Time to party

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

I had the joy of speaking at an MLK event last week. We joined a march from City Hall to a local church. Those who stayed at the church joined in song, prayer and reflection. The event leader introduced me, among things, as an Eagles fan. I had an uphill climb!

But I’m confident I won the crowd over with my message “Late to the party.”

When it comes to justice, some people will be late to the party. To be sure, some people don’t want to come to the justice party. They like the old party. 

Even so, we keep celebrating God’s justice. In a sense, we party when we see glimpses of justice rolling on like a river (Amos 5:24). We thank God when justice reigns and cry out when it does not. My point was that as we continue to pursue justice, others will finally join the effort. 

Thanks be to God!

And I also wanted to emphasize how much the Lord desires justice among us. This isn’t a random idea we created. It has always been a vision of God for how we live as God’s people.

Moses taught the Israelites in the wilderness what it meant to be faithful to God. Can you guess one of the things he taught them? They were to practice justice. He reiterates what he wants the people to know: Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20). 

Only justice?

What about love, compassion and truthfulness? What of holiness? Well, is not justice fulfilled a form of them all? How can we say we love our neighbor if we can’t be bothered with the reality of the injustices they face? How holy are we if injustice doesn’t bother us enough to do something about it?

Speaking of MLK, I read an article yesterday that mentioned a plaque in Dallas dedicated to him. Apparently, the plaque quotes Micah 6:8 but attributes the words of the prophet to MLK. 

But they are God’s words of justice. God’s desire for our connected lives.

This is always going to matter to God. So, it’s time to get to the justice party! 

Stay blessed…john

Almost perfect

Philippians 2:12-18

Trying to live perfectly is not a sustainable practice. If it’s impossible for us, it’d be exhausting to try to make it happen. I find it more helpful to emphasize our pursuit of holiness instead. That centers our focus on the holiness of God.

It also helps me see that just because I’m not perfect today, doesn’t mean I’m not better than I thought I could be. Is not being as angry or impatient today as I used to be not a win?

It is.

And I want to offer another practice that goes a long way in our pursuit of holiness. Philippians 2:14 says to “do all things without murmuring and arguing.” Imagine that! Doing everything without complaining about someone else or joining in frivolous hostility.

Think of what we could accomplish. Consider the healing we could nurture and share. 

I have yet to meet a pastor or church leader who didn’t have an abundant supply of murmur stories. We all know what it is to listen to petty argument after argument disguised as helpful feedback. 

The results? 

Well, I know several eager and faithful leaders who decided it was too much. They went somewhere else. More and more, we’re hearing about pastors themselves who have left ministry. The back bighting and infighting was insufferable.

So, let’s note how our murmuring and complaining impacts others and the ministry we say we care about. But also notice more of what the verse from Philippians says. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent. 

There’s a personal toll to murmuring and complaining, too. It takes us away from the image of God within us. It clouds our perception of others and it steals our joy of life.

Now, I’m not sure the apostle Paul was talking about living a perfect life. In his encouragement to not murmur or argue, though, he did use words like blameless, innocent and without blemish. And that is close enough for me!

Stay blessed…john