Friday, May 29, 2020

When Cultures Collapse

 The world “collapse” came to me this morning. It’s not a very positive word, but it is part of life. One dictionary defines collapse asto fall or cave in; crumble suddenly.”

I remember looking out from the roof of our apartment in LA during the Rodney King riots and seeing how quickly social order collapsed in our neighborhood. I watched footage on the current riots taking place in Minneapolis where entire neighborhoods are burning. Life as we know it can collapse in a moment. That reality is unsettling.

I remember how quickly things changed in a divided Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. I recall the rapid fall of the old USSR. These changes appeared to take place suddenly, but the ingredients of their collapse were added to the mix over time, long before the physical collapse took place.

We are in a time when some things we thought immovable and forever secure will begin to collapse because they cannot bear the weight of needed change. Each generation hopes that collapse will take place somewhere in the future, not in their lifetime. While no one wants to experience social collapse, our desire to push needed change forward into another generation could be our contribution to an eventual collapse of a culture. 

What can catch us off guard is the suddenness of a cultural collapse when it does occur. A neighborhood can be a familiar and secure home to generations of a family, and in one night, it all burns to the ground as the sad fruit of a riot. Nations given almost omnipotent status can fall in a day. Only God is unchanging and immovable. Everything else on earth is subject to sudden collapse.

Before any more history unfolds, it would be wise for each of us to take time to reorder our thinking and reaffirm where our hope has been placed. Nothing on earth is immune to change and eventual collapse. Only in Jesus can we have true peace and an immovable hope.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Shaming

When someone attempts to shame you into silence, their attack only reveals the weakness of their position and the shallowness of their character. Don't take it personally. Turn away, and don't respond. Let God be your defender. 

The Gift of Honor

In the last few days, I have been reading through Proverbs. Proverbs is one of those down to earth, practical sections of Scripture that helps us navigate life with wisdom.

This morning I read, “If you do, you will lose your honor” (Proverbs 5:9). The context of that declaration has to do with someone being seduced sexually and the sad consequences of that choice. But that warning applies to more than just sexual seduction. It can refer to any form of seduction like the seducing presence of power, control, or pride.

With that in mind, I went back and reread chapter 5 to see how seduction takes place. It first begins with smooth words that appeal to a place in us that is vulnerable to the kind of seduction being offered. Once the smooth and inviting words are received, a conversation begins leading the victim to the door of the house of the seducing spirit. Once inside, it is too late. Seduction is complete, and honor is lost.

The writer of Proverbs shares the regret of the seduced person, “How I hated discipline. If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace” (v.12-14). 

Seduction of any kind can seem like it comes out of left field, but in reality, we carry and develop our vulnerability to its lure over time.  This is why each day, we must examine our hearts to see if we are carrying a vulnerability to any form of seduction that has the intent and purpose of robbing us of our honor. Protect honor at all costs. It is a gift from God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pray for Pastors

In this pandemic, pastors are getting input from all sides. This has caused me to want to be more sensitive to the challenges they are facing. This is not a comfortable time to be a pastor. Not all of the input they receive is kind, loving, or sensitive. Since pastors are the ones tasked with creating an environment where the Church can flourish, this is a time for apostles and prophets to listen to what a pastor is sensing is best for the people they shepherd. The five equipping gifts are a team,  not a hierarchy. Each gift has a unique contribution to make in the maturing process of the Church. These equipping gifts work best when they function in mutual submission to each other. 

God is Offering Us a Great Treasure

As I was pondering what is taking place in our culture, in my mind’s eye, I saw the image of a small clothe bag being held by someone. Immediately, I knew the hand was God’s hand, and the bag was filled with gold. It was a visual metaphor of what God wants to do before we return to some sense of normalcy.

Many of us have been working on a re-engagement plan for our life, work, and ministry. We want that plan to be in place before this season comes to an end, so we won’t miss a beat upon re-engagement. That is good, but it is not the most important consideration. There is something greater. The greater is the treasure within the cloth bag the Lord is holding out to His people. The treasure is reconciliation and restoration.

In the last few months, increasing levels of tension and frustration have manifested in some relationships, causing the exchange of hurtful words and actions. This has created wounding and division. God wants to prepare us to reengage and see our plan succeed, but this will only happen if we are willing to reconcile and allow restoration to take place in our relationships. 

This is not about who is right or wrong. It is about protecting oneness and unity within the Church so that our lives become a living testimony of God’s grace to the surrounding culture. Without a willingness to reconcile and restore, our best-laid plans will not survive the coming reengagement because the plans of God are empowered by love. Without the redemptive power of love, even the best of plans will become hollow and short-lived.



Monday, May 25, 2020

The Clanging Cymbal of Our Opinion

Over the years, I've noticed we can make Scripture say what we want it to say when our opinion on a subject has become entrenched and unmovable. I know this because I have been guilty of the practice. Like you, I have “proof texts” for everything I think an opposing opinion might offer as evidence proving their opinion is superior to mine and vice versa.

This is why Jesus must be our ultimate authority even above our interpretation of a bible text or preferred translation of the bible, something none of the earliest disciples possessed. I know this can sound like borderline heresy to some, but such is the life of faith. There will be times when two believers who both love God and live lives of integrity will disagree over the interpretation of a text or how to represent our faith in culture. In these instances, only Jesus can be the ultimate mediator, not our opinion on Scripture, our worldview, or how we think our faith should be represented in culture.

Living with honor while holding divergent opinions requires a pliable heart. Pliability is not a loss of biblical integrity or compromise of our ethics. It is a manifestation of mature love. Some of the most remarkable men and women I know in God’s Kingdom have very different opinions and interpretations about a life of faith, and yet they are still able to move forward under the banner of love and accomplish great things together. 

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1).


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Discerning Preference and Conviction

Learning to discern the difference between personal preference and conviction is an important distinction to make. Personal preference is something we all have because we have been uniquely created and live within different lifestyles and social environments. We can yield the ground of our personal preference when we encounter a divergent opinion and not be compromised morally. Conviction is different. It holds fast to our understanding of truth and does not waver. Both preference and conviction must be handled with grace and wisdom, or relationships can be destroyed, and a mission can be aborted prematurely.                                                                     

It is too easy to mistake a preference for a conviction and draw an emotional line in the sand and miss the fact that different preferences and viewpoints are actually an invitation for dialogue, not distance. Truth is what should empower all we do, not our emotions, no matter how passionate those emotions might be convincing us of the rightness of our position or worldview. Our undisciplined emotions can redefine a preference and turn it into a conviction, and that is where a lot of our problems find their origin. 

Lord, help us know the difference.