The Christian Stooge

For too long, Christians have been naive when it comes to politics. We have allowed politicians to manipulate us into giving them our vote when they say the right things on the issues we care about. But when it comes to actually doing anything about the issues that we vote for, they have failed to bring their pontifications to reality. Politicians are good for that. It's time for Christians to stop playing the funny man in the stooge's act.

It looks like it is happening again.

Recently, Eric Sapp wrote an article entitled Rick Perry's Church Giving Hypocrisy.

Here's a great excerpt:
What we should be saying is that it doesn't matter whether the Church could do a better job caring for the poor or not because the Church isn't doing it. We wouldn't need Section 8 housing if we had enough Habitat homes. We wouldn't need food stamps or school lunches if we had enough soup kitchens. The way to ensure better care for the poor than government can provide is not to hobble government programs but for the Church to make those programs unnecessary. The problem is not that government is doing too much but that the Church is doing too little.
He goes on to share that Rick Perry didn't even give a hundred dollars to the church the year that he made a million. Here is an article, Perry has not overburdened the collection plate, that goes in depth about his giving.

Wow. Actions like Perry's are not going to empower the church to step up and fill the hole caused by the disappearance of the government programs that many Christians, including Perry, are clamoring for. The moral thing for Christians and the church to do would be to actually provide the programs on a scale that the government would no longer need to do them. Until we step up and put our money and lives where our rhetoric is, we have no place, if we claim to be Christians, to ask for the government to stop the programs many poor people need. If we were already taking care of their needs, then we could be justified in asking the government to stop taking care of them.

If we think that the church can do it better than the state, then let's start doing it!

Satan's Disguise

Satan doesn’t swoop in with horns and a pitchfork. He sneaks in with justifications, selfishness, and complacency. Eventually, after giving in to one small compromise after another, we find ourselves abandoning the simple way of Jesus and living a life full of complex explanations, worthless excuses, and/or general apathy. Although we would never admit that because we have justified away all of the selfishness and complacency to fit nicely in the idol we call Jesus but is nothing like Him.

I’m sure we all know people whose lives have fallen apart. Bad decisions have placed them on the wrong course, and they seem incapable to put their life back in gear. Maybe you are that person that needs to get your life together. If so, there is hope. For starters, the honesty to admit that your life has been misguided and is off course is the beginning to fixing it.

For those who think they have it all together, it’s easy to point at “those people” whose lives are in shambles. But what about ourselves? I see many church people who have found themselves caught up into all sorts of legalism, spiritual selfishness, and an uncaring attitude toward the suffering in this world. They are just as lost as the person on the easy to diagnose wrong course, but their situation is worse because they don’t notice the predicament they are in.

The other day we were cutting a board at my house. My friend came over with his saw and a chalk line. The chalk line sets the path that the blade is to follow. You line it up and snap it down. It creates a nice line of chalk between two points.

It’s easier to stay on the right course when it is clearly laid out. When it comes to our spiritual lives, it’s difficult to find every nook and cranny that will lead us down the wrong course. But what if, instead of fearing the wrong course, we focused solely on the good course.

Jesus is our chalk line. A line between us and the us that God wants us to be. Anything in our lives that distracts us from living a life of love in Jesus and imitating the sacrifice that He modeled for us is off course. It could be a mini justification to do something that is wrong. It could be just a slight excuse to live selfishly. It could be a complacent blind eye toward a little injustice.

Eventually, if we continue to justify and stray, we find ourselves off course. Each little compromise adds up. If we are too far off course, we may stop looking at the chalk line. The good news is that off in the distance Jesus is hanging there, up high, so that we can see Him no matter how deep of a valley we might find ourselves in.

Jesus taught, “The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” [Mark 12:29-31 (ESV)].

So whether we find ourselves in a self-righteous, spiritually selfish valley or a chasm of despair and hopelessness, Jesus is the way. That is not just some abstract metaphor. It is a proclamation that we are to live the life Jesus designed us to live. That is what it means to be saved. If the people who claim to be followers of Jesus would stop giving in to little justifications, acts of spiritual selfishness, and turning a blind eye to the injustice of this world and started living the life Jesus saved us for, then the world would see Jesus.

May we learn to love the way He loved and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

The Moving of Change

After many weeks of packing and preparing, the day of our move finally came. Friends and vehicles assembled, and the sweat began to roll. Trip after trip, clearing out the old house and filling up the new one. Eventually, the excitement of the move dwindled. Generous people had other things to get to, but I still had to finish my move. I packed up one van load alone while waiting for some more friends to arrive to help me finish some of the larger items.

Now, everything is moved, but we are not settled in. Fixing the broken window that a bed post went through. Sewing up the hole that was mysteriously made in the couch. Then the cleaning. Then the unpacking. Followed by the arranging and rearranging. We will notice something that we forgot to take care of and fix it. Changing the place where one lives is never simple. There is a lot to do after the decision to move has been made.

The same is true for a person who has decided to follow Jesus. That initial decision is life-changing and refreshing. But eventually you will find yourself alone. Alone with your thoughts. Alone with who you are. Alone with the struggles and pitfalls that once ensnared you. What will you do when all of the weight of the world seems to come crashing down on you? Will you continue to move on toward Jesus? Or will you go back to the place where you once were?

This is where Church comes in. Moving would be nigh impossible without the help of friends. Living for Jesus is made much easier with the help of friends who are also trying together to live for Jesus. Too often we disregard church because we don’t like something that they do during the one hour that they meet on Sunday mornings. This is a ridiculous and costly mistake. Church is so much more than just an hour on Sunday morning. It’s about a life lived in community with others throughout the week.

Being part of a healthy church is not easy, but it is worth all the sweat. It takes time and effort on everyone’s part. It doesn’t just happen overnight. Like a move, it takes preparation. It takes many meals together. It takes talking with one another and dreaming together. It takes meeting people’s needs together. It even takes the unpopular idea of correcting one another.

The writer of Hebrews wrote: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” [Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)].

Too often, we pretend that church is just singing and studying together, but God intended it to be so much more. Church is to be that place where we are encouraged and challenged. I can listen to a sermon online from one of the nation’s best preachers without interacting with other people. You can sing along with the praise music or hymns of your choice in the comfort of your shower without having to bother with those music styles you dislike. But you can’t encourage one another without getting together. You also can’t encourage one another by just going to a “sacred” building for an hour on Sunday morning where you clock in and clock out to get to eat as soon as possible.

Church can be so much more than we are currently experience. Are you ready to move? I am.

It’s God’s Fault

Have you ever noticed the tendency that we have to blame God when bad things happen?

Now that is not to say that He is not partly liable. He is God after all. If he can turn water into wine, protect Daniel in the lion’s den, or part the Red Sea, then He is powerful. And if He has the power to stop a tragedy yet allows it, then we cannot just say that He is not partly responsible.

If we did not want to lay the blame at His feet, we would have to say that He is not all-powerful. But if God is not all powerful, then is He really God? Or we could say that He doesn’t care. But if He doesn’t care, then is He loving? We could just say that we live in a fallen world and that the tragedy around us is just the consequences of the fallen state of everything. But then why does God intervene and do miracles at some times and not others?

Imagine that you were walking down the sidewalk and saw a toddler playing in the road. You looked around and did not see the kid’s mom or dad anywhere. Further down the road, you saw a semi-truck going full speed. You had plenty of time to safely get the toddler out of the road and to safety, yet you also know that the semi would not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting the kid. So you decided, despite having the power to stop the situation, to just stand there and enjoy the gory show. Would you be at fault for that kid’s death? Is God at fault for the suffering in the world?

Yet we read in the writings of John, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” [1 John 4:7-8 (ESV)].

How can we reconcile all the pain in our lives and the suffering in the world with a God who is loving? How do we watch footage of the Japanese tsunami destroying house after house and still say that God is loving? How do we see starving children in Africa and say that God is loving? How do we deal with the personal pain of the death of a loved one and say that God is still loving?

Often, we don’t. We ignore the question. As if by ignoring the difficult dilemma, everything will be the way it was before the disaster or tragedy struck. We continue to go through the religious motions, saying all of the right religious sayings while inside we no longer truly believe that God is good. Oh, we continue to give lip service to that religious supposition, but, deep inside, we have stopped believing it. The idea that God is good has just become an intellectual concept that we utter without meaning while ignoring the life changing impact that truly believing it can have on our lives.

Other times, we don’t ignore the question but conclude that the best course of action is to hate God or pretend that the God we blame for causing our tragedy does not exist. After all, if God is powerful even to stop tragedies yet allows them to happen, we know that he shares responsibility. Maybe not direct, but at least indirect. What can we conclude about a God who allows tragedies to happen all around him - tragedies of the worst kind - yet has the power to stop them?

Maybe we are looking at it all wrong. Are we being bamboozled by the physical while ignoring the spiritual underpinnings to everything that goes on around us? Could tragedy, suffering, and pain actually be good for us?

God is working out things behind the scenes that we cannot see. When we ask why God intervenes some times and does not at other times – even if we were given the answers, we would not be satisfied. No answer could ever make me happy with some of the tragedies in my life, and I am sure the same could be said for some of the tragedies in yours.

What are we going to do when tragedy strikes? Are we going to ignore that the bad happened? Are we going to distance ourselves from God? Are we going to justify away how God does not hold any responsibility? Or are we going to totally give ourselves over to God, seek His will and plan, and allow Him to work the terrible situations toward good through us? The choice is ours. We can try to change our perspective.