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

Strange prayers

It should never be hard to brag on God.

That’s what I told my church this weekend. And yet, in my pastoral experience, it’s hard to get Christians to share a testimony sometimes. I’ve tried to reflect on the possible reasons.

What do you think?

Maybe people don’t know how to put to words what they’ve experienced. Are they embarrassed to say anything? They could feel that what they have to share doesn’t constitute a testimony. I imagine there are some people who feel like a “worship service” isn’t the place for that kind of talk. So, let’s mix testimony with prayer.

A few weeks ago, someone raised their hand to pray in worship. The prayer was a thanksgiving for “unanswered prayer.” Afterward, I asked if I could ask what that meant. “Well,” the saint said, “God not answering yet doesn’t mean God isn’t listening. I can still thank him for that.”

As you can see, testimonies come in all fashions.

That saint asked me in response if I thought that was an okay prayer. “It probably sounded weird, right?” The light chuckles we heard affirmed so.

But if you know any of the imprecatory psalms, strange prayers don’t catch you off guard.

King Hezekiah offers a prayer in Isaiah 38 that might coincide with what we prayed for that week. If you study the passage, take time to look at 2 Kings 20 as well. Both passages describe the king’s prayer. Isaiah’s version goes further. You can appreciate more of Hezekiah’s feelings in the Isaiah text.

The king had been ill. Deathly ill, it seems. We’re told God responded to him this way: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life (Isaiah 38:5).

If you’ve endured anything close to that, you can understand the tears behind the prayers. After the king recovered, he offered a prayer, perhaps a testimony that begins at Isaiah 38:10. And here’s the strange line of that prayer: My eyes are weary with looking upward.

Looking upward means looking to God. The king looked to God for so long and with such need, he grew weary of it. You’re not supposed to get tired of looking up to God, right? How can a Christian heart tire of turning to God? Again, if you’ve endured such hardships, you can understand that feeling. How long is too long to pray? To trust? To hope?

Perhaps the better question is, How do you keep praying, trusting and hoping, even when you’re weary from doing so?

Well, to answer that, let’s finish where we started: testimony.

Testimonies give God praise. But they also give saints hope.

That’s what I take from King Hezekiah today. Even after being weary from looking upward, he learned that those living have to give thanks to God. Amen to that. Like fathers make known to children God’s faithfulness, your testimony, as small as it may seem to you, inspires the church.

Stay blessed…john

The labor of faith

I don’t want to assume you’re relaxing today.

Labor Day celebrates the American worker. But while a lot of us enjoy a three-day weekend, many American workers do not. The nature of their jobs don’t allow for it or it’s their turn to be on the holiday schedule. Fishing trips and family barbecues fill this day for a lot of people now. Let’s thank God for that. At the same time, we can also recall the struggles behind what this holiday represents.

Early laborers in our country endured harsh working environments. We forget that children were a part of the labor force as well. Can you imagine a four-year-old working in a factory or coal mine? Long days and dangerous conditions were normal for many people.

But it wasn’t because people merely accepted those conditions. Many opposed the all too common mistreatment and exploitation workers faced. And many found their strongest arguments against these conditions in their Christian faith.

Suggesting that religion should stay out of politics is a weak idea. For one, we don’t live a compartmentalized life. Our faith in the risen Christ impacts everything about who we are and how we live. Second, asking your preacher to not speak on political issues dismisses how our faith has already spoken to so many of these issues before.

The labor movement has religious roots. Important religious roots. Christians who recognized the abuse and corruption against workers understood their faith demanded they speak up. Preachers used their pulpits to affirm the dignity and worthiness of American workers. Churches assisted various labor movement forces.

Now, all these years later, their hard, dangerous work has paid off.

Now, let’s shift our focus a bit. The book of Hebrews wants to encourage a struggling faith community. One of the ways the writer seeks to encourage them is by calling to mind many who lived out their faith before them. Some are named. Great names of faith like Moses, Gideon and David. Most are left nameless. Their testimony is no less meaningful or inspirational.

Think about what the Hebrews writer says about these unnamed Christians. Many were tortured, while others suffered mocking, flogging and imprisonment. Others still were stoned to death, sawn in two or killed by the sword.

It’s important to not take for granted our work today. Many people fought for you and me to have the chance to work and receive respectable wages. We can’t even fathom sending our children to work away from home anymore. In the same light, people of faith persevered, in part, to show us the faithfulness of God and endurance of our faith.

May all their testimony and work encourage us all the more, to the glory of God.

Stay blessed…john