As Far As It Depends on You…

Newsflash: There’s a LOT of conflict in our world!

Between riots in Charlotte, NC, weekly violence in places like Chicago, Terrorism in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota…there is no shortage of violence.

Police killing civilians, Civilians killing police, Citizens killing citizens…seems as though we hear a lot more about it now.

Violence, as they say, begets violence.

Add to that the ‘soft’ conflicts that happen in political ‘debate’ and ‘discussion’, Facebook or Twitter ‘wars’ which can quickly escalate to the point that two people who would normally get along…even enjoy each other…even love each other, can be angry and embittered with one another because of their political (or moral, or spiritual) disagreements.

As I observe all this, I tend to think of a ‘downward spiral of conflict’, where we go faster and faster down a relational ‘hole’ that we can’t get back out of.

If something does not change, our families, friendships, churches and communities will be destroyed. Our society is at a bit of a ‘tipping point’, and I wonder if more violence will set the tone for a dramatically bad turn of events, depending on the outcome of the election this fall. Certainly there are ‘elements’ in both Clinton and Trump camps that may react very negatively (and violently) if the other side wins.

…all the while, satan–our spiritual enemy–sits back and laughs.

That’s right…satan.

Once he got us to focus on ‘self’ and ‘what I want, I deserve, it became very easy to go to ‘What I want, I deserve, and anyone who stands in the way of that is my enemy.’

That is the mindset of evil, and our society is being played.

At KCC, we’ve talked a lot about a verse that is a ‘worldview’ verse in some ways…it indicates in many ways, the reason things are what they are in this world…and helps us ask questions that will get us out of that ‘downward spiral’.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, to the full” (Jesus’ words in John 10:10)

The thief–satan, our enemy, is always trying to destroy. He’s always trying to divide, cause conflict, and incite animosity toward others. IF we let him, he destroys families, churches, communities, and eventually, our society and our world.

It’s what he does.

“He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”. (Jesus’ words in John 8:44)

This is what is happening in our culture, as people plug their ears to the truth, center on their own desires, and lob accusations against ‘the other side’.

What can we do instead?

Choose to listen. Try to understand. Seek to give the benefit of the doubt.

If you are a follower of Jesus, we must seek peace!

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”–Psalm 34:14

That is part of the “Life, to the full” that Jesus promised–relational peace and unity.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)

WE must be those who ‘overcome evil with good’!

WE must be those who leave room for God to avenge.

WE must be he ones who refuse to ‘pay back evil with evil, but to do what is right’.

WE must be the ones who make it our goal to live this out: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone!”

Will there be ‘bad guys’ on the other side of the spectrum? Yes.

Will there be ‘bad guys’ on our end of the spectrum? Regrettably, yes!

YOU and I–as Christ followers–cannot be one of them!

We MUST seek peace and pursue it!

We must listen, love, discuss, share, give grace, and remain committed to the truth–in LOVE!

That is the only hope for our society!

If you’re a Christian, YOU represent Jesus!

Commit yourself to living like it!

National Anthem–to Protest, or not to Protest?

Tonight, like millions of people across the nation, I went to a High School football game. I went to see our local Comstock Colts break the longest active losing streak in the state of Michigan…and they did so with a hard-fought victory over the Bronson Vikings tonight…but that is another story!

Just before the game began, the Announcer asked everyone to stand and face the flag for our National Anthem. Honestly, I was relieved to hear that they did not say something ‘p.c.’, like ‘Please rise for our National Anthem, unless you are otherwise inclined’, or something like that. I was also happy to note that all players and coaches from our team (I confess–I didn’t even look at Bronson’s team) stood at attention.

The band played, and I sang the words…quietly (still, apologies to all within earshot), and I was thankful. Thankful that, at least so far, the ‘p.c. police’ haven’t invaded our High Schools in this way…yet.

It also got me reflecting on Colin Kaepernick’s protest–and the others who’ve joined him.

Yes, he has the right to protest. America does protect the ‘Freedom of Speech’ in the first amendment.

However, it makes me wonder about several questions…

  1. What is the ‘aim’ of those who protest? Is it to raise awareness to some perceived-or-real ‘wrong’ in our country? If so, I would agree–there are many things ‘wrong’ with our country. However, it is still The Place that symbolizes freedom and liberty for all the world–even with it’s inconsistencies. Ironically, the very fact that there is a ‘right’ here to protest shows the idiocy of doing so.
  2. When will there be a ‘win’? What will a ‘win’ be defined as? In other words, ‘Cool–you can protest–so when (if ever) will you stop’? What will need to happen in order for you NOT to feel the need to protest any more? What is Colin’s ‘victory’? Is there one–or is it just about ‘making a point’ (and being in the limelight)?
  3. For a multi-millionaire quarterback, who is paid like that to PLAY A GAME in our country makes me think that maybe there’s another reason for Kaepernick’s protest…he never protested when he was starting, but did so just before he was to be cut….Hmmm…

Here’s my take on the National Anthem: I think it symbolizes the PROMISE of our country–the PROMISE of ‘the Land of the Free, home of the brave’. I think it stands for, and points ever-forward to the hope that one day, we will live out the ‘true meaning of our creed’.

To be sure, we haven’t ‘arrived’ yet, and there are issues to be resolved. There are individuals, and groups, who frustrate me with their lack of respect for  freedom, liberty, diversity, etc. However, I think our nation is SO FAR ahead of other places that, to protest our National Anthem is to say “I can’t support you because you are not Perfect”.

To that, I say, “Guilty as charged; we are NOT perfect”…but we are moving closer.

We are improving.

We are respecting each other…and are getting nearer to our goal.

 

Most of us don’t know that the Star-Spangled Banner–our National Anthem–actually has 4 verses.

Read this last verse in the rhythm of the first verse (which you know so well)…

“O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

THAT is worth standing for–whether in a High School football game or in the pro’s.

Just my opinion.

Pastor DaJo

Bonus: Check out this clip from “The Sum of All Fears”:

Your Legacy Starts TODAY! A Tribute…

How do you want to be remembered?

Most of us would love to be remembered as a good person, one who lived life ‘the right way’, one whom people respect, etc.

Some of us would like to be remembered as Christians, most importantly.

In other words, speaking for myself, I want everyone who comes in contact with me to know that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.

I want my words, actions, and motivations to point toward Him.

 

That all sounds nice…so how do we do it?

One minute, one interaction, at a time.

 

Yesterday, our family got news of a tragic death of a young man, Ryan Cramer, who had taught some of our children. It was a deep blow to us, and to so many others, but it was especially deep for his wife, Krista, and their young girls.

As we reflected on him, we realized that he was a GREAT Teacher and a marvelous person. He had the ability to convince each student that he cared about them, personally. He believed in them, personally, and he looked forward to seeing them each day, personally. He helped 2 of our girls learn to love school–or at least his class–and to feel genuinely good about themselves, because of his care and concern for them. They are strong, beautiful, competent young women now, partly because of the teachers in their lives–and none moreso than him.

He and his wife, both teachers at our kids’ elementary school, were both the kind of people that we need more of–people who give their lives in service to others, people who invest themselves in the lives of the next generation.

Here’s the thing: Ryan was a young man (certainly compared to myself, anyway).  He was in the prime of his life with a wonderful wife and young family.

To be sure, that’s part of what makes it seem so tragic, but what I want to get you to think about is this: Ryan could not have known that the end of this life would come so soon. He did not have time to consider his ‘Legacy’ as many do when they approach retirement age–he had decades to go before that!

That is the point: Ryan LIVED HIS LEGACY out, every day!

He invested himself in the lives of hundreds of children and families over the years, and THAT was his Legacy!

The Scriptures remind us: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12), and “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16). 

God knew Ryan, and the number of his days.

Ryan loved the Lord…he is sharing in eternity with Jesus right now…but he lived his life here on earth as a ‘Legacy’. No, he wasn’t perfect…other that Jesus, none of us are. But he didn’t let that stop him from living a life of impact while he had the time.

What’s it mean for us?

It is another reminder that NOW is the Time! TODAY is the day! Consider how you’re living and what you’re investing in right now!

Live life the way you want to be remembered, NOW. Live your legacy out now–with the power and strength that the Holy Spirit gives–because TODAY is the only day we can influence right now!

As Christians, we don’t want to live simply so that people ‘miss us’; we want to live so that they see Jesus in us! We want to live in a way which points to eternity!

I want to live in such a way that people ‘see Jesus in me’, even if we never talk!

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” (1 Peter 2:12)

Ryan may not have known it, but he did it!

…and others…including the Johnson family…saw it!

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17)

Where Is The Love? (Warning!)

Where is the LoveWarning: This post will leave some of you uncomfortable, and others will be offended. I am including a link to a video that uses a bad word, and will definitely step on toes (it did mine).

I don’t share this video to say ‘The Black Eyed Peas have it all figured out’, they don’t.

In fact, they are left asking the same question they asked years ago: “Where is the Love?”

One thing we can all agree on: there is a LOT of hate out there! Violence, Evil, Racism…it’s certainly out there in our world.

However, if anything is ever going to change, we have to ask ourselves a more disturbing question: ‘Is it in me?’

How have I contributed–either in my attitude, my actions, or my behavior–to the climate of hate and division?

For example, when I watch this video, I get offended by the lines about police killing, and the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ false narrative that was so prevalent recently. However, rather than discard the entire song, I have to admit that there are legitimate good things about it, and that the question is one that I need to answer!

The Black Eyed Peas ask this profound question, and I think we–especially Christ followers–need to wrestle with it: Where IS the Love?

Here’s the thing: We–Christians–KNOW the answer!

The LOVE has already come! Jesus came to show it, and He NAILED it!

“God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent His son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, should be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1st John 4:9-10)

Evil–including hate and racism–were nailed to the cross when He willingly went there!

Why, then, does it still exist?

2 reasons:

1) Our enemy, satan…the devil, is still trying to mess everything up (“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they might have LIFE, and have it to the Full.” (John 10:10), and 2) We willingly play into his hands.

Even in the Church–the family of God–who’ve been brought in by His amazing grace, and through nothing of our own merit (Ephesians 2:1-10)–we continue to justify racism, hatred and division!

How can this be?

If Jesus has paid for all our sin, and brought us all into relationship with the Father–adopted into the family of God–then we, above all people should know how to show LOVE…for all races, denominations, ethnicities, etc.

You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” (Ephesians 2:12-18)

HE–Jesus–is the One who made peace; HE is the one who brought the LOVE.

Therefore, we–as His followers, within the family of God together–have THE answer to the question,

“Where is the Love?” It’s in Jesus!

Therefore, as Christians, we have a responsibility to believe, think, and act not as members of ‘our’ group–‘White’, ‘Black’, ‘Latino’, etc…but as Children of God!

ALL lives matter–to God! Therefore, all lives should matter to me, as His child!

We must push back from the rhetoric, push back from the headlines, push back from the protests, and consider:      As those who have been extravagantly, graciously, and abundantly loved by God, how can we LOVE each other?

Does it mean we have no differences? Does it mean we can’t teach those who are different some things? Does it mean we can’t learn from each other? Of course not…and sometimes, those differences are important! Even then, however, we must live in the context of love.

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

Stand Up!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Bonhoefferwas a Lutheran Pastor and Theologian in during the reign of Adolf Hitler. While many Pastors in his country were keeping silent, and ‘going along in order to get along’, he would not. He believed that it was the responsibility of those who knew Jesus to stand up to tyranny and oppression.

He said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In other words, when we–as Christ followers–see injustice, tyranny and evil happening in our world, it is our responsibility–as followers of Jesus–to do what we can to stop it. Not doing so is a decision we’ll have to answer for.

In 1947, Peter MarshallPeter Marshall, Chaplain of the US Senate, said “If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything”. 

In other words, we must–especially as Christians–stand for those things which reflect the Word and heart of God.

 

So, the question is, ‘What do we stand for, and why?’

In our culture today, the teaching and values of the Word of God are being increasingly mocked and marginalized.

As Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy…” (John 10:10), and he is clearly very busy in our world!

It’s almost as if our culture is daring Christians to stand up and say something.

This is really nothing new, however.

Back in the book of Acts, when the Church was just getting started, opposition arose. Many voices of the culture–especially the religious culture–wanted to quiet this new message–the message about Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Savior and Lord of all.

Stephen, a ‘Deacon’ in the Church, was challenged. He was confronted with a choice. He could either stand up for Jesus, or try to compromise–to ‘go along’, to minimize the differences between those who worshiped Jesus and those who rejected Jesus–in order to survive.

Note–this wasn’t just about some vague pressure to conform. This was a situation that threatened his very life!

If he ‘made nice’, he might survive. If he stuck with Jesus as risen Savior and Lord, he may die!

Fortunately, Stephen’s faith was strong. He stuck with the Lord…and he was stoned to death because of it. However, he knew that eternity was awaiting him. God gave him a vision in the midst of this opposition: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) 

All this did was make his opponents more angry, so they rushed forward as one mob and took him out of the city and began to stone him, in order to silence and kill him.

Stephen knew that death was not the end. He knew that Jesus had conquered death–therefore, their threats meant nothing to him! While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)

Stephen’s faith enabled him to stand against opposition.Stoning Stephen

May we–all who claim to be Christ followers–have the strength to stand up against opposition, even if we have to stand alone.

 

 

 

Bust Through! (Part 2) The Ceiling!

glass ceiling

The messages we are given by this world, by well-meaning family members or authority figures, even by fellow Christians can make it seem as though God could never do anything impactful through us.

‘You? Who are you? You’re nothing special!’

Those messages can get ingrained within us to the extent that, even when the Word of God and the Spirit of God try to tell us differently, we can’t get it. We can’t seem to ‘bust through’.

It’s almost like there a plexi-glass ceiling above us…we can see beyond it, but we can’t get through it.

So, what do we do?

Many of us just accept the message–‘They must be right–they know me better than I know myself, and they’re saying I’m nothing special…maybe they’re right. I give up.’

Others try with all our might to bust through the ceiling. We try to tell ourselves ‘We’re ‘better’ than they know’, or ‘stronger‘, or ‘more special‘. In other words, we try to counter act their negatives with our own positives, hoping that that will crack the ceiling. We pound on it with determined fists…but all we get is bruised and bloody knuckles.

So, what are we to do?

What is the hope for us?

We don’t need to ‘Crack the Ceiling’…it’s already been cracked and even obliterated!

We simply need to stand by faith on the Truth of the Word of God. HE is the One who has ‘broken through’, and He is the One who can do ‘something special’ with us. HE is the only one!

The Word of God declares, for example, that we are…

Justified and Righteous in Christ:

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)

Freed from Condemnation: 

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Secure In His Love:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Empowered by The Spirit:

 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a]in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Of course, I could go on and on…but the bottom line is this:

If GOD declares that we are ‘Righteous, Freed, Secure, and Empowered’, then those are the words and the truths we should believe–not the lies that the others are trying to hold us down with.

God wants to take us further. He wants us to break through the limits, obstacles, and negative half-truths that we may have heard.

He wants to tell us that, In Jesus, we are ‘Limitless’!

Bust Through, Part 1– Listen!

Have you ever felt as though you’re facing a wall…

…too high to get over,

…too wide to get around,

…too thick to push through?

 

How do you react when you hit that wall?

For many of us, we simply give up.

 

…but maybe we shouldn’t.

 

God sometimes puts a message in our hearts… a calling.

It may seem like a whisper, but it’s from Him.

Remember, He doesn’t always come in the thunder or an earthquake, sometimes it’s just a “still, small voice”

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

 

Sometimes God appears in big, attention-grabbing, hard-to-miss ways, and directs you accordingly.

Sometimes He whispers.

You must be listening closely, if you’re going to hear.listening

 

In order to do that, we have to quiet ourselves, find a place to communicate with Him, and listen.

Bring His Word along, bring–as a friend of mine says–‘something to write with, and something to write on‘–so that you can jot down things you think He might be saying to you.

Pray through those things. Search the Scriptures. Check with spiritually-tuned-in, mature believers.

But first…listen.

 

I believe with all my heart that God wants to speak to us, TODAY.

We’re simply too busy and surrounded by too much noise, to LISTEN and Hear.

I think He’s looking for Listeners. He’ll communicate with them.

 

I’m listening…are you?