Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 03 Pray & Act

We’ve talked about a couple of aspects so far that I believe are imporetant if we’re preparing for a move of the Spirit. Examining our motives and removing obstacles. Today we’re going to look at two more. These may seem a little contradictory. They’re not. Let’s take them one at a time.

PRAY

Prayer is vitally important to a move of God because when we pray we are yieleding our preferred path, our preferences and asking for the Lord to come and do what only He can do. Nothing is so important. We could never conjure, manifiest or manipulate a genuine move of His Spirit. So we must come together and pray. There is still value in waiting before the Lord. We tend to be in a hurry. We live in a busy world, when we have prayer time, perhaps it’s IF we have prayer time, it is often fit into our schedule at our conveinence rather than prayer being a priority and defining our schedule. Often our “Jesus time” is fit into tight structures and timeframes. We’ll read the scripture quickly, and pray for a few needs and then move on with our day. I do believe any time is better than no time, but quality time is better than measured time. Quality time is not determined, by length but by substance. When you spend time with the Lord are you really present? Is your focus completely on Him? Are you fully surrendered to His purpose? From time to time there is value in simply lingering in His presence, waiting with no agenda other than to be with Him. When must prioritize His presence over our agenda. There is power when people who are surrendered and yielded to His purposes begin to pray for a move of His Spirit.

ACT

I believe the final step in our preparatino process is to act. I know I just said we should wait, linger and pray for Him to move. No action we take can cause God to do something. We should wait in His presence, but let’s be active in our waiting. Let us do what Jesus taught us to do as we engage with the world around us. Let’s love the people that cross our path. Let’s meet needs in the lives of those we can. Be about the Father’s business. Give Him the opportunity to move through you in your world. I truly believe that God wants to move through your life more than in your church service. Sometimes I wonder if we want God to move in our services more than we want Him move in our community. God gives power for His purposes. If we are not a people about the purposes of God then what do we need His power for? When we partner with His Spirit, follow His leading and have the confidence to engage our world, we give Him and opportunity to demonstrate His power. When we ask people if we can pray with them, we give God the opportunity to respond.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We should often examine ourselves. Are our motivations genuinely aligned with the Lords? Are we are fully surrendered to His purposes rather than our own? Have we removed any and all obstacles that could disrupt the flow of His Spirit? If so then we must begin to pray, really pray for God to move. Finally we must step out in faith and give Him the opportunity to do just that. When we seek for His power to accomplish His purposes, we will not be disappointed. God is wanting to pour out His Spirit in this world, but I don’t belive He is looking to repeat Himself. As our culture is so rapidly and radically changing, we must stop expecting the next great move of His Spirit to take place in our church buildings. We must get out into our world and truly be about building the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of the American church. My final challenge to all of us is simply to lay down expectations and allow God to do what only He can do.

Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 02 Remove the Obstacles

Desiring a move of the Spirit is not enough. God is looking for a heart fully surrendered to Him. Once we’ve examined our motives and sought to align our hearts and expectations with Him we need to further examine ourselves for any and all obstacles that could prevent us from receiving from the Lord.

Remove the obstacles

I’ve often heard the Spirit’s move compared to the rushing water of a river. Well, God is looking for a vessel through which He can freely flow, unobstructed. There are many things that could obstruct the flow.  Removing the obstacles speaks to purity.
Matthew 5:8 (NLT) God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NLT) In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.
Joshua 3:5 (NLT) Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”
To be pure is to be unmingled with the world, set apart for God’s use and God’s use alone. This requires a preparation process in our hearts. Where have we allowed obstructions? If we are expecting God to move then now is the time to honestly take a look and remove anything and everything that could obstruct the flow of God’s Spirit. There are many things that could cause an obstruction, I’ve narrowed it down to a few of the most common categories; sin, offense/disunity, distraction, focus on self, critical sprit/cynicism.

1. Sin

This is obvious, but sin can be sneaky. If we aren’t vigilant we can allow small things into our hearts without even realizing it. We know that sin separates us from God, so it isn’t a surprise to say that if we are allowing sin to take root in our lives that it will be a hindrance to what God is wanting to accomplish. At its simplest definition, I would define sin as anything that would hurt someone or yourself. That can take many forms. There are addictive sins, the ones we turn to over and over again that usually are harmful to ourselves and eventually very harmful to those closest to us. There are actions we can take against someone else, either by being unkind or even intentionally malicious. Then there are the things we should be doing, but choose not to do, like when we disobey God by ignoring the prompting to go and pray with someone. Some sins are big and obvious, some are small and seemingly insignificant. All sin needs to be removed. I think the smaller sins are the most dangerous because they don’t require a lot of intentionality, they are usually are natural inclination. This is why we must be vigilant to daily surrender our lives in pursuit of Jesus. 2. Offense/disunity This one is possibly the most dangerous on this list and incredibly relevant in todays world. People are more divided than ever and in the church, it’s incredibly easy to let offense take root in our lives. Sometimes one wrong comment or look, which may have been completely meaningless, is enough to raise the ugly monster of offense. The enemy wants us to be a hot mess of disunity. People who are divided cannot accomplish the work of God’s Kingdom effectively. We must put aside our offenses, be quick to forgive, and come together for God’s purposes. It is truly loving to overlook offenses.

3. Distraction

Our attention span is shrinking. The latest studies suggest that we now have an average attention span of 7 seconds. That’s less than a goldfish, people! It is certainly easy to allow other interests to take our minds and focus away from pursuing God’s purposes. We live in an ADD world of entertainment, there’s tons of it! I love it too. I don’t think it’s wrong to be entertained, but if our quest to quelch boredom prevents us from pursuing all God has for us then it becomes sin. There’s plenty of other things that could distract us as well, politics, drama, celebrity gossip– anything that fills our mind and consumes our talk could become a distraction and an obstacle to God pouring out His Spirit. There are times when we need to stay focused and allow God to work in our lives. There will be mornings when we need to hold off starting our day and just sit in God’s presence. There will be services where we need to put off our rush to leave and be patient, focusing on the Lord and prioritizing His presence.

4. Focus on the Self

We’ve already talked about our motivation, is it to have a powerful service, or is it to fulfill the purposes of God? Revival isn’t about you. If my primary focus is what I will get out of it, what I will experience, what I want, then I am missing something very important. God promises to pour out His Spirit on His people, on nations. I don’t see anywhere that tells me it’s for me individually. I believe our focus should be on how a move of His Spirit would benefit not only our church but our city, our nation, our neighbor. Will I benefit individually? Yes, but if that is my motivation and I give no thought to those around me then the focus on myself becomes an obstacle to the move of His Spirit.

5. Critical spirit/cynicism

Let’s be honest, when God moves sometimes weird things happen. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t like weird. I do believe that we can serve Jesus and not be weird. Sometimes we over-spiritualize things like prophecy to the point that I have to wonder if they can have any real impact to those who don’t know Jesus. It’s easy to be critical of things that we don’t understand. It’s easy to become cynical about many many things. If God showed up in a way that seemed foreign, or you didn’t know what was happening, or if things seemed a little weird, would you criticize it? If we’re not careful we can critique what God does to the point that He can’t do anything in our lives. I don’t like to admit it, but God can use weird to transform lives. Of course, sometimes weird is just weird. We must discern the difference if we hope to see God move. I believe if we examine our motivations and begin to remove these obstacles we are positioning ourselves to be receptors when God pours out His Spirit. Of course, ultimately only God can pour out His Spirit. We can, however, pray and be ready when He does. We’ll talk more about that Thursday, in the third and final part of this series.

Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 01 Motives & Expectations

The power of God is difficult to explain. How do you describe something that is so completely beyond you? I grew up in an atmosphere that was full of His power. You could sense it in the air, but also see it in the fruit that was produced. Lives were transformed, people came to Jesus. Since then no matter what church I’ve been at, people talk about revival, longing for a move of the Spirit.

Of course, not everyone means exactly the same thing when they use those words. Our definitions are colored through the lens of our experience. Some have grown up hearing the words without ever experiencing it. At times there are certain services where it’s like God is breathing into them and those who long for His moving lean in and whisper, “this is it.”

It wasn’t. 

What will it take? When will we experience a move of the Spirit? There isn’t exactly a magic formula we can concoct. We can’t force God’s hand. God will move, in His timing and in His way. Still, I want to share four key steps I believe we must take if we want to experience a move of the Spirit. Examine your motives, remove obstacles, pray, and act.

Examine your motives

Our WHY is such an important factor in everything we do in life. Why do we want a “move of the spirit”. The way some people talk makes me feel like they are mostly concerned with having a powerful church service. I’m not against a powerful church service, but is that why I want the spirit to move? Am I more interested in an electrically charged environment than building His Kingdom?

I believe that God will not send the Spirit among a people who are not about the purposes of the Spirit. That is to say God sends His power for His purposes. If our goal is to experience great power, but never do anything to impact our community for His Kingdom then our desires are misaligned. 

I think another area where our motivations occasionally miss the mark is in our expectations. Sometimes when we say we want to experience a move of God what we are really saying is we want to recapture something from our past. What if what God is wanting to accomplish today looks differently, feels differently, functions differently? Are we willing to lay down our expectations and follow where He leads?

Personally, I have long believed that what is coming, will be very different than what has been done. I don’t believe the next great move of God will be central to one location, but take place in the common areas, unexpected areas. I think we need to move away from trying to cultivate an atmosphere that draws people to us and take the power of God to where the people already are.

I often wonder, what is it we are really hoping for? When we pray for revival what is it you want to see? I hope that our heart’s desire is to see God accomplish His purpose in whatever manner He desires. I pray we will be a people who will follow wherever He leads and put His Kingdom over our own comfort. (Luke 9:57-58)

I believe if our motives and expectations line up with His then we are so much less likely to be disappointed when it doesn’t “happen.” 

We will continue our preparation for a move of the Spirit with “remove the obstacles” in the next post.

A Different Way of Thinking

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

I have a bad habit of declaring “this is one of my favorte scriptures,” but this really is one of my favorite scriptures. One I hope to live out daily. It is so important to recognize what Jesus has done for me, the incredible sacrifice He made in literally laying down His life for the salvation of the entire world. What should I offer Him in return? Church attendance and 10% of my pay check? That doens’t quite feel enough. He is derserving of nothing less than my entire life. Yes, I will give my life to Him. My actions, my words, my thoughts. May everything that I am be useful for glorifying the King of Kings, the Creator, the Savior.

Everything I just wrote is the natural byproduct of dwelling upon Jesus and His work on the cross, but we as humans have this habit of filling our time and minds with MANY other things. There’s so much to consume our attention today, everything from entertainment, news cycles, political rants, not to mention the everyday important life things like our families, jobs, and self care. As a result we end up imitating the world’s way of thinking and living instead of giving everything to Jesus.

None of the above is bad in and of itself, but if we don’t prioritize our relationship with Jesus and our daily pursuit of His purposes then they become secondary and eventually forgotten. We must consistently immerse ourselves in God’s Word. Let His ways become our ways and follow His path for our lives.

It really comes down to our thinking. Our lives always follow our thinking so we must ask the question, “Where do I invest my thinking?” What is it that consumes your thoughts? Is it the craziness in our world? Is it something in your personal life? Are you trying to not think and focusing on entertainment instead?

It’s easy with so much going on in our world to find ourselves thinking more about political preferences than our Kingdom purpose. I’m not throwing stones here, I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve struggled a lot over the last few months with cynicism, offense and a general frustration over things I feel powerless to do anything about. Ultimately I have to come before God and let go of my worldly thinking and embrace Kingdom thinking.

This is why I believe that repentance and confession should be a regular part of our lives. We naturally shift back into worldly thinking so it only makes sense that a part of our daily devotions should be to surrender our thinking and refresh as we turn our thoughts back to God. As we continue to let God transform our thinking we can think less about “what is God’s will for my life.” God will naturally lead us toward the path He has created for us, if we will just purpose in our hearts and mind to follow Him, one step at a time.

I’ve Got Good News!

When I tell you that I have some good news what is your first thought? Are you excited to find out what it is? Perhaps, your first thought is, “good news for who?” I doubt very seriously that your response was an eye roll and a feeling of, “not again.” Andy Stanley recently preached a series about good news and his premise was fairly simple. People love to hear good news.

Romans 10:13-15 (NLT) For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

As Christians, we have more than just good news. We have the greatest news of all time. The message of reconciliation to God through the sacrifice of Jesus. When we die we won’t be separated from God, but enter into eternity where His presence dwells. Take a look at the message Jesus brought. It wasn’t just a message of love, but to love even your enemies. Truly, the message of Jesus is good news.

My question today is one of self-evaluation. Is it still good news to you? Do you still get excited about the Kingdom of God? Think about how the message of Jesus has been good news in your life. What has God done in your life? What is He currently doing in your life? If you had to answer these questions right now what would you say?

If someone who has yet to enter into a relationship with God were to hear your answers or observe your life and conversations for the last week would they walk away thinking they’ve heard good news?

It’s no secret that for many of those on the outside, the name of Christianity does not bring to mind good news. Perhaps images of angry, hateful, or hypocritical would be more accurate. While I think it’s worth looking at the institution as a whole and evaluating why the world has such or wrong understaning of who we are, or even asking if we’re not as peaceful, loving and holy as we think, that might be a bit lofty for one blog post. However, I certainly will examine my life and I hope you will do the same.

How will you spread good news today? We may not be able to change our entire public image, but I absolutely believe we can change one. By consistently representing the good news of Jesus around those we come in contact with we are taking a step, sowing a seed, that they might come to see the real Jesus. For those of us who bear the name of Christ, we must remember that everything we do is a representation of Jesus to those who don’t know Him.

May we represent Him well today. May we live in such a way that people would look at us and truly see some good news.

Misunderstood

I’ve had a pretty much conflict-free life. I’d never really felt misunderstood before. I definitely didn’t know how to respond, I actually didn’t even recognize it, at first. My response was, oh I didn’t know that about myself and I went on a journey to try to fix everything wrong with myself. Now, when someone brings criticism your way, you should always take time to weigh it and ask if it’s legitimate. If it is, then acknowledge it and work to fix it. If it’s not, then dismiss it and be grateful you have someone in your life willing to challenge you.

It turns out I lacked the ability in that season to discern what was legitimate and what was not. So I tried to fix all of it and I found myself in a bit of a talespin. It wasn’t until God literally shouted into my soul, “Stop seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes” that I stopped and said, “huh?” It turns out several lies had taken root in my soul and I had to step back and remember the truth.

I now know what feel what it’s like to be misunderstood in several different ways and I’m oddly ok with that- most days anyway. We all feel misunderstood from time to time. So why are we misunderstood and what should we do?

When we feel misunderstood it is because we are being treated in a way that is inconsistent with how we view oursleves. This means one of two things.

1.) Your self-view is wrong

2.) They don’t see the real you.

Listen, the reality is even the most self aware people still have blindspots. When someone brings something to your attention it is usually worth considering. Pause a moment and ask if there is part of what they’re saying that is correct. Talk to the people who know you best and ask if there is any validity to the claim. If there is then you now have the opportunity to grow, and it’s not easy, but it’s a gift they gave to you, rather they meant it to be positive or not. If you determine what they claim is not valid you then you can dismiss the claim outright and move on, or try to correct their perspective.

The reality is at times some people will just not see the real you. They will misread your intentions and misunderstand your motivations. You have to determine if it is necessary to try and show them who you really are or to just have confidence in who you are. Most of the time, the latter is the best course of action. I truly believe that over time, your true character will be revealed and win out. However, there may be moments when you need to stand up and clarify your position. Ultimately you have to comfortable with who you are and where you stand with God.

Romans 2:29 (NLT) …a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

No one can truly know your motives but you. If your heart is pure, you’re intentions are honest and you’re right with God then you can’t let what other people think weigh you down. I know the opinions of some carry more weight than others. I know it’s hard to not let offense take hold in your life. So if you feel misjudged, or misunderstood today then I challenge you to pray. First, remind yourself of who you are in Christ and how He sees you. Second, pray for the one who misunderstands you, really pray for them. Pray for them as you would pray for yourself. Pray for God’s blessing, provision, joy, to fill their lives. Over time this kind of prayer enables you to release offense and treat them with the love of Jesus.

After all, that is our ultimate goal as Christians. To love people as Jesus loves us.

Nothing Can Separate Us | See the US?

I caught myself. I was doing exactly what I talked about in my last post. I was making it all about me. And honestly, as I re-read that scripture I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it or heard it taught in any other context than “me.’

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I read that my automatic response is overwhelming gratitude that God loves me, that nothing can separate me from His love. I’m not suggesting that it’s completely wrong, because obviously, I am a part of the US. God does in fact, love me and has chosen me, called me and made me right with Himself like it says in Romans 8:29-30, but even that is written in a plurality and if I make it all about me I am missing part of the richness of the text.

So let’s talk about why I love this scripture and what stood out to me today as I read it with a different perspective. We can clearly see that having Christ’s love does not give us exemption from difficult times. In fact, it may even guarantee some of them. However, we remember God’s love isn’t just for ME, but it’s for US. This means that when those things come I am not alone. I am surrounded by a community that is experiencing the same difficulty and we have the opportunity, responsibility to support each other. If the world will know us by our love (John 13:35) perhaps this is the kind of love is what Jesus meant. His love displayed among the community of believers. Standing united, caring, and supporting each other through all of life’s difficulties.

Truly God’s love for us cannot be conquered. God’s love for us is stronger than death and nothing can destroy it. His love is an enduring, patient, and everlasting love. Should our love for each other be any less? Why do we allow the love within our communities to be so easily diminished by our differences? We are one people with many different experiences, ways of seeing the world, thought patterns and it isn’t surprising that we will have different theological or political perspectives. We must stop confusing unity of beliefs with unity in the Spirit. Agreement is not a prerequisite of love. If it were Christ would not have died for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

It is my sincere prayer that we would be one people, unified in the love that Jesus has given to us. If we cannot love each other, how can we share that love with the world? Because again, Jesus’ sacrifice is about so much more than me. I’m grateful that He died for me, but I’m even more grateful that it wasn’t just for me. Jesus died for the whole world so that all might come to know Him. Church, let’s live like it. Let’s love like it.

Individualism | American Christianity

There’s a line in the song “Long Live the Champion” by rap artist KB that says, “Yes, I love the Kingdom more than I love my nation.” Of course, I do love my nation and I’m grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but there have certainly been moments over the last few years where my political beliefs have been at war with my spiritual beliefs. I don’t even think that’s always a bad thing, but it’s important for me to acknowledge and wrestle with.

I have seen a lot of confusion. I’ve seen people say you’re not a Christian if you support _______. I ‘ve also seen people suggest you’re not a Christian if you DON’T support ______ (THE SAME EXACT ISSUE). Fill in the blank with whatever you’d like, President Trump, immigration reform, racial reconciliation, and a million more things. I absolutely believe that our religion SHOULD INFORM our political beliefs, but for many, it seems like our political beliefs have BECOME our religion.

We as Americans do have a way of making ourselves the main character, the hero and the victor. We confuse losing political power with losing our religious liberties. We claim persecution when the reality is for most of us, we’ve never really been persecuted. We confuse American freedom and Biblical freedom. I think there is certainly a brand of American Christianity that historically and in other parts of the world doesn’t ring true with scripture.

So where does it come from? I can’t say I’m the right person to answer that. I only know what I am beginning to see and attempting to make sense of it myself. I do believe at its root is our strong lean to individualism.

We as a nation are very much about ME and not so concerned with the WE. Individualism is essentially putting my rights as an individual before my responsibility to the community. It’s a part of our culture and who we are. We can see it in how we interpret the Bible. We put a lot of emphasis on our individual personal relationship, purpose, call to action. It’s easy to take passages that are about US and make them about ME. I’m not even suggesting all of that is wrong, but if we don’t realize we are doing it then we are missing something.

Simply put the culture and community within which the scriptures were written were much more community-centric. That’s why we read in Acts 2:44 that the believers shared everything they had, we don’t relate to that idea. I’m not about to literally share all my possessions with you. In fact, if you just show up and knock on my door my first question will be, “Why are you here?” Rather than just welcoming you in.

Romans 12:13 (NLT) When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Listen, I’m not versed, intelligent, or informed enough to delve too deep into this topic right now, but I truly believe it is something we need to look at. Just because it’s all we’ve known, doesn’t mean that it’s correct. It is my sincere desire to build God’s Kingdom, not to build a Christian Nation. I don’t think they’re the same thing. We have had the luxury to live in a Christian Nation, and that’s wonderful. However, if our life’s purpose is only about keeping what we had I fear we may waste our lives fighting for something we were never promised.

I guess I’ll wrap this up by suggestion we make every effort to read scripture, not with our American eyes, but in a historical and cultural context. Someone asked me recently to share a simple easy way to begin to read it in the correct context, and I simply responded, “I’m not sure there is a simple, easy way.” This means, in part, changing the way we’ve read scripture our whole lives. It’s so ingrained that it will take time to shift our thinking, and that’s never easy.

Let’s just remember that the scripture was not written to an American audience, but to people living in a historical and cultural world very different than our own. We can’t read the Bible as if it was written directly to us. It was most assuredly written for us. It is most assuredly divinely inspired by God and is perfect, useful to teach us, correct us and equip us. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) However, for it to do so we need to read what was intended, not just was sounds good to us.

So let’s lean in. Study, grow, and listen. If we can learn to live out the scripture as it was written, not just an American interpretation then perhaps we can reclaim the good news. We can reclaim unity in the Spirit. We can truly be a people who display and live the love of Jesus and we can truly be about the business of building God’s Kingdom.

The Deep Divide | Problematic Politics

2020 has been a bit much. I don’t think any of us expected this year to bring all the challenges, chaos, and craziness that we are all experiencing every single day. Everything that is thrown at us seems to deepen the political divide in our nation. Add to that it’s an election year and it’s difficult to see any ending to the ceaseless arguments anytime soon.

We all have differing opinions and we are all right to have whatever opinion we hold. I’ve struggled this year because, while I do hold some opinions that differ from the popular ones in my circle, mostly I don’t see anyone seeking to understand each other. In fact, what I see most is pretty toxic.

Now, most of my social media friends hold a republican perspective, with only a few holding an opposing view. So, what I am seeing is probably not balanced, but what I see from much of the far right is presenting their viewpoint in an angry posture, attacking those who don’t agree. I would go as far as to say that much of the republican party comes across as bullies, in the past week I have seen my friends calling people, sheep, nazis, and libtards. Not just one or two people either. This display of aggression has left me grieved. I definitely struggle to see the love of Jesus in the midst of our political landscape.

Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT) A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

Proverbs 18:2 (NLT) Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

I just want to remind us of these scriptures today. Sometimes the more we talk the more damage we cause. I do believe we have a big problem in our culture today of airing our opinions, but not taking any time to understand the perspective of others. We absolutely are guilty of assuming what they believe and arguing against our own assumptions rather than their actual opinion. Perhaps that’s what makes it an argument rather than a discussion?

Here is what I know, foolish people think they have all the answers and proceed recklessly, while the wise seek to understand. I can’t help to think of what I often refer to in my own head as “new guitar player syndrome.” Many times when asking a young musician about their skill level they will broadcast that they are SO GOOD, hyping up their own abilities. Then during the audition, it becomes clear that they are actually pretty terrible. They don’t yet know enough to realize how much they still have to learn.

Here is the bottom line. When you think you are the expert, you stop learning— when really you should work the hardest to continue learning. Information is constantly changing, or flat out wrong. Our culture is constantly shifting. Forming a balanced opinion takes a lot of work. It takes genuinely listening to opposing views. It takes getting information from more than one source. Honestly, many times news networks aren’t even reporting on the same stories, and when they do it’s so different. How can anyone form a balanced belief by only listening to one side of an argument? Ask any parent with multiples kids

One final thought, and this is just something I can’t help but wonder. There is a clear divide between the younger generations and older generations. It’s only getting wider. What if it is partly because the younger is still listening and seeking to learn, while the older are more prone to filtering their information through preferred beliefs and bias? I don’t have any studies or evidence to back up my theory, just something I’m thinking about.

I hope that we can all take the path of wisdom, seek to genuinely listen and learn. I would love to see a united nation, where it’s okay to have different opinions. I would love to see discussions rather than arguments. But most of all I would love to see people of love and understanding, even in the midst of disagreement.

Heart In Action

I grew up in an environment that placed emphasis on being right with God, but little emphasis on what that looked like interacting within our world. The extent of impact from my point of view was, “tell people about Jesus.” Should we tell people about Jesus? Yes! Unequivocally, yes. However, I believe that is not the full extent of how the gospel affects our actions. 

My understanding as a kid lacked balance, what I saw demonstrated was that your prayer life was more important than the way you treated people. How you lived was only important in that you did not sin. In fact, abstaining from sin was far more important than anything else going on in the world. I was told Jesus is the solution to all the problems of the world, but never taught to get involved or to help be the solution, only to pray.

So, when you think of living the Christian life what do you think of? Do you have images of church services, singing worship songs, prayer meetings, bible studies, Christian fellowship? Those are certainly a part of the Chrisitan life, but is that the extent of the images you have? Is your mind also drawn to images of meeting needs, helping the poor, standing up for the oppressed, fighting against injustice?

I confess, too often my mind has failed to connect the second part to my faith and I fear I am not alone. Your prayer life is important. Living a holy life, free from sin is important. However, what good are your prayers and righteousness if it doesn’t drive you to take action? Is your faith only about YOU avoiding hell with no thought of the state of the world?

In the book of James he is incredibly clear that faith without works is dead, yet the message I was drawn to is that it doesn’t matter how much good you do if you don’t have a relationship with God. Now don’t get me wrong. That statement is true, but it’s unbalanced and incomplete. Out of our relationship with God, our lives should produce many good works.

Too often the world doesn’t know we are Christians by our love and the works that love produces, but by our political stances, our boycotts– honestly I’m pretty sure the church invented cancel culture– our condemnation of sins and our fight to protect our rights and religious liberties. Again, I’m not suggesting all those things are unimportant, but is it building God’s Kingdom?

We often uphold “truth in love” and “wounds of a friend” to attack those we disagree with, but the reality is we do not love them and they are not our friends. Is it possible we have a reputation for being bigoted and hateful because… we are? Do you really show love to all people? Or rather could all people feel that love from you? I can certainly remember a time in my life when I would have said, I love gay people, but they would have felt no love from our conversation. I was too afraid of affirming sin to truly demonstrate love for a gay person.

We live in a world full of political causes and stances. As a church, we tend to pick one or two and ignore the rest. I’ve seen people shamed for supporting causes other than pro-life, as if supporting something else means you don’t support life. I believe God gave us a voice and we have a responsibility to use that voice. To actively show love to our world and stand up against injustice, whatever form it takes. To reach out to the poor, the downhearted, the outcast. To actively meet the needs in our community. To live wholeheartedly for Jesus. To demonstrate to the world the love that God has for them.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of scriptures to think about.

Psalm 78:34-38 (NLT) When God began killing them, they finally sought him. They repented and took God seriously. 35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,  that God Most High was their redeemer. 36 But all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues. 37 Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.

Amos 5:23-24 ( NLT) Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.

God isn’t looking for lip service. God isn’t looking for a good church service. He is looking for people to stand up for righteousness. To truly represent Him in every corner of the earth. To have a heart for God means to have a heart in action. Let’s pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Let us spend time in His presence and may we take His presence with us everywhere we go. May the world come to know Jesus because of how we live our lives. May we actively demonstrate His love to the world, heart in action.