Category Archives: Dysfunctional Society

In Business As It Is In Heaven

When Jesus prayed “in earth as it is in heaven” did He mean that for business too? I think he did.

Recently, I heard a teaching from Bethel Pastor Bill Johnson on the Christian business website, https://heaveninbusiness.com/. He spoke on the basics of Christian principles in business and suggested that Christians have a critical role to play in the business world. Johnson said that Christians in the work world have a responsibility to show others what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. In other words, bring heaven down to earth by how we live and share God’s love. 

When Christians walk into work, we have a much bigger mission than just what is written on the wall. Sure, we need to turn a profit. Even more importantly, we need to leave a positive impact. We need to be the first to apologize and own up or what we have done wrong. We should model out servant leadership. Honestly, is there any other kind of leadership that truly works?

Bill Johnson stated, “You should make people at work thirsty for God.” You don’t have to preach. But you do have to live it out and extend invitations to a bigger mission.  One thing that Bill Johnson said he likes to do is adopt local businesses and just see how he can develop a relationship with the owner and bless the business. He will frequent the establishment and really pray for it. What would happen in the business world if more Christians followed this example? Before we have an encounter at work, we stop and turn our affection to God not that huge work problem. We become aware and conscious of the Spirit of God coming upon us.

Johnson explained, “The Holy Spirit lives in me for my sake, but He comes upon me for the benefit of others to impact the world around me.”

If we are going to bring heaven down to earth, then we better know a bit about heaven. What does it look like when the Kingdom of Heaven invades earth? I think it looks a lot like Matthew 5-7. God turns our value system up side down and makes us truly right side up. A Christian business shines and stands out not by its preaching, but by the freedom and the hope it brings to others. Christians in the work world should be diligent workers and peacemakers – the kind of people you want to have around because they focus on positive things and speaks words of life to teammates.

Pastor Bill Johnson told a story about a major word a group at Bethel received after a time of prayer. He summarized the spiritual truth, “The person with the most hope will have the most influence.” Wow, that hit me like a 2×4. Have I let fear and focus on what is wrong cloud my vision to what could be right? Do I bring hope to my workplace and other relationships?

Johnson said that if we let the size of our problem dominate our thinking we will never realize the miracle that could await. This leads us to focus on the details and not the big picture. It mires us down in all the problems. God wants to raise up business people for His glory to impact the world for good. And the business world is the last great unreached mission field in America. Many of us have been afraid to let the light shine because we didn’t want to make others uncomfortable. But there are ways to bring divine principles to bear in a way that can even bless a secular work environment. A city on a hall is a place that stands out in the dark as Johnson explained. It is a refuge and a comfort for those who are lost.

As the salt of the world, the Church needs to bring flavor to the community. And flavor is influence. Johnson declared that Christians have a duty and responsibility to bless our community including the local businesses with God’s hope, love and generosity.

So, what does this look like for me to live out Matthew 5-7 in the work world? I am struggling every day. Hopefully, each new day I am a bit better than the last day. Johnson talked about how the shadow of the apostles was able to heal people. He asked, “What is released in our shadow?” He then explained, “Your shadow will always release what overshadows you.”

This means if you are full of anger, bitterness, fear or resentment, that will come out. You can’t hide it. If you are full of God’s love, hope and faith, that will overflow and bless others. Those things follow us and leave a positive or negative wake behind us.

So, what’s coming out of your shadow?

 

 

 

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No One Else Is Coming

That sure sounds like an awkward theme for a Christian conference. But that was the theme for the 2019 Vous Conference in Miami. This theme hit on a key point that strangles today’s churches and Christians. Frequently, we look around waiting for some charismatic leader, innovative ministry or new move of God before we act.

But Jesus left His earthly ministry thousands of years ago. And Christ sent us forth to carry forward the Gospel. So, what are we doing standing around with our hands in our pockets?

Each person in the body of Christ has something to offer. We can’t stand around and say we don’t have what we need. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and hearth has been given to me, so therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Sure, this command was directed to the disciples. But it equally applies to Christians today.

Christians have the call, the example, the resurrecting power of Christ, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. What else are we waiting for? Nobody else is coming.

Vous pastor, Rich Wilkerson Jr., challenged the conference attendees. He said, “Reaching the world for Jesus depends on the Church. Everyone and everything we need to change the world is in this room. We shouldn’t look around waiting for somebody else? We have a responsibility to carry forth the Gospel. If not you, then who?”

We all know people who need to know Jesus. So, why don’t we just make an introduction? We don’t have to cram religion down somebody’s throat. All we need to do is tell our story. We need them to know that Jesus is for them, no matter what they have done. Repentance is sweet, and it is the key to unlocking freedom from our past.

Rich said, “The Church of Jesus is the most powerful force on the planet.” Jesus declared  that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. Gates are defensive measures. Basically, Jesus was saying, “Not even hell is protected from the Church.”

The key point that Rich made in his opening talk was the importance of unity. He admitted,  “The devil doesn’t fear a big church; he fears a united Church.” Unity is crucial for the Church to fulfill its mission. Rich added, “If you don’t have unity, you can’t have community.”

The key Scripture that Rich used was Jesus’ prayer as He approached the cross.

John 17:20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus stressed unity that leads to intimacy. It centers on love and directs people to God. More than just unity, Jesus was calling for oneness — when people are unified around the thoughts and plans of God.

Rich talked about the four things that get in our way:

1.) Comparison

Rich said, “It is really hard to carry out your calling if you are focusing on what others are doing around you.” You must be who God has designed and called you to be. Comparison is a trap that robs us of our potential. And in this social media driven culture, comparison is like a plague.

 

2.) Competition in Ministries

Many of those you are competing against don’t really care about competing against you. People want to do big things for God. But sometimes our call is smaller than we wish. As Rich said, “You will never get big if you refuse to be dedicated to the small.”

Rich stressed, “Authenticity comes from identity – what God has put inside of you that attracts others.”

The big problem is that competition causes jealous, which brings division. We need to get to a point where we say, “Your win in ministry is my win…Collaboration is multiplication.”

Rich said, “I am super competitive. You just have to know who your real competitor is.”

 

3.) Critical Spirit

Sure, we need to be discerning. We don’t need to approve of everything that another preacher or ministry does. My motto has been, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” I try to look for what I can learn from others, even from those who may a bit off in places.

I also know that other ministries are not accountable to me. There is one Lord, and He will judge each believer for our actions. As the Apostle Paul asked, “Who am I to judge somebody else’s servant.” But Christians can be the worst in shooting our own.

Rich admitted, “I was ready for criticism. I just wasn’t expecting so much friendly fire.” If you are doing anything for Christ, expect to get some crossfire.

Where does a critical spirit lead? It will always lead to a doubting heart. It makes your vision smaller. We can choose if we want to a critic or if we want to be creative. But it is hard to truly be both.

 

4.) Character Falls Apart

Rich pointed out, “Charisma gets man’s attention. But it is character that gets God’s attention.” Your character is critical if you want a long, successful life and ministry. Charisma can only carry you so far if you don’t have the character to sustain your life pace. Every minster that falls starts with subtle compromises. We stop reading the Word for ourselves. We stop praying for the Lord to search out our heart and show us any wicked way within us. Character is not optional. It is the one thing we need to be a leader worth following.

Have any of these four stumbling blocks impacted your life or ministry? What is getting in the way of reaching your full potential in Christ? How could unity make the difference in your community? Now more than ever, it is critical in a country so divided.

God has sent you. Nobody else is coming. What are you going to do with God’s call?

Note: This is the first blog post in a series that is going to explore key themes and messages from the 2019 Vous Conference. 

Mistaken Identity

The Biblical story of Adam and Eve has caused controversy through the years. And it recently sparked an Internet faux theological firestorm after a female rabbi used it to depict Eve’s story in Genesis 3:1-16 as the first case of sexual assault.

Tamara Kolton suggested that Eve was the mother of #Metoo movement and that God was the culprit.

While it is a good thing to honor women who have the courage to stand up and speak out against abuse and discrimination, it is not good to misrepresent God and hijack His book for a social agenda. That is particularly true when you paint a picture of God that completely betrays the integrity of the original text.

You can read Kolton’s depiction of the Genesis 3 passage at https://forward.com/scribe/393778/the-first-story-in-the-bible-was-the-first-case-of-metoo/.

Kolton wrote, “It’s time we all acknowledge an overwhelmingly powerful source of shame and silence — in the bible…The story that begins the bible, the first one that we learn in Sunday school, the founding story of man and woman upheld for thousands of years by Judeo-Christian religion, is actually the story of the first sexual assault of a woman. The woman’s name is Eve. And the perpetrator? God.”

Notice that this is not a passive suggestion. Kolton is calling out God in this story claiming He acted in a way that we would classify as criminal today. Before anyone goes and makes such a strong allegation, this person should have significant proof. Shouldn’t that same burden of proof be applied to God?

Kolton commented, “She’s hungry, so she does the most natural thing in the world and eats a piece of fruit. For following her instincts, trusting herself, and nourishing her body, she is punished. Her punishment? She will never again feel safe in her nakedness. She will never again love her body. She will never again know her body as a place of sacred sovereignty.”

Let’s look and see what Scripture actually says. The serpent asked Eve if they were forbidden from eating fruit from all of the trees in the garden. Eve corrected the serpent saying, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden.” God made a beautiful garden, set Adam and Eve in it giving them dominion over the plants and animals. They had freedom to eat from all the trees in the garden except one. That doesn’t make God sound like a villain does it?

Eve further clarified, “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

By her own words, Eve demonstrated that this is more than just choosing the wrong thing for dinner. Like a loving parent, God had set boundaries designed to protect both Adam and Eve. This was no normal tree. It would give them the ability to know the difference between good and evil, and that could only come about for humans if they experienced and participated in sin.

Eve’s act was not simply eating a piece of fruit. It was rebellion and disobedience despite all the blessings that God had provided. Kolton suggested that there was nothing wrong with Eve “following her instincts and trusting herself.” But in many cases sin may seem like no big deal until we realize that it is. Sin frequently occurs when we trust ourselves and our own morality instead of following God’s commands. Our instincts can get us in trouble when they go against divine instruction.

Kolton further portrayed the scene, “’What have you done?’ He God thunders. Eve wants to defend herself, but she is too ashamed to speak. Eve, our first mother whose name means the ‘mother of all living things,’ is silenced, much the way the ‘patients’ of Dr. Nassar were.”

Wow! A number of scholars have explained this situation as both Adam and Eve being caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They appear to be like two teenagers who get caught doing something they shouldn’t, and they deflect blame. God asks questions much in the same way a parent would when fishing for the truth. The comparison of God with a serial abuser of women is so outrageous that it doesn’t even deserve a response.

And unlike what Kolton wrote, Eve does respond. She claimed to be deceived by the serpent. She was not crouching on the floor in shame, unable to speak. She deflected blame just like Adam.

At first, God addressed the man with a series of questions. The first question is telling because God asked, “Adam, where are you?” Since God knows all things, He wasn’t looking for information. Some scholars believe, and I agree that this is a question asked out of longing. It reveals a break in the relationship caused by their sin. This is the question of a loving Father wanting his lost children to come home. This is not the question of a serial abuser.

Kolton in her essay paints God out to be the bad guy. She makes the reader question and doubt God’s motives. You know who else does the same thing in the Genesis story? The serpent does when it suggested, “You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” The serpent was insinuating that God was holding out on them. He knows something that they don’t. It is interesting that the pursuit of “knowledge” can be a trap. Some things are best left undiscovered if it leads to sin, pain and death in the process.

Remember, God is desiring to protect here, not control for domination. He has already shared His authority with them. And He made them in His image. The fact that God bestows His image on them means that he values them. You don’t abuse someone that you value.

Just as God is merciful, He is also just. Their sin produced results. The punishment comes as a natural result of their sin, not because God was an ogre who wanted to put them in their place. And ultimately, the story of Adam and Eve leads us to the story of Jesus. He exemplifies the ultimate love of God by choosing to take our punishment. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world. And Christians believe that God redeems it through Christ’s work on our behalf on the cross. This is a love story where God goes to great lengths to show mercy and redeem his wayward children.

Kolton’s further commentary reveals that she wrote her essay informed by a mistaken view of God. She applied to God evil things that were done by wicked men, some who even claimed to speak for God. She lamented, “The founding myth of Judeo-Christian religion, the story of Eve, granted generations of men permission to violate women. It teaches us that women are liars and sinners. Even if ‘She’ is telling the truth, she deserved it. God told her not to eat that apple, or wear that skirt, or go out after dark, or be pretty, or desirous, or in that bar or on that street or in that car or born a girl… This God, this man-made figurehead of the patriarchy, is not my God. He is a fiction, a man-made myth, but yet one so powerful that it’s poisoned and limited our notion of what GOD, the truly divine, is and can be, especially for women.”

Yes, it is true that some men have misused Scripture to justify their own positions and dominate women. But that is not God nor His heart. Truth is that all humans are liars and sinners. Both men and women are in the same boat. Kolton seems to want to raise up the ‘holiness of humanity’ while denying the glory and righteousness of God.

Reading Kolton’s essay my heart broke for her because I believe she doesn’t know the God who created both men and women in His image. I read years of hurt in her words and don’t deny those experiences. I just wonder if her ire is misplaced. Maybe it is humanity that really is the villain here not God?

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Holy Spirit, may you awaken Tamara Kolton to know the love of God. May she see the great lengths that God will go to reach and save anyone. May she see that following our own instincts when it contradicts your Word does not lead to life. It is a trap. May she see the beauty in the Genesis story not a distorted view of God. You are both just and loving. That is why sin begets punishment. But thank you God that Jesus took our place. Amen!

The Enemy Wins When We Hate

Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

As I have watched the events unfold both before and after the election, I am aware that my real enemy is not the person who disagrees with me politically. It is not the person who has a different worldview or follows another religion from mine. My real enemy is Satan, the forces of darkness, lying spirits and sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus called on His followers to love those who hate you. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, including those who anger or annoy me. It is hard, and I struggle with it just like the next person.

The real enemy is anger, hate, sin, pride, lies and those things that would divide the body of Christ. Some “Christians” have said some horrible things over the past six months. And any way that I have fueled those flames, please know that I apologize. I am asking for forgiveness for the body of Christ for those who claim to be Christians and have spewed hatred, malice and anger.

Can we disagree? Sure, we can. Can we vote for different people? You bet. Can we believe in different futures for America and the world? Yes, we can. But at the end of the day, we need to treat each other with mutual respect. This means allowing those who are upset about the outcome of the election to vent or mourn. And it means those who are happy with the result can celebrate. This situation calls on everyone to be aware of the feelings of others. The guy who I openly liked (Gary Johnson) didn’t win either.

Elections have real outcomes, and those who win get to decide what the agenda will be. So this is not an editorial calling for the Republicans to fold up and sheepishly put away their agenda. But it is a call for civility to listen and understand the other side. All the major players in the presidential stage have acted with extreme grace and maturity since the election. This includes President Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President –elect Donald Trump. I hope and pray this continues even though I know the various sides will work to defend the principles they hold dear.

As President Obama said this is an intramural scrimmage not a war between two different countries. I have friends and family on all sides of this election. And I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I am here to listen. Do I believe that God is still in control? You bet. Do I understand how that thought might not be very comforting to those who are overcome with grief in the moment? Yes, just like it may not have seemed a comfort to the Israelites in the Bible who were oppressed and lived in exile.

Even though I was not a fan of Barack Obama, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him. I was a bit afraid when he was first elected because of strong disagreements with his policies. As a person, I liked Obama and was proud that the country had overcome racial barriers. As a politician, I feared his solutions would only make our problems in the country worse. And I understand that at this point in time, there are millions who feel the same way about Trump.

I have no idea what the man I have called “Hair piece” will do as president. But I am going to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt as Obama. And I hope that Trump can be a better man in the White House than he has shown on the campaign trail. I do believe that people can change. Otherwise, the cross would be useless. I do believe that Jesus can redeem anyone.

If Trump turns out to be a nightmare and tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens or acts in inhumane ways, I will be right there with the oppressed standing for them. And I will publicly stand up for them in any way that I can. I will fervently defend the Constitution if Trump tries to become some sort of fascist leader.

Do we need to move on from hysteria? Yes, at some point. And I will be patient enough to realize that some people need a chance to decompress. Do many people have legitimate grievances with Trump and his rhetoric? Yes, I think so. I have personally criticized many things that Trump has said and done in the past. But even for Trump’s harshest critics, the best thing they can do is be vigilant, pray and act to mobilize socially to defend their rights in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

Upon reflection, the real enemy is within when I and others let anger, fear, frustration, disillusionment or resentment lead me/them to act in ways that do not reflect Christ, who is the essence of love. The real enemy is not the other person but the powers of sin and darkness in the world. The real enemy wins when we hate.

Why worry?

Scripture is full of great questions. Jesus knew how to ask some real zingers. This is one of the hardest for me to grapple with in my everyday life.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)

Honestly, I tend to worry too much. Prayer should be my default response, but sometimes, I find it so easy to worry instead. I am getting better. I am taking so much more to my Heavenly Father in prayer than  I did in the past. But it is a struggle.

In Jesus’ question, we see the futility of worry. It accomplishes nothing. It tends to hurt ourselves and the situation we care so much about. Worrying can’t even give us an extra hour in our day — actually it robs us of precious time to actually act and pray.

I am resolving to worry less and pray more. Who’s with me?

 

Time

Time is something that we only have a limited amount of, and at the end of our lives wonder where it all went. Time is worth a lot more than dollars per hour; it is a measure of what we value and what kind of legacy we hope to leave.

How we spend our time shows our priorities and what we think is truly valuable. Tell me what you think is important all you want, show me your calendar, and then I will know what you prioritize.

When we die, time is something we will have an infinite amount of if you believe the Scriptures, and what we do in this current life echoes into the next one — especially our relationship with God and dedication to His mission.

Time is a lot like water. We waste a lot of it because, we are lazy and tend to follow the path of least resistance. But properly channeled and used, our time can achieve great things, such as creating a major canyon in the middle of a desert. Wisdom and character can help us know how to use time. But as a Christian, I believe the best guide is the Holy Spirit. He should direct our days. Sadly, I know I call the shots way too often.

What we post about on our Facebook page and Twitter account shows a lot about how we spend our time and what preoccupies our thoughts. I agree that 50 million babies killed in the name of convenience is more than just a tragedy. It is the shame of our generation and a stain on our “progressive” culture.

Ultimately, God is the only one who stands outside of time. That is why He alone has the best vantage point on how we should spend the limited time we have in this life.

Compartments

Throughout the recent campaign, an argument arose that has perplexed me. The essence of the concept is that we can hold divergent views on a moral question in our public and private lives.

During the vice presidential debate, the candidates squared off on the issue of abortion. Both of the men are Catholics. Congressman Paul Ryan said, “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith.” He added, “Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.”

Vice President Joe Biden confirmed that he’s been a practicing Catholic all his life and his faith informs his social doctrine.Yet, Biden responded that while he accepts the church’s doctrine when it comes to abortion, he refuses to “impose that on others.” President Obama shares a similar belief and explanation for his stance on the abortion issue.

Vice President Biden explained, “With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere.”

At the heart of Vice President Biden’s statements is the idea that we can hold one view in our private lives that is guided by our faith and yet support a completely different view in a public role, setting or sphere of influence. And this is not just any old issue — it is the concept of valuing and protecting life. It is answering the basic question that Cain asked God after the first murder. He asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

This is a foundational question that is moral, cultural and scientific in nature. Moral in terms of the need to protect the life of the unborn and limit late term abortions. Cultural in terms of responding to public pressure to keep abortion safe and legal. And scientific as the country debates when life begins.

A key aspect of the debate is that we can have various compartments in our lives that are distinct and don’t need to interact or correlate. If you are a Christian, can there be any part of our life that is not under the lordship of Christ and the rule of life outlined in Scripture? Are we obligated to honor the Church’s leadership on moral issues of high importance over public opinion?

It is one thing to be a staunch atheist who disagrees that life starts before birth or the third trimester of pregnancy. It is quite another to be a Christian who privately opposes abortion and believes it should be rare although publicly defends abortion rights, including partial birth abortions. The first view is very consistent. The second view is not for a number of reasons. For starters, why should abortion be rare if there is nothing wrong with it? Why not have abortion as a normal part of birth control? The fact that people suggest it should be rare shows that many people feel it is wrong even though they don’t want to limit the rights of others to take this life before it is born.

Secondly, the atheist doesn’t believe in God nor has any reason to recognize the authority of the Church. A Christian on the other hand must be submitted to the highest authority, which is the voice of God. Also, a Christian should error on the side of protecting life and those who can least defend themselves.

If something is a sin, then it is wrong for a Christian to do. Scripture is quite clear that murder is wrong, and if you believe the unborn child is a life worth saving then it would be a sin to take the life unless you are trading a life for a life. I can somewhat understand the viewpoint of a Christian who believes that life doesn’t starts until birth and as a result is pro choice. But if you believe there is something wrong with abortion in your private life, why is it okay in public policy? Doesn’t this suggest that you really think abortion is the taking of a defenseless life?

If Christ only guides the private side of your life, what does that say about your relationship to Him? 1 John 5:9 suggests that “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.” Whose opinion should reign supreme in our most important decisions — the Word of God or the thoughts of men?

It is our deeds that matter as much as our words when it comes to saving faith in Christ. As James 2 suggests, words without deeds are useless. In the same way that Christian abortion rights advocates make little sense so do Christian capitalists who take advantage of their fellow man and cheat people in the name of making an extra dollar. Our conscience as Christians should be held captive to Scripture in all areas of life. This includes the abortion issue as well as taking care of the poor and the senior citizens, protecting the environment, and support equality for all under the law.

I don’t believe that siding against abortion on religious grounds goes against the idea of freedom of religion. You can hold a staunch pro life position and still be open for the free exercise of religion. But pro choose advocates like to make pro lifers look like people who oppose religious freedom. In actuality, the only thing pro lifers really oppose is playing god with somebody else’s life.

It is clear that an unborn child starts to develop unique features within the first 22 days of birth if not earlier. For example, most babies have a unique heart beat within the first 22 days. Upon conception, all the unique chromosomes are present for that individual life.

By the end of the eighth week, every organ is in place, bones begin to replace cartilage, and fingerprints begin to form. Is this not a distinct and separate life from the mother? So when people talk about a woman’s right to choose what happens with her own body, when does an unborn child get a voice in the process?

Ultimately, it is not my place to judge the faith of another person. They are responsible to God alone. But I tend to believe that Jesus is either Lord of your entire life or you can have no part in Him at all because the Lord is a jealous God. He does not want His people to have split allegiances. Christ calls for us to surrender everything in our lives to His will and purposes. This includes our day job, our politics and even our bedrooms.