Anti-Christ Christians

We all know the venom of our current political reality. It’s ugly. I’m still convinced this is nothing new. Our country once fought a war against itself. We have seen political leaders assassinated for their beliefs and convictions. Of course, no other generation had the power of social media at their disposal.

Hate travels fast now.

Disdain has no limits.

Whatever courtesy or civility you would have expected in previous days seems lost. We’ve emboldened our stances to a point where we can’t stand to hear from people with different opinions. What’s worse is we can’t even stand the people with different opinions. At this point, you can’t convince me this isn’t by design.

First, let’s recall the spiritual forces we wrestle against. They are the enemy. Not Republicans or Democrats. But we also need to recall what these forces do.

They lure us away from God’s will. They convince us we need to do what’s best for us. Never mind the damage we do along the way. Let’s be clear. That is anti-Christ.

Second, we make choices. Spiritual forces may wreak our thoughts and feelings. But we decide what to do with them. The lure of financial gain is too much for many of us. Power and control are the ultimate goals. So, while I recognize the reality of our spiritual battles, we must also admit to our failings.

The first design of the spiritual forces of wickedness is to seduce us. As a result, the design of many of us is to create conflict amongst us that in turn creates profit. Let me say it in a different way: We’re being played.

This is important to me because it impacts us all. And I’ve seen it play out in churches in unChristlike ways. The stories of Christians falling in line with the ways of the world are plentiful. I have to resist the urge to justify Christians. It’s easy to say we’ve been fooled. They’re just angry and fed up with the way things are. That is an excuse. Simply said, too many Christians behave in demonic ways.

We’ve thrown out Wisdom’s call. We act and speak in haste. There’s nothing wise in our rebukes. Our arrogant boasts are pointless.

Proverbs 25:26 says, “Like a muddied spring or polluted fountain are the righteous who give way before the wicked.” The Message Bible makes it a little more clear: A good person who gives in to a bad person is a muddied spring, a polluted well.

I see the same things in life you do. But I also worship the same risen Christ. The good news is that Christ is Lord. So, we don’t have to be a part of the problem anymore. We have a higher calling. Living in obedience to the way of Christ allows us to live in reconciliation with one another. And it shows the spiritual forces of wickedness the power of God.

So, let’s stop muddying the water.

Stay blessed…john

All that wisdom

On a recent day trip to the Valley, I spent some time in a record store.

That was, by far, the most time I’ve been in any kind of store in a long time. Think of the phrase “a kid in a candy shop.” No matter what music store it is, I react the same way. There’s a moment I stand at the entrance to scan the layout. Then I bounce around from aisle to aisle, genre to genre.

There’s so much to miss in every basket. It’s almost overwhelming.

As a preacher, that’s what the book of Proverbs feels like. There is a structure to the wisdom book. Chapter headings help you see some of that. But a lot of times it feels like Proverbs changes subject from one verse to the next. Take Proverbs 22, for example. The chapter opens with wisdom about having a good name and integrity. Then there’s a word about fleeing from danger. After that, it’s on to humility and raising children.

I did a sermon series on various psalm readings once. That series took the most preparation time. The psalms are different than biblical stories or parables of Jesus. So, I really had to pay attention to what the Spirit was leading me to notice in those texts. I’ve never done a series on Proverbs. I think I’m too scared–there’s probably a proverb about that somewhere in the book. My imagination tells me I’d have a lot of preparing to do to preach from Proverbs.

Truth be told, I can only read so much of Proverbs at one time. It’s almost overwhelming.

What, then, do we make of all these scattered nuggets of wisdom? I have one thought for today.

I used to tease Gloria. In her study and devotional time, she would hear encouraging messages. Things people need to hear to get through hard times. She would hear those words and get worried. “Uh oh. What’s going to happen?” We learned together that what we learn isn’t always for us. We could relax. The Lord wasn’t always getting us ready to endure some hardship. Remember, God connects our lives. We are a part of each other’s path.

So, often, God speaks to me through you. And you through me.

When we read a chapter of Proverbs, there’s a lot to take in. Now, God might be speaking directly to your heart and some situation you’re facing at the moment. One verse of Proverbs may inspire some idea you need for your life today.

It could also be, though, this is a time for you to reflect on other aspects of life. As a result, maybe you’re going to be the wisdom someone else needs to hear soon. Maybe God is preparing you to bring meaning to an upcoming conversation.

If that’s the case, let’s not rush through Proverbs. Take time to reflect on your reading. You may find connections you hadn’t noticed before. And you may be getting ready to learn, share and live into the wisdom of God.

Stay blessed…john

Wrestling with a prostitute

What makes a movie, or any art form, Christian?

Does the author or creator need to be Christian? Should there be a quota of Christian words or themes? Is the good guy going to win or does the bad guy have to convert for it to be truly Christian?

Another question to ponder is, Can art even be Christian?

I’ve seen too many Christian movies. By that, I mean movies that certain Christian groups lauded and commended. I even read the supplementary curriculum that was available for purchase. Most of those movies, though, are less Christian and more inspirational. Faith-based, perhaps. Faith in Jesus might be at the center of dialogue, but usually a cursory faith. Nothing too wide, long, high or deep.

I like to joke about these Christian attempts to portray faith to the world. I joke because it’s the best I can make of them. We don’t seem willing to accept art if it doesn’t match the Christian label. Has the church become just another marketable group? While I don’t know the statistics, I’m sure more than ninety percent of the audience for these movies is already Christian.

That tells me someone figured out a formula we love to watch.

We could let art probe deeper aspects of faith and humanity. But we’re too used to watching comfortable Christian tropes. In truth, they may hurt our efforts to portray the depth of the Christian faith. That’s why this is an important conversation for us. I also want you to learn to reflect more on what represents our shared faith.

A rabbi once instructed me about the Bible’s willingness to let people be people. The biblical text doesn’t buttress the power of God by fabricating perfect believers. Perhaps the text has more faith in God’s power than we do sometimes. And it’s not just that people in the biblical narratives aren’t perfect. That’d be too easy an argument to make. Many biblical characters have their faults on full display and are still lifted as examples of faith. You and I are left to figure out what that says about them and the God they serve. Christian movies don’t often offer that kind of opportunity.

Many of us know the story of the spies sent to Jericho. The hero of that story is a prostitute, Rahab. The text doesn’t tell us that God or Joshua directed the spies where to go; they went with Rahab. I’ve always wondered why they ended up there. Does that mean to suggest anything about them? Of course, Rahab serves the people of God in their battle against Jericho and, as a result, saves her family. Through her acts, she also ensures the lineage of Jesus continues (Matthew 1).

Notice that the text doesn’t say she stopped being a prostitute. She could have. Maybe the need to sell herself went away after Jericho fell.

I’ve heard Christians quickly assume she did. She had to if God saved her, the thought goes. There had to be a “come to Jesus” moment for her. To me, that idea stems from our need for the story to conclude in a positive manner, maybe even a “Christian” way. A perfect way to say, “The End.” But the Bible doesn’t offer that to us.

What if she didn’t change?

Well, here we are left to wrestle with a prostitute that is a hero.

Stay blessed…john