Two Ways for Christians to Respond to the Orlando Shooting

4045383465_f22759e77d_z As we woke up to the news of massacre and carnage in Orlando, the event shocked the consciences of the American people. The news of another mass shooting in our country has become all to familiar in recent years. Yet, the catastrophe yesterday marks the largest shooting in American history—a record that no one wanted to see broken. As our eyes glued themselves to the news outlets for the latest updates, our inquisitive hearts long for answers. As the law enforcement officials report more information in the days to come, what can we as Christians do in response to this havoc?

Already, the opportunists have jumped to political solutions, using the Orlando slaughter as a chance to propel an agenda. We want to do something to stop the shootings that recur so frequently, so such reactions are understandable. So calls for the regulation of gun control and the ban of radical Islamists have already overtaken the tragedy. Though we should explore political solutions to this persistent problem in our country, I would suggest the church should take a different approach. Before we jump to the politicization of the event, may we first mourn with the hurting and proclaim the hope of Christ.

Mourn with the Hurting

Many are hurting—The friends and family of the victims, the LGBT community, peaceful muslims, the city of Orlando, and more. Before we rush to judgement or vocalize our disagreements with any of those communities, the church must weep with those who weep. We mourn with those who mourn. We must identify ourselves with the brokenhearted, sharing tears with all.

Though our ears still ring with the shell shock of this news, we must offer our compassion and tears for those affected by this abominable attack. God birthed the church out of the afflictions of our savior. In his prophecy, Isaiah called the messiah the suffering servant. Jesus identified with us in his incarnation, becoming human just as we are. The messiah shared in our sufferings and experienced the horrors of sin and evil unleashed upon the world. As Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, God experienced the terror of bloody murder. God became a victim and aligns himself with the oppressed and marginalized, all for the forgiveness of human sin.

Just as Jesus shared in our sufferings, so too should we share in the sufferings of those around us. We must display compassion, love, and hope for those families of the victims, coming alongside them and sharing in their grief.

Proclaim the Hope of Christ

Not only must we mourn with the hurting, we must also proclaim the hope of Christ. Jesus identifies with the weeping, but he also came to stop all the weeping. The rampage in Orlando unsettles us, serving as a poignant reminder that the world is not as it should be. The evil and hate that can fill the heart of a man to open fire in a crowded room reminds us of that. Something is seriously wrong with the world. The fault line of this world cannot be filled by shuffling political dirt. The tectonic plates of sin continue to quake the earth with unspeakable acts of evil. The restraining grace of God provides the only explanation for why the world is as stable as it is. Human remedies cannot solve the virus that is human sin.

Yet, the cross of Christ not only displays Jesus’ identification with our suffering, but proclaims victory over our suffering. God sent his son to save sinners like us, but also to restore the broken world to its original and perfect design. The Gospel involves individual restoration, but the good news expands to the entire cosmos. Yes, Christ shares in our weeping, but he also stops the weeping. This is the tension we live in as Christians between the times. The kingdom of God is here now, arriving with Christ himself two thousand years ago. Yet, the kingdom has not yet been fully realized, and won’t be until Christ comes again. Jesus’ arrival marks the inauguration of his kingdom, but that kingdom has yet to be fully consummated. As Jesus endures the sufferings of the cross, his resurrection breaks the back of our enemies sin and death, but there final defeat has yet to come. Though the kingdom of darkness continues to squirm, we must proclaim the hope that Christ has won the day on that resurrection morning and that he is coming soon. The day will soon come when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)

As our nation processes the carnage from Sunday, may we mourn with the hurting and proclaim the hope of Christ. Though blood stains the floors of Pulse in Orlando, Jesus is alive and he is coming soon. As we mourn with the brokenhearted, may we proclaim the hope of Christ and in our sorrow may our longing for his return grow evermore in our hearts.

The Impossibility of Worldview No Man's Land

Today's public square permeates with verbal violence. Each side gathers a group of like minded people and lob ad hominem arguments to the enemy. Whether the issues are political, philosophical, or theological, every one talks past one another. As a result, the public square reverberates with the war cries of sectarian factions as the verbal arrows of attack fly across the public square. The goal of civil conversation quickly declines into barbarian assault. Is there any hope for renewal and civility in our public dialogue with one another, or are we doomed to watch talking heads argue with tweet-able one-liners for the foreseeable future? Is there any hope for the recovery of rhetoric and courtesy on the issues of utmost importance?

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All is not lost, but if we hope to make the war-ravaged public square a place of lively, substantive conversation, we must identify and recognize the differing worldviews that make up our pluralistic culture. We must not demonize, but empathize with those whom we disagree with the most. Rather than creating straw men or defacing a caricature of our opponents, we must seek a mutual understanding no matter how wide the gap of our differences. This requires both patience and love: patience, because these conversations take time and cannot happen over 140-character-tweets or the few minutes between commercial breaks, and love, because we must care enough about our neighbor to truly understand his or her own position, motivations, and desires.

If we seek to truly understand one another and engage in a substantive way, we must understand the worldview of our conversation companions. Yet, many are blind to their own worldview let alone aware of the worldview of the person to which they speak. If we fail to recognize the differing worldview presuppositions, our conversations will fail to take off, and only sputter in futility.

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Worldview no mans land does not exist. Everybody has one. No one can argue from a place of neutrality as we stand on our own presuppositions no matter how firm or mushy they may be. The man who thinks he can argue from neutrality will never contribute reasonably to any philosophical or theological debate as he lives in a idealistic, self-centered world of fiction. To discuss important issues meaningfully requires that we possess the courage to confess our own biases. Only then will we have a conversation that is both substantial and above all charitable.

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Worldviews are inextricably theological. Every person has their own answers to the big questions of life. Why does the world exist and how does it exist? Is there a God, if so who is he (or she)? What is the fundamental problem of human beings? For what purpose is the universe moving towards? How a person answers those questions determines the worldview. Christians answer those questions a very particular way. We believe that God exists in Trinity as the creator who redeems fallen humanity through the incarnate and resurrected Christ, the true King who will restore and renew this broken world to the praise of his glory. Knowing the gospel lens of the Christian worldview, will help us identify the similarities and differences of alternate worldview, whether Islamic, pantheistic, or atheistic.

So, may we lend our ear to our opponents and study the presuppositional ground on which they stand. May we understand their own fish bowl so we can perceive the worldview environment in which their ideas come forth. Christians above all must love our neighbors well by observing the shelter of ideas our opponents have constructed around themselves. To use the words of Francis Schaeffer, our goal then as Christians in the public square is to remove the unstable roof of their worldview, exposing the inconsistencies and holes in their thinking in hopes of showing the reasonableness of the Christian worldview. Perhaps Schaeffer's apologetic method outlined in his book The God Who Is There would best be saved as a post for another day, but before we as Christians can hope to engage in the public square we must understand the differing worldview of those around us, listening both with patience and love, then may we see less verbal arrows and more civil conversation.

Sanctity of Human Life: How the Gospel Compels Us to Take Action

On Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we pause to remember the intrinsic value of every person and call the church to action to take up the cause of life. We must take action because the gospel compels us to action. The gospel is the good news of Jesus which speaks of the kingdom of God, the rule of Christ over the cosmos, and the restoration of this broken world. The gospel ushers in a new resurrection-reality that brings redemption, forgiveness, and love to sinners. The good news fuels our motivation to care for the fatherless, particularly the unborn. Foetus-435110

The scriptures tell us that we are orphans. The Scriptures speak of God’s love as a loving father who adopts us and brings us into his family. Spiritually, everyone of us is an orphan, abandoned to our sins, exposed in eternal suffering, and hungry for love and family. As the lamenter Jeremiah said, “We have become orphans, fatherless” (Lam 5:3).

Though we are poor orphans, God cares for the marginalized. He sees us in our lowly estate; he sees our suffering; he sees our hunger, and he chooses to adopt us as his children. He sent Jesus, his own son, to purchase us and bring us into his family. Our salvation tells one beautiful story of adoption. The story of the Bible describes a loving Father who sacrificed everything to love his children. He spared no expense, even if it meant the sacrifice of his only-begotten son.

Yet, even though Jesus has been raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father, God did not abandon us like orphans. Rather, now we have the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18, ESV). He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit until Christ returns for us.

These glorious Gospel truths amazes us. If you are a Christian, you’ve received the adopting love of God. How amazing it is that God’s love would descend to choose broken, unwanted orphans like us. Though you may feel unwanted, good for nothing, and worthless, God the Father declares: “I love you. I want you. Become my child, and let me become your father. Come enjoy the warmth of my embrace and enjoy your inheritance as my son or daughter.” You want that kind of love. I want that kind of love. If you want to become a son or daughter of God, he invites you into his family today. He calls you to turn from your sin and trust in his son Jesus Christ for your salvation. Come to the Father through the son, and enjoy the privileges of being a child of God.

So when we become a child of God, we are called to action. We spread the kingdom of God and share in our Father’s care for the orphan. As Paul would write in Ephesians, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV). James write, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV). James tells us that one of the ways we prove to be a part of the family of God, is that we obey God. Disobedience to the command of God indicates spiritual deception. Our obedience proves our son-ship.

As we think about the sacredness of human life, how does the Gospel compels us to do something? What motivates us to action? Let me suggest five ways.

First, we are compelled by gratitude. As we think about all that God has done for us, we cannot help but be grateful, and that gratefulness leads us to obedience.

Second, we are compelled by love. We want to imitate God, be like him in his care for the least of these. As God has loved us, we love others. Children are like their fathers, and the church should by like God. We share in the care of God for the least of these. Indeed, we are an extension of the love of God.

Third, we are compelled by God’s Kingdom. The kingdom of God speaks to our individual salvation on a micro level, but on a macro level it speaks to the restoration of the cosmos. God will renew all things and restore all things before sins corroding influence on the world. As citizens of God’s kingdom and members of his family, we are compelled to see his kingdom advance.

Fourth, we are compelled by the Great Commission. We do justice and serve the least of these as a part of our Great Commission work to make disciples. Social justice goes awry, when we forget that people need Jesus. Out of love and compassion, let us care for the marginalized, but let us also take the Gospel message with us, inviting all people to trust Christ as the savior and king.

Fifth, we are compelled by God’s glory. At the end of the day, this is the ultimate motivation for all we do. We want to make God’s name famous through all the earth. We want his rule to spread, his kingdom to come. We want the nations to be glad and sing for joy, as all of the cosmos sings in climatic praise to God!

Millenial Angst: Adele, Getting Older, and Discontentment

Adele captures the consciousness of the millennial generation better than any other musical artist. Her latest album 25 reflects on themes of growing up, as her twenties fade and a new decade begins. As I've been listening to Adele's latest album, perhaps my favorite song is When We Were Young. She sings,

Let me photograph you in this light In case it is the last time That we might be exactly like we were Before we realized We were sad of getting old It made us restless I'm so mad I'm getting old It makes me reckless

As more millennials enter into their late twenties and early thirties they are bombarded by restlessness. We're getting older. Our twenties dawned with roaring optimism, filled with idealistic dreams of love and success, yet as the years wane that bitter reality has turned that roaring optimism into a reckless restlessness. Life did not end up the way we thought it would or rolled out the way that we planned. The last few years left us only with broken hearts and crushed dreams.

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Back during our freshmen year of college, we were brimming with hope. The world was our oyster, filled with endless possibilities. The idea of independence, freedom, and adulthood seemed like a dream too good to be true. We longed to grow up, but as we entered into adulthood we’ve discovered it rather mundane. Our lives have become rather monotonous: we wake up, go to work, parent toddlers, watch Netflix, and go to bed early. Rinse and repeat. The exhaustion of this never-ending routine leaves many longing for something more. The millennial angst and disillusionment leaves us scratching our heads and picking up our hearts, wondering if there might be anything to provide meaning and purpose to our daily lives.

It is in this angst, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ enters into our restlessness and balms our burning hearts with his grace. Only Christ gives meaning to the mundane,  joy to the broken hearted, and hope for those in a quarter-life-crises. Though our lives may not have panned out as we hoped, Jesus gives purpose to our disappointments. Perhaps we have not advanced to where we want to be in our career or have yet to find our perfect spouse. Even still, Jesus gives something that we millennials desperately need: contentment.

It is no secret that millennials are not a very religious bunch. Yet, I believe that as more and more millennials enter into their child-rearing years, our discontentment will grow for something more. I pray that the disillusionment that so many feel will morph into a spiritual brokenness. The puritan Jeremiah Burroughs highlights this truth in his work The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,

God has broken your estate; Oh seek to him for the breaking of your heart likewise. Indeed, a broken estate and a whole heart, a hard heart, will not join together; there will be no contentment. But a broken estate and a broken heart will so suite one another, as that there will be more contentment than there was before.

So brokenness is the first step to true contentment. Millennial angst could very well give way to a spiritual revival among this generation. When we finally realize that the promises of advertisers are just a sham and that living for yourself only brings disappointment, then and only then can we find refreshment in the fount of Christ. He is the only source of lasting contentment.

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Burroughs goes on to say in the same book,

It is not by having his own desires satisfied, but by melting his way and desires into God's will. So that, in one sense, he comes to have his desires satisfied though he does not obtain the thing that he desired before; still he comes to be satisfied with this, because he makes his will to be at one with God's will.

As the idealistic plans of so many millennials melt away, I pray they will surrender their wills to God. As our wistful dreams crack and decay into the reality in which we live, may we freely give up our life and find true life, true contentment in Jesus himself. As Jesus said,“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25).

Your Presidential Candidate Isn't the Messiah

Did you know it was election season? I jest, after all, how could you not? Every time you flip on the news you hear some talking head babbling about some presidential candidate. You scroll through Facebook and find one "friend" after another spewing their adoration for their favorite candidate. The buzz of election year creates hope within the heart of every American; the glamorous pageant of democracy sparkles with messianic colors. 21-2016ers1

Every presidential election cycle dominates the cultural conversation, particularly our current cycle. After all, so much of our nations future depends on the man or woman who sits in the oval office. The president of the United States wields incredible authority and influence. In many ways, politics has become the new American religion. David Gelertner recently wrote in an article entitled What Explains the Vicious Left? that "For most conservatives, politics is just politics. For most liberals, politics is their faith, in default of any other; it is the basis of their moral life." He describes how for many on the left, committed to secularism, politics has replaced the basis of their faith. Therefore, they defend their political position with religious zeal. I think he is on to something, but I would suggest that politics has become a religion not only for liberals, but for conservatives as well—including evangelicals.

As you listen to political commentators on both sides and as you watch the cut-throat political commentary on social media, people tend to think of their candidate with Messianic implications. Whether its Cruz or Trump, Bernie or Hillary, the fiery zeal of their supporters promote these politicians with Messianic expectations. Each side hopes that their candidate will usher in a new era of our country, accomplishing their idealistic vision for the country. As secularism increases, politics has filled the spiritual vacuum. If we are not careful, Christians can get swept away with the political enthusiasm and find ourselves inadvertently looking to the wrong Messiah.

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, every presidential candidate will disappoint, whether you are a Regan conservative or a democratic socialist. Both the conservative and liberal ideologue will find themselves disappointed, even if there candidate wins. There is only one messiah and his name is Jesus. Only the preminant creator, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation can reconcile all things, making peace by the blood of the cross (See Col 1:15-19). Our hope rests on the arrival of the coming of the kingdom of God, not in the prosperity of the kingdom of America. Let us not confuse the two.

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So should Christians just avoid politics, stick our heads in the sand, and ignore the incredible issues that plague our nation? No, not at all. As sojourners in Babylon we should "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" (Jer 29:7). We should work in the realm of politics, debate in civility concerning the future of our great nation, and cast our votes for presidential candidates. Yet, as we do, we must make very clear to the lost and dying work that our messiah is not a presidential candidate, but a Jewish man from Nazareth—the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Super Bowl Marketers Know that the Church Can't Miss

The super bowl this year was one for the record books. People watch the super bowl for a variety of reasons – some for the game, others for the commercials, and some for the half time show. The super bowl has become such a huge event in America it is practically a national holiday. As I was watching the game something stuck out to me about the commercials this year. It seemed like many of the commercials strongly featured Dads.  A few different companies this year decided to market their products by featuring prominently fathers. It was nice to appear to the sentimentality and bring father’s in the focus, but why? No matter how great the commercial is, the aim is not to pull on your heart strings but to sell you a product. These companies don’t spend millions of dollars to just give you warm fuzzies. We live in a marketing world. We are always being sold something, and often marketers know our culture and know what makes us tick better than anyone. And this year, for Super Bowl 49, Dads were the focus of the commercials. Watch some of these commercials in case you missed them.

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Isn’t this strange? In a day and age where many are arguing to eliminate gender stereotypes and where Father’s living in the home is a relic of the past, these marketers decided they could best sell their products by bringing fathers to our attention. While the marriage between a man and a woman is being redefined in our culture into a genderless union and while the home has been shattered by divorce, these marketers feature loving, gentle, and present fathers.

There is a crisis of fatherhood in America. The traditional family of Dad, Mom, and children seems to be rapidly fading. Many men ignore, run away from, or deny any responsibility they have when it comes to their children. Rather than rising to be worthy of the title husband and father many men are content with the title “baby daddy”. Men refuse to fight for their marriages and for their families and cowardly run from difficulty indulging every selfish pleasure their hearts crave.

But that’s not the picture these advertisers presented to us at the super bowl. These advertisers know us better than we think. They know that there is something hard wired into humanity that longs to be loved by a father. We long to experience the warm protective, self-denying, embrace of dad. The picture of Dad they presented to us is the ideal we crave, but not this is not the reality for many of us.

Children need Fathers. Despite arguments trying to minimize the father in the family, marketers know what many deny – we long for a Father. These super bowl commercials point to the great challenge of Christian men to be father’s who sacrifice, love, protect, and provide for our children.  We need Christian men who can demonstrate in word and deed the love of God the Father to our children. Every human being longs for this. Though our earthly fathers may fail us, we must always point people to the Father who never does. We must point them to the Father who displays his lavish love for us by purchasing our redemption. America has a hole and a desperate longing for fatherly love. The marketers know this. Does the church?

Christmas is Better Than a Hallmark Card

We live in a hallmark card culture in which we overly sentimentalize the account of Jesus’ birth and soften some of the harsh realities of his entrance into this world. The shrieking cry of the mother Mary in the anguish of her labor, or the filthy smell of manure of that stable gets lost in our rose tented glasses. The birth of Jesus doesn’t really fit into the traditional Christmas-card vision we’ve created. The story of Jesus birth is scandalous which features a young teenage girl who becomes the gossip of the town when she gets pregnant out of wedlock. Its a tale of a couple forced by the imperial hand and a reminder of oppressive rule as they are forced to return to Bethlehem for the census. Its a lonely event as the lone couple gives birth in a stable many miles from their home in Nazareth.

The Christmas story is not a sentimentalized myth, but an actual historic account. It is grimy, noisy, smelly, and messy. And it is in this situation that God sends his son. It is in the brokenness of reality that God sends His son into the world to put on flesh and dwell among us. It is at Christmas the second member of the trinity cast off the glories of heaven and stripped himself of his divine privilege to enter into the most humblest of circumstances. It at this moment that the King arrives, not in a palace of gold, but in a barn of hay. It is this real world that God sends his rescuer and announcing his arrival, not to aristocratic celebrities, but to outcasted poverty-stricken shepherds. It is in this estate that we find the arrival of a son of God and it reminds us that Jesus is a savior who made himself nothing so that we could receive everything. The incarnation of the son is of the greatest humiliation and yet a poignant reminder that God seeks to bring hope to the hopeless, healing to the diseased, and mending to the broken hearted. It is in the incarnation of God that God becomes a man entering the darkness of the world to be its only light.

May our modern, cleaned-up, picture-perfect fantasy of the Christmas story be replaced by a modern, real, authentic account of a God who by grace enters the heartache of a broken world. In our sorrows may we rejoice that God has sent the man of sorrows, stricken with grief to be the savior we need. For Jesus was a baby born to die. The babe Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes would one day be wrapped in blood-stained burial cloths. As the mother Mary wept with joy over the arrival of her new son so too she would weep over his crucified body. Christmas must always be celebrated in light of Easter, for it is through the death of the son that life is given. Through the defeat of Jesus, our victory was purchased. Just as Mary wept over her sons birth and death so too she wept with joy in seeing her son’s resurrection.

The great glory of Christmas is this: The true king has arrived. The suffering servant is the resurrected King! Just as Jesus died, he was also raised! This broken world will one day be mended under the reign and rule of a divine and human king. The first advent must always usher us into longing expectation for the second. For just as the son of God entered into this world the first time, so too will he enter it a second. Though this time he will not come in a manger, but come riding on a white horse. It is then at Christ’s return that the tears and sorrows of this life will be wiped away as Jesus our Lord extends his righteous rule to the ends of the earth. Come Lord Jesus!

How Do We Change This World?

This world is broken. If you've watched the news at all the past few months it seems to be more evident than ever.  This world needs change.  How are we going to do it? It seems like everyone has a cause this day. Everyone is fighting for change. Young people in particular seem to have a zeal for social issues plaguing our day – world hunger, sex trafficking, racial injustices, poverty, and the list goes on and on. It is amazing to me that so many have a zealous desire to make a difference and to make this world a better place. I too have that same desire and passion. I want my life to make a difference. I’d love to see so many of the social issues plaguing our society to be transformed, yet I am a pastor. Many have a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to pastors and many consider the church and its theologizing to be a distraction (at best) or the cause (at worst) of the social ills that plague our society.

As a pastor one of my chief tasks is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. Why bother proclaiming the Gospel when there are so many hurting people and social woes? Isn’t proclaiming the Gospel an inefficient use of time to make a difference in this world? Not only do many non-Christians think this way, but unfortunately many Christan’s do too. The Gospel of Jesus is not a distraction from changing the world, but rather it is the only catalyst and hope for humanity. If we want to truly transform the world in which we live, there is no better way to do it than through proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus and calling people to believe in him. Let me give you three reasons why.

1. Only the Gospel Deals With Sin

Our modern secular world has no concept for sin. As we look at a broken world that includes child abuse, sex slavery, and mass murder the secular world has no terminology to explain what is happening. The reason for the broken of the world is the evil of sin, brought about through the rebellion of humanity. The fundamental problem of this world is not poverty or slavery or rape, the greatest problem is human sin. All these other social justice issues are just simply axils to the center cause of it all – sin.

Only the Gospel gets to the core of whats wrong with us. Education reform, gun control, and other political reforms cannot transform the depraved human heart. Only the Gospel of Jesus riches down to us in our core and causes us to be changed from the inside. Only in the Gospel are we born again as new creatures in Jesus Christ. That leads us to the second point.

2. Only the Gospel Changes People

Sure we may be able to modify our behavior with therapy or will power, but only the Gospel changes who we really are. True change happens as the Spirit of God brings new life within. If we really want to see our society change it will happen as God brings revival within the hearts of people as the Gospel spread to the ends of the earth. What can change a murders heart or who can transform a child molester? Only the grace of God.

3. Only the Gospel Advances God’s Kingdom

As the Kingship of Jesus advances throughout our world in the spread of the Gospel, then society transformation will follow. Social reform follows the Kingship of Jesus, it does not cause it. As more people turn from their sin and make Jesus the Lord of their life, the kingdom of God will spread. As God’s people begin to fill this earth then and only then will society be changed.

God’s kingdom will not fully come until Jesus returns again and establishes his kingdom here on earth. Until he returns the society woes will continue to plague us as the painful throbbing of our brokenness continues. Yet, until Jesus returns the proclaiming of the Gospel should be the chief work of every Christian (not just pastors). If you really want to see the world change seek to advance the Kingdom of God.

Only Jesus can bring racial reconciliation.

Only Jesus can help us channel our sexual desires in a way that glorifies God.

Only Jesus can give the spiritual riches of his inheritance to those who are poor.

Only Jesus can fill the stomachs of the hungry with the all satisfying bread of life.

Only Jesus can take the adulterer and offer forgiveness.

Only Jesus can penetrate the darkness of this world with the light.

Jesus is the hope of this world. As we fight for social causes – and we should – lets make sure we keep the Gospel in the forefront of all we do. Lets seek to advance the kingship of Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel and as that happens by God’s grace may we see this world changed.

3 Ways to Kill Your Fear of Others

If you are like me you tend to care way to much for what other people think. It is easy to become paralyzed but the opinions of others.  Why do we tend to be like this? Is it because we need more self-esteem or encouragement? Nope. It is because we are sinners.  The more I get to know others and the more I get to know myself, there seems to be a universal struggle with what the bible calls fear of man.  When we care more about what other people think about us than God, then we have some serious priority issues.  Jesus takes on this issue of fear of man squarely in Matthew 10:26-33.  However, in order to understand what Jesus is saying we must understand what is happening earlier in the chapter.

A Great Commission Trial Run

Here in Matthew 10 Jesus sends out the twelve apostles as a sort of dry run of the Great Commission. He is sending them out to the lost sheep of Israel. He gives them specific commands and instructions on how to go about their missions work. Jesus knows that these twelve men are going to be commissioned to make disciples of all nations.  The wise teacher Jesus thought that its best to let them ride the bike with training wheels with Jesus still there before the training wheels come off.

However, one of the things Jesus instructions them on is the reality of persecution that will come to them.  We don't hear many sermons or messages about Jesus promises of persecution, but Jesus didn't hesitate to warn his disciples of what would be coming if they faithfully followed him.  Jesus warns them of being flogged, hated, and ever murdered.  Jesus tells them that  disciple is not above his teacher.  If they called Jesus the prince of demons (Beelzebub), what do you think they will do to his disciples?

Have No Fear of Them

It is within this context that Jesus utters these words, "Have no fear of them". For most of us persecution like Jesus is describing sounds terrifying.  Yet, Jesus tells us in 10:28 a truth we must understand if we want to put to death our fear of man issues.  Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  Jesus has a way of putting things into perspective.  Why would we fear other people? Whats the worst they can do to us? Kill us and take our life? So what? Fear God for he in his omnipotent power as the righteous judge has the authority to destroy both body and soul in hell.

So why then do we tend to be devastated when someone critcizes us or paralyzed to do something we now others might not celebrate? Why do we fear to take a step of obedience that Christ is calling us to do because someone might disprove? To fear men more than we fear God is really irrational. So here are three quick ways you can seek to put to death your fear of man issues.

1. Live for God and God Alone

First, we must live for God and God alone. If we are living for fame, friends, popularity, or success it is easy to be consumed with satisfying the demands of our idols.  God must be our God. We must first and foremost concerned with faithfulness to him rather than approval of other people. We must realize that God is the king and ruler over all. He is the Lord of our life and therefore we must submit to him, for he wields the sword of divine power. We must never forget that our God is a fierce God. He is not safe. For he will judge the living and the dead. We must fear God. Respecting and honor him. We come before him in fear and trembling recognize that he is the Lord over all.

2. Expect Unpopularity

If we are going to live for God alone, it will be unpopular.  Other people will not understand it. Sometimes even other Christians might jump in a jeer and mock us. Persecution will come.  Thankfully, in the western part of the world the sort of persecution Jesus is describing in Matthew 10 we rarely see.  However, in other parts of the world the danger is very real of flogging and even death.

If we are going to put to death our sinful fear of men, we cannot be naive to the fact that following Jesus can be costly or even dangerous in this life.  We might lose our reputation or even worse. Persecution is to be expected and the mocking slander of men will come to attack us. Just as they attacked our Lord Jesus so to will we be attacked.

3. Remember Your Identity in Christ

Yet, we must always remember our identity in Christ. What is the antidote to our groveling fear of the opinions of others? Is is the Gospel. In Christ we have been declared righteous, holy, and pure.  We have been justified by faith. Therefore because in Christ I have the approval of God, what other approval do I really need? If God has accepted me, why would I need the acceptance of others?

If we realize who we are in Christ, our incessant need for the praise of others will vanquish. We must remind ourselves those Gospel truths that the God who can throw our body and soul into hell has saved us, redeemed us, and adopted us as his children.  When we grasp our identity in Christ it is liberating. The man or woman who firmly finds their identity in Christ and Christ alone is fearless.  Our identity in Christ gives us divine courage to go, speak, and serve with Spirit infused boldness. Though we may be mocked, beaten, or executed by men, because of Jesus in the life to come I will stand before God accepted because of Jesus.

When we understand in this the opinions of others really are not all that terrifying. In fact, their completely insignificant compared to the divine significance of the divine approval we've been given by God's grace.

Don't Judge Me!

One of the most common things we here from people all around us, young or old is “Don’t judge me”. Whether it be a man whose embezzled thousands of dollars from his employer, he will throw up, “Don’t Judge Me!” Or lets take the college student who finds himself in a pattern of nightly keg-stands at frat parties. As soon you begin to help him see the destructiveness of his sin, he will throw up “Don’t judge me!” Or how about the woman who cheats on her husband, leaves him, and goes to live with another man. as soon as you begin to say that Adultery is sin out of her mouth comes “Don’t judge me!” How did we arrive at this “Don’t judge me” culture? How did we get to the point where we have become so offended and sensitive in our lifestyles? How did we arrive here?

Well the issue is complex and I can’t answer that completely in one blog post. As a result this is probably overly simplistic, but there are two main driving forces about how the world evolved into a don't judge me culture. The one led into the other.  The first change is a radical personal autonomy.  The second is moral relativism. Lets talk about the first.

Radical Personal Autonomy

After the time of the reformation, rationalism began to dominate the thinking of the day.  Rationalism taught that the only way to discern what is true or what is right comes through my mind.  Think of philosopher Rene Descartes now famous statement, “I think, therefore I am”. What does he mean by that? Well my thinking defines who I am. It is the identity and the mark of my existence.  My mind is the sole determiner of what is true. If I can’t discern it with my mind or test it with science I dismiss it.  So what began to emerge is a radical autonomy, disconnected from any divine revelation or even the existence of God.

What emerged from rationalism eventually became the radical autonomy we see in our world today. What do I mean by radical personal autonomy? I mean the idea that the individual finds purpose completely and totally from within himself. It means that we become the gods of our own realties.  It means we become the judge and jury of our lives and that no one, not another human being and surely not God has the right to challenge my radical personal autonomy.  So in a sense, we have done exactly what Adam and Eve did in that garden of Eden.  We become the deciders of what is right and wrong.  We put ourselves over God and therefore we decide what is good for us, not God.  We decide what is right and wrong.

Moral Relativism

So this radical personal autonomy eventually led to the a moral relativism. As man began to place himself as the arbiter of truth, this eventually began to clash with the existing and absolute truth that all of human civilization has been built on until this modern era.  Since each person becomes the decider of what is true and right, what happens when those ideas begin to clash? With each person deciding what is right, what if two peoples definition of what is right is wrong? If you challenge that persons position on matter you begin to infringe on their radical personal autonomy which is not permissible.  So what began to happen? Well we began to enter into moral chaos.  If no one has the right to correct you, truth itself became an amorphous indefinable blob in this system. Thus we have arrived into an age of moral relativism.  Where there is no right or wrong at all.  There is simply what is right for you and what is right for me.

This gets thrown around in a lot cute, but meaningless phrases like “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe” or “Follow your heart” or “We each must decide our own way”.  What do these phrases we hear so often really mean? It means you a the god of your life. You decide what you wish to be true, then it becomes true for you. The result is the moral insanity all around us today.  This is how we have arrived in the “Don’t Judge Me” culture.

Jesus is Lord and Judge

So you see this “Don’t Judge Me” culture attacks judging as discerning right from wrong. In the eyes of most of the western world, there simply isn’t an absolutes, it is all relative. So we are told that we must tolerate all view points, which does not mean respect other view points but we are commanded to embrace them and even celebrate them though we may disagree. Therefore to claim something as wrong, evil, or sinful becomes the only intolerant act in a culture in which tolerance is its only virtue.  Is it not ironic that the tolerance of todays world isn’t very tolerant of those who disagree and who refuse to fall in line with the moral insanity around us?

Yet, Jesus is Lord. He is a great threat to the radical personal autonomy of our day. He is the great slayer of moral relativism.  Jesus is Lord which means he is king. He is authoritative, he speaks truth as the judge over all. A culture that says “Don’t judge me”, will one day find themselves before Jesus at the great white throne of judgement. You see, you are not the arbiter of truth, Jesus is.  I realize what I just said flies in the face of everything our culture values. Yet, there is a God and he is not silent. He has spoken and has revealed himself to us.  You are not the god of your world, Jesus is. The issue is whether you will accept his authority over your life, or if you will continue to rebel in your sin.

A Longing Not to Be Judged

As we look at a culture that says don’t judge me, we find ourselves being able to relate don’t we? No one wants to be judged. Innately, no matter how autonomous we think we are, we know that we have done wrong. We know that we have sinned. We know that we are rebels and that there are eternal consequences towards our actions. No matter how much we try to cover it up our hands and hearts are stained with guilt.

They cry of every human heart is a desperate plea to God "Don't Judge Me! Don't let me bear the penalty for my own sins! Give grace and mercy!" And this is the good news of the Gospel: The judge makes judgement on himself in your place. Jesus, the just judge, takes on himself the judgement you deserve. He bore your wrath on the cross dying where you deserved to die.

As we live in a culture whose desperate cry is "don't judge me" we must point them to the judge who brings judgement on himself. We must point them to Jesus who bears our sin. Then we can boldly hold to that glorious truth, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1)

This is a collection of excerpts from my recent sermon on Matthew 7:1-6. You can listen to the audio of this message here.