been a refuge in the world. 

But that doesn't mean that we just take everyone in. 

If a man was guilty of whatever crime he was accused, he could not find safety in a city of refuge. If he was guilty, the city was required to hand him over to those who would come after him. There were no walls that would keep him in. That's not the way that the sanctuary of God works. 

So, too, then, we must be discerning about what we're willing to wrap our arms around. We have to be just as willing to say what we are not a refuge for as we are about what we are a refuge for. We have to be willing to say what is not going to be safe in our sacred space. 

This is...tricky. I know it is. We are a people of both mercy and grace, and above all, we are a people of love. There is such a fine line between saying that we will provide refuge and knowing what love really looks like. There is such a fine line between creating a safe space for the innocent (and, we might add, for the repentant) and knowing when to cast someone out. There is such a fine line between the mercy we are called to offer and the sacredness of the space we are called to steward. 

The world wants us to just "accept" everyone and everything. Not only accept, but affirm. Not only affirm, but celebrate. The world says that if there is even one person who is not safe here, then we are no refuge. We are no sacred space. We are not, they say, who we claim we are. We aren't a people of love. 

But God's instructions are clear: we are a refuge for the innocent, not for the guilty. We are a refuge for those who need protection from consequences that are not due them, not a refuge for those who don't want to be honest about the life they are living. 

As such, we have to draw some hard lines. We have to take some firm stands. We have to be willing to say what we will and won't tolerate, what is and is not welcome in our sacred space. And I know - hear me, I know - the world condemns us for that, but God doesn't. 

Rather, that's exactly what God has called us to do. 

The hard truth is this: if you just let murderers live in your sacred space, it's not long before it's not sacred any more. It's not long until what lurks in their hearts comes living in your streets. If you want to be a safe space, a sacred space, a true refuge, you have to be clear about what kind of person is allowed to live here. Otherwise, you're no refuge at all. Your streets are filled with the same garbage that everyone runs to you trying to get away from. And what good does that do? 

Be mindful, then, of who you welcome into your refuge. Of who you take in. 

Do not let the guilty dwell within your walls. Offer mercy, yes, always, but never forget God's call on you to be a refuge. You can't do that if you let the guilty in. 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

God's Refuge

When God established His people in the Promised Land, He divided up the territory among the twelve sons of Israel - giving Joseph's sons two shares and the tribe of Levi, no shares. Levi was set apart from the beginning to serve the Lord at the places of worship, acting as a stand-between for the people with the Lord. 

But God also created six "cities of refuge" - cities to which the innocent could run and be sheltered from the kind of injustice that vengeance often brings. Once in a city of refuge, as long as the innocent stayed inside the walls, no harm could come to them. No one could come to avenge the death of a loved one that occurred by accident. No one could come to exact a price on someone who was, by the Lord's standards, innocent. 

Then, when God started setting apart a few cities throughout the land for the Levites to dwell in, He started by giving the Levites all six of these cities of refuge. Even though they laid in the territory of other tribes of Israel, these cities of refuge belonged to the Levites - the servants of God. 

This is important for those of us who are living in a land that isn't ours. We are all but strangers here, given a small space in someone else's territory for the time being.

And...we are all Levites.

We are the servants of God who have been called to tend the places of refuge in this world. We are called to be sacred spaces where the innocent can run and find shelter. We are called to keep the vengeance of the world at bay and to declare, in no uncertain terms, that those within our walls are safe here. 

It is much as the prayer that Jesus prayed in the book of John. He prayed for "the ones You have given me." Not for everyone. Not for the whole world. Specifically, Jesus prayed for those God had given Him. Jesus was the living example of this city of refuge principle that goes all the way back to the wilderness.

So, then, should we also be. We should invest our lives in the protection of those God has given us. In their safety. In their protection. In their refuge. In their love. We should invest ourselves in stewarding well these cities God has given us, these sacred places to where the innocent come running. To where the world comes running to find shelter. 

It's no minor calling. It's no small thing. Out of the thousands of cities that Israel inherited on the other side of the Exodus, out of their own freedom from slavery, only six of them were cities of refuge. Just six. 

But oh, what sacred spaces. 

May we offer the same to the world around us.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

God's Interconnected Promise

Are you a person of God? Most of us would answer "yes" to that question, especially most of those of us reading this blog. But are you in the people of God?

We are living in a time that declares that maybe being a people of God isn't so important. We tell each other that it's okay to be "spiritual, but not religious," that it's just as valid to "worship" God at the lake on Sunday morning while you're fishing as it is to worship Him in a church service. That you can have a strong, robust faith without having a church home. That, in fact, you don't need church at all to be a person of God. 

Maybe you don't. But you need it to be a people of God. 

And God has always called us to be a people of God. 

What we have to understand is that so much of what God is doing in our lives is connected with what God is doing in the lives of others. We are working together toward glory, not all on our own. His promises are often fulfilled together with the promises He has for the lives of others, not just for us. 

Look again at the Promised Land. Israel is dividing up Canaan as they enter the land, and God is telling them what cities belong to what tribe. They are mapping it all out and laying out property lines and staking their claims. 

And Ephraim ends up with a bunch of towns and villages inside the borders of Manasseh. 

This just rattles our brains. Something inside of us says, wait a minute. If these are the towns of Ephraim, why not just draw a new border around them and declare this the land of Ephraim? Why do we have to say that these towns that belong to one brother are inside the borders of the area that belong to another brother? Seems simple enough to just divide that out further, but that's not the way that God does it. 

God gives the land to Manasseh, then gives some of the cities in that land to Ephraim. God fulfills the promise of one brother within the borders of the promise of another brother. 

That's the way He often does it. 

Our lives are more intertwined than we think. If you ever really sit down and think about the opportunities and experiences you've had, do you realize how many other persons are connected to them? How many pieces God had to put in place for those things to happen? Even small things. More often than we realize, the promise of God in our lives is fulfilled within the borders of the promise of God in someone else's life. 

That's why we can't do it on our own. That's why we can't live our lives as persons of God apart from the people of God. 

Ephraim doesn't get those cities if Manasseh doesn't get that land. It's not going to work that way. 

And you don't get that promise if someone else doesn't get theirs. 

That's just how God operates. 

So, person of God...are you in the people of God? If you're not, what might you be missing out on? 

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

God's Big Promise

We talk a lot about the promises of God. We talk a lot about the goodness of God. We talk about the good things that God has done in our lives, the prayer that He has answered, the gift that He has given. We talk about what it's like to live in God's blessing and to know that God loves us and to feel that love through His blessings upon us and the fulfillment of the promise of His goodness. 

Yeah, we do. 

One of the things that I love about God, though, is that even as we're talking about all of this stuff, our God is a God that never lets us settle. 

Sometimes, we think we would settle. We think if we could just get God to do this one thing for us, that would be enough. In fact, we pray that quite a bit, don't we? God, if You would just do this one thing for me, I would never ask You for anything ever again. I promise. 

But our promise is so small compared to God's. Our promise is almost laughable. 

See, God doesn't let us settle for that one thing, no matter what it is, how much we want it, or even how good it may be. It doesn't matter if that one thing is the thing that puts our entire life back on the trajectory that God has for it and naturally leads us into a thousand other blessings. It doesn't matter if that one thing is the first thing or what we think is the last thing on our journey into something good. 

God keeps reminding us that His promise is always bigger than this one thing. That He keeps working, keeps moving, keeps loving, and keeps promising beyond even whatever goodness this is. 

When Israel was entering the Promised Land, they got into Canaan enough to settle down a bit. They had conquered enough towns that the people felt like they finally had some breathing room. They could pause for a little bit and rest in God's goodness. Actually, they even had enough victory that they were able to settle down and start dividing up the land. 

They were casting lots and settling down and building (and re-building) towns and putting their wives and children and livestock into places that they might finally get to call "home." They were, sufficiently, "in" the Promised Land. They were in Canaan. They had come to the place that God had promised them. 

But even here, God reminds them that this isn't it. 

While they are dividing land, God reminds them this isn't all the land. While they are casting lots, God reminds them to cast lots for the land they haven't conquered yet. While they are rejoicing in finally spreading out a bit, God reminds them that they will spread out even further than this. 

The people have a taste of the promise, and it would be easy to settle just for that. After all, it is good. 

But it's not very good. 

God has so much more for them. 

And I love that He keeps reminding them of that, even in a place that feels really good already.  

Monday, July 3, 2023

God's Standards

We know that God keeps all of His promises; we've talked about that a few times already. Whether He keeps them in our lifetime or in later years, whether He keeps them to us or to our children, whether He keeps them in this breath or the next one, God keeps His promises. You can count on that. 

You can also count on God to expect you to keep your promises. 

Even the foolish ones. 

There's a story as Israel is entering the Promised Land where a people from not-too-far-away hear that Israel has finally crossed the Jordan. Scared for their own safety and the future of their people, they pretend to be a people from very-far-away and come to Israel in tattered clothes with busted wineskins and beg for mercy, begging Joshua to make a treaty with them so that when Israel gets to their land, they'll at least be allowed to live. 

Israel doesn't ask God about this. They don't think they need to - the evidence in front of their eyes is very obvious. These people are coming in tattered clothes. These peoples' wineskins have busted. These people are caked in dirt. It's obvious they have come from far away. So Israel goes ahead and makes a promise to them. 

As far as Israel is concerned, this is a people who isn't even on their radar yet. This people is from so far away that Israel isn't even thinking about them right now. Israel's got just the next city on their mind. Just the next town. Just the next people. Not this people. So what does it matter if we make a treaty now? We'll deal with it later. 

If you're familiar with the story, you know that these people were not a people from very far away. They were a people that Israel encountered actually pretty quickly upon entering the Promised Land and now, they had to decide what they were going to do about the promise they made. 

God was very clear: they were supposed to keep it. 

It was a foolish promise. Made without thought. Made without prayer. Made without wisdom or guidance. But it was a promise nonetheless. And when you are a people of a God of the Promise, you keep your promises. Period. 

Sometimes, we think that the things we do are not the things God would have wanted us to do. We talk ourselves in circles trying to get out of the messes that we've gotten ourselves into. We justify ourselves, claiming that since God wouldn't have wanted us to do it in the first place, He obviously won't care if we don't follow through with it. 

But this scene from Joshua reminds us that that's just not true. While your first promise might have been a failure, it is a second failure to break that promise. It might have been a sin to try to act in your own wisdom like that, but it is a second sin to break your promise. Because God is a God who doesn't break His promises and this world knows the Lord through you (at least, in part). 

So if you do something foolish, the next best thing you can do is to make your next act one of faith. And that means keeping that promise. No matter what.