Category Archives: Worldview

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.

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The Holy Spirit Inspired the Dream

If you have ever heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech it is impossible not to be stirred and feel that you are listening to something epic. It is as if that speech was not mere words. It was a spiritual experience that broke a yoke off the necks of millions of people.

I always thought that when I heard it I was reminded of some of the most moving sermons I had listened to in my life. King was a preacher before he was a civil rights icon. And he knew what it meant to be inspired by God to action. And when I heard a recent TV show exploring the story behind King’s famous speech, I knew that I was right. Those were not mere words.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Congressman and civil rights leader, John Lewis, spoke about that day. ABC News journalist Byron Pitts spoke with Lewis and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s top aids, about King’s speech. This transcript is incredible.
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Andrew YOUNG: He was determined not to speak more than 10 minutes. And he did. He finished his prepared address in just about 9 minutes.

PITTS: But he wasn’t finished. Sitting behind Dr. King was famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who shouted to her friend, tell them about the dream. It’s a theme he’d used before in smaller settings.

KING: I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

PITTS: Why do you think he made that transition to talk about the dream?

YOUNG: As a preacher, there’s something we, we call being led by the spirit.

LEWIS: The spirit told him to lay that paper down and just go for it.

KING: I have a dream. My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

PITTS: And it’s a dream that still lives on 50 years later.

(See more on this news discussion at
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/rep-john-lewis-remembers-historic-march-on-washington)

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This transcript clearly shows that the Holy Spirit inspired one of the most incredible political moments of the last 100 years. When people ask, “Where is God with all this injustice in the world?” I can point to moments like King’s speech and know that God’s Spirit stirs mens’ souls. The Holy Spirit moves behind the scenes, and one day, we will realize that the Lord was in those moments after all.

I am not surprised that the Holy Spirit breathed life into words that King had said at other times without the same effect. It was the power of the Spirit that made those words electric. He is moving in history. We just have to see it and know that the Spirit brings the fire that changes history.

I don’t say this in any way to disrespect King’s impact or his personal sacrifice to gain what he fought for. While those were his words, the concept he fought for is deeply rooted in the vision that the Apostle Paul outlined in the New Testament. Primarily, I am pointing out that King was divinely inspired, which should give more credence to his dream.

Praise be to God that we have come so far because Scripture says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” May we continue to bring God’s principles of love, hope and mercy to those who are not free or struggle due to injustice. While our job is not done, history shows that we have come a far way in establishing liberty and freedom in many places in the world.

His Image, My Image

“Who am I?” has become the question that shapes our world. Most people are on a search to discover their own unique identity, and this is especially true of adolescents. Young people are apt to try lots of things to discover their passions, giftings, preferences and values.

When it comes to the issue of identity, I believe there are four different kind of people from a Biblical perspective.
• Those who don’t ever really think much about their identity.
• Those who are defined by everybody else around them.
• Those who look only within and still find something missing.
• Those who have a healthy self image founded in Christ that reflects their own unique callings and giftings.

Many smart people say that the key to this process of finding your identity is to look deep within to find the true you. And while this advice sounds good, it is missing something very important if God exists and He created each one of us. We are asking the wrong question. Looking deep within is just as wrong as looking around to everybody else to discover the real me. The best question to ask is, “What does God say about me?”

Since God is our Creator, only He can give an accurate estimation of our worth and value. Only He can ultimately answer our longings for acceptance and love. We are made in the image of God, which means getting to know God will help us discover ourselves. If you are a Christian, think of this another way… Jesus Is My Self Image!

Noted theologian and author, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” While there is nothing wrong with seeking the opinions of others or looking within to explore issues of our life, these are limited in their effectiveness to answer our deepest questions on our journey for self discovery.

“Having a healthy self image is not the ultimate goal. Knowing Jesus in all His fullness is,” wrote Josh McDowell, Christian apologetics expert and author in His Image, My Image. Developing a healthy self image is the byproduct of chasing after Jesus and discovering just how wonderful He is.

I love what Corey Russel, author and iHOP-KC leader, said, “There is a whole generation running around asking, ‘What is my identity? What is my calling? Who am I?’ God says if we would just seek to know Him we would discover who we are…You want to know who you are – Go after Jesus. You will run right into yourself.”

Unfortunately, too many people are defined by lies that they have believed. These may be statements made by others or our own assessment of our failings and “negative” traits. These thoughts may be inspired by demons to rob us of the true identity we have when we see ourselves as God sees us. If we are defined by a lie, we will never know the real us!

Your identity development does more than just affect your self esteem. Our sense of identity is a lens that impacts how we look at the world and ourselves. If you have a healthy self image, you will be able to look at both the good and the bad in your design. But too many people can only see the negative or the ways that they don’t measure up to others. Developing a healthy self image happens as we explore the depths of Jesus Christ and realize that He is the key to our quest for discovery. And this process happens best in community because we are called to be part of a living body of believers.

Along this process of self discovery, I found out that rejecting who God designed me to be is a sin. It is actually rebellion against God. It is in essence saying to the Creator, “I know better than you how I should have been made.” While we may all have something we would like to change about ourselves, we should not strongly dislike who we are. This includes our physical design as well as talents, abilities, personality and our life situation. We were born where we were for a reason. We were placed in our families for a reason. We look a certain way for reason. We have to embrace God’s design or we can become miserable in the pursuit of becoming someone else. While there is nothing wrong with changing some things that we don’t like or are not good, there are some things we just need to accept and embrace because we can’t change it.

Having a Jesus-inspired self identity starts with searching the Scriptures to see what God says about His love and purposes for humanity. What does the Bible say about our self image and value?

God loves you more than the best parent does a treasured child.

1 John 3:1 (NIV)
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
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You were created in God’s image and bear the mark of a grand design.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

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God has crowned man with honor and glory. Thus, you have value and worth because God says so. He sacrificed His Son to save you.

Psalm 8:4-5 (NIV)
What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

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Key Questions to Consider

• What is the basis of your identity?
• Is there somebody you would rather be than you?
• How do you think God sees you?

What is the Gospel?

I wonder if I have at times become “so familiar” with the Bible and especially the Christian Gospel that I lose sight of its epic, boundless quality. Can you have heard so many sermons that you begin to think there isn’t much new to be learned about God? Or does this reveal a faulty mindset that has lost its way? If God is beyond description, why do we look at His Word as something less than supernatural, epic, and majestic? The Bible (God’s book) is beyond whatever else we might read on a daily basis. I was thinking about this tonight after Pastor Tim Matthews spoke on the parable of the sower and the seed from Matthew 13. He challenged the youth group to dare to study the Scriptures, soak in it and live it. Beyond looking for good principles to apply, Pastor Tim encouraged us to seek to be transformed. He challenged us to be good ground that would produce fruit in God’s Kingdom.

The Bible is not a self-help book. I admit that on many occasions I have taken the “I already knew that” attitude toward something found in Scripture. But the strange thing is I may not have been living by the light of that knowledge. Many times I needed to hear something again that I already supposedly knew.

So I feel led to revisit the basic Christian message, commonly known as the Gospel. What is it really? Is the Gospel just ten basic beliefs about God and His relationship with mankind? Is the Gospel merely about statements of faith? Or is it something more — an ethic, a call to become like Christ? Is the Gospel something that ever changes? Or is it something that only changes us? Is the Gospel fully realized now or a forward looking hope for a better world? Is the Gospel even really about mankind? Or is its core preoccupation mainly God and His glory revealed to humanity?

These questions have led me to develop what I am calling the Gospel Challenge. I am encouraging anybody who has a relationship with God through Jesus to take 30 days to wrestle with what the Gospel is based on Scripture and your own reflection as you pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May you look to see how the Gospel is lived out in your world. Specifically, I am encouraging other Christians who know me to take up this challenge.

It starts with reading the Bible daily while looking to see what your reading reveals about the basic Christian message. You should ask questions like, “What does this story show us about God? or How does this passage depict God’s Kingdom?

Second, you develop a list of key beliefs explaining what the Gospel is and how it should function in our daily lives. What really is this Good News that we are called to share with the world? I am starting with a simple computer document that says, “The Christian Gospel is….”

Third, refine your list and share some insights with others to see what they think. I intend to ask other believers, “If you had to explain the Christian message in 3-5 minutes, what would you say?”

Fourth, wrestle some more with the concepts that arise as you study, pray about the Christian message and discuss the Gospel with others. The last part of the challenge is to come up with a basic Gospel statement or creed and attempt to live according to these beliefs on daily basis.

So who is with me? What does the Gospel really mean to you? I welcome others to post on my blog their thoughts on what the Christian Gospel is and how it functions in the world.

Love As God Intended

It can be easy to think we are in love when actually our motives are the farthest thing from love. Paul gave us a clear blueprint for godly love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is not selfish. It seeks the best interests of others and is willing to sacrifice. Today, we tend to think of love as just an emotion. But the Scripture is clear that love is defined by our actions.

Much of what the world calls love is selfishness or even worse outright lust. If we are really honest, many times we use relationships for what we get out of them not what we can do for others. Only you and God really know if your relationships are marked by true love. Are you concerned about the interests of the other person more than yourself? Are you will to sacrifice for the other person or are you sacrificing them for what you desire?

If you are a Christian, does your love for God even outweigh your love for your closest family and friends? These are hard questions that we don’t generally want to answer in a me-first, gotta-have-more society. But if we want to find true love, we have to be honest that it comes from something that we can’t find if we look for it in the wrong place and in the wrong way. Pure love comes from a pure heart, which itself is a gift from God.

I have come across many well-intensioned Christians who ended up in misery or divorce because self and not God was the center of their relationships. We must come to realize that the only way to get what we truly desire is to trust God with our relationships. Our desires may entice us to do things that ultimately lead to more appetite and less fulfillment.

God is not holding out on us. He wants us to know love, the incredible gift of sex in a marriage relationship, the sense of acceptance and the other things we tend to seek from relationships. The big difference is that God knows we will only experience love in a truly beneficial way if we follow these two keys – first, love God with all your heart, your soul and your mind, and secondly, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Our relationships will work out for the best if we put God first and love others more than ourselves. Imagine a world where these motivations influenced our relationships and how we treat other people. There would be a lot more giving and less taking going on in our everyday conversations and interactions. We would be willing to forgive because we would recognize how God through Jesus Christ has forgiven us. Our identity and sense of acceptance would start with a loving God who is eternal and unchanging not with the opinions of any person, which can change with the wind.

Love as God intended is truly the best love of all.

Hearing God’s Call

The concept of a divine calling can be hard for even the most mature Christian to understand. How do we know for sure that a call is from God and not our own imagination? What about the comments of others that cause us to doubt our calling? What if our calling makes no sense or doesn’t line up with our current passions or talents? Do we only have one call or many possible calls? Is a call about a place, a time, a job, a task or a person?

Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest, “The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not ours. God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. It is the threading of God’s voice directly to us over a certain concern, and it is useless to seek another person’s opinion of it. Our dealings over the call of God should be kept exclusively between ourselves and Him.”

Wow, that advice seems to run in the face of what I was always told about the importance of having a company of wise counselors. Couldn’t we be deceived into thinking something is from God when it is not? Don’t we need the wisdom of outsiders to identify things that we are too close to see?

Chambers also wrote, “The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God… The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.”

I agree that God wants to do much more with us than just what we are capable of based on our own abilities. We have to admit that even our skills come from God. We should come to the point where we abandon our limitations and trust God to do the impossible with us. But I wonder if God’s call for our lives is more about who He wants us to become than what He wants us to do?

Chambers further wrote, “The call of God is not a call to serve Him in any particular way. My contact with the nature of God will shape my understanding of His call and will help me realize what I truly desire to do for Him. The call of God is an expression of His nature.”

Is my first call to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection (Phillipans 3:10)? Are all the other “calls” irrelevant compared to that one thing?

A Different Kind of Church – Xenos Christian Fellowship

Recent conversations with some friends about home churches and ministry models caused me to revisit this post. I initially wrote about Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus Ohio on June 17, 2005. I have some reservations about how they “do” church. But I also think they have put into practice some innovative and intriguing ideas.

The structure and practices of Xenos look nothing like most traditional, mainline churches. It’s so different that it makes sense, seems like a good way to solve many common problems in churches, and is a little creepy – all at the same time. Of course, these are just observations based off words on a Web site. I have never gone and lived among the people of Xenos. But I just couldn’t resist writing about the things that make it distinct.

Xenos is kind of what happens when the house church movement smacks into a mega church and tries to get rid of the worst of each and keep the best. It started as a loose collection of home churches focused on youth ministry and has evolved into one of the largest home church ministries in the United States. But unlike many of the cell groups that have been tried as afterthoughts in many churches, home groups are the basis of Xenos. And it seems to be working according to the church’s Web site.

Here’s a list of Xenos’ distinctive approach to being a local church:
1.) Xenos insists on a high level of training for its home church leaders. Typically, they must go through 210 hours of training, personal mentorship, etc. Since these are mini-churches with most of the function of a typical church, the Xenos leadership believes the leaders of these fellowships should be well trained to handle whatever arises. A lack of training is one of the main reasons why many traditional cell groups do not work.
2.) Ministry Houses – These are rooming houses which are dedicated to discipleship and evangelism. These homes are filled mostly with young adults and others that do not have a family.
3.) No designated giving – Individual donors can’t determine where the money goes. Those decisions are decided by the elders and the Fiscal Support Team (FST), a group of more than 1,200 serious donors. The elders and FST meet once a year to plan and review budgets for the entire church.

The church is run by a board of elders. Some work full-time for the church. Others do not. They have all agreed to cap their income as a way to avoid materialism and avoid the entanglements of too much wealth. This requirement is not placed upon home group leaders or others, only elders. [This practice bordered on cult like behavior it seemed to me at first. But at I thought about it, Jesus told the rich man to sell everything. The early Church had everything in common. It was not odd for people to sell something for the benefit of the whole. Maybe they have a good idea about limiting elder income.]
4.) No large worship service. Worship is to be a way of life beyond just music. Xenos believes the best place for music worship is at the home group not the large church gatherings. Xenos charges home churches with the mission of corporate worship. Its large meetings are for teaching and for outreach to non-Christians. Some home churches worship in song, and some just worship in prayer. Celebrating communion and baptisms are also handled by home churches.
5.) Home group leaders handle all weddings, visitations and funerals. All staff and elders are required to be in a home group.
6.) All church discipline is handled by the home group with some oversight by the elders. All staff hiring is limited to members.
7.) Xenos has a three level structure with large group meeting, home church meetings and cell meetings. Non-believers are not allowed to attend cell meetings. These are for Christians only. The main purpose of the large church meetings is for teaching. Xenos has a strong emphasis on training with 500-800 members taking classes on introductory to graduate level subjects at any given quarter. It spends around 20% of its annual budget on training and classes for ministry preparation.
8.) Xenos has a strong urban ministry emphasis with most of the outreach staff having moved into the city to live among the poor.
9.)Mission focus on sending out targeted teams and not just individuals. Xenos leadership prays with missionaries to help determine where best to send them. It’s not a thing where the missionaries decide where to go solely on their own and ask for support.
10.)Over 50% of members are involved in discipleship relationships. Xenos tends to generate it own children’s teaching material and adult course content. There is no scripted ministry program for home church or cell group leaders. Each group is free to be led by the Spirit in how it runs its gatherings.
11.) Secular music is played at youth/student meetings. Students do expository Scripture teachings to large and small meetings. In most churches, students if they speak are nearly always told to give a personal testimony, tell a story or discuss a topic. Almost never will a student give expository Bible teaching. Xenos encourages and equips students to teach indepth. Students study hermeneutics, homiletics and discussion-leading in class. They also usually go over and even give the teaching to a mentor who can correct any shortcomings. Students learn their Bible better when they teach it, and they gain experience teaching and preaching. Later, when they take over their own groups, they will already have significant experience speaking in front of groups.
12.)Most top Xenos leadership is involved in youth ministry, which is viewed as the most not least important ministry in the church. Unlike some places where youth ministry is consider an entry-level position, senior leadership focuses time on youth ministry at Xenos.
13.) Most ministry teams initiated by individuals, not staff. This is good because paid personnel can only do so much. The people should do most of the work of the church not the paid staff.
14.) Xenos has a questions and answers time in its large corporate gatherings.
15.) Xenos has some “weird” views on confidentiality. While I can see some of the merits of its policy, I also believe that the right to privacy is important too because even the most graceful people can hold our past against us. I do find Xenos’ policies insightful and challenging to the status quo even if I think they are somewhat extreme.

Find out more about Xenos’ structure and methodology by visiting www.xenos.org.