Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not seeing compassion, caring or charity.
2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!
How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?
We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?
Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin. I must own up to it.
God is compassionate and we are not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.
The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.
My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal
I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year. I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself. It is a struggle.
Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”
If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?
The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?
God is compassionate and we are not
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.
The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.
And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”
I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.
Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say to our culture.
Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah
As I have made the move from business to ministry in the last 10 months, I’ve found I battle three things. As Local Outreach Pastor (community outreach) at a growing church with 8000 visitors on any given Sunday, two campuses, thirty local ministries partners, hundreds of volunteers, large budgets, various events and personal ministry, things can get a little crazy. In fact, they can feel a bit chaotic and overwhelming. How do I (personally) get things done and stay on top of hundreds of moving parts? How do I identify the most important priorities?
Well, I have a bunch of God‘s grace and an awesome team. I also have a tool that I’ve adapted from what I’ve learned from others and years of experience.
Are you looking for a better way of staying on top of things?
Know your enemy – Look in the mirror!
There are three things I battle. The first is procrastination. I am gifted at putting important tasks off by replacing them with non-important tasks or tasks I should not be doing. The second is being a slave to the urgent. Emergencies and urgent tasks happen in daily life. When they do, we have to stop what we are doing and engage in the urgent. Many times when I have procrastinated to do an important task, the task migrates into the urgent. The third is deception. This happens when I make an activity of low importance into high importance when that is not the case.
A few years ago, Dave Ramsey provided a helpful tool for establishing priorities. It contains quadrants of activity or tasks.
1. Important and Urgent: This is a crisis or emergency like your child is in the hospital. This is also task where your immediate action is required or something will break.
2. Not Urgent but Important: This something that is important but not currently urgent like taking care of your body. If you don’t take care of yourself, you could potentially have a health crisis. This is where planning and cultivating relationships reside. This will also include personal growth and health-related activities. Spend your time in this area!
3. Urgent and Not Important: This is someone else’s crisis or activities that we mistake for having high importance and urgency. Responding to email as they hit your inbox lands here. This is something that seems really important but it can wait or be delegated. If there is a crisis, I will get a phone call (sometimes a text but I recommend a call). This is a danger zone as it interrupts important work.
4. Not Urgent and Not Important: There are activities like surfing Facebook or watching senseless videos on Youtube. Dave Ramsey includes gossip here as well.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. – Ps 90:12
Download a PDF of my Weekly Urgency Chart.
Enjoy the journey!
We take up our cause because we believe it is right and good. We know that it is good and we are passionate about reaching the good result. Somewhere along the path toward our goal of achieving what is right and good, we can fall into the trap of the wrong way.
Winning at all costs is not winning. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26) If I have not love in my heart as I pursue what is right, I fail. If I love the object of the rightness of my cause and have no love for those on the path, I have created an idol. When my pursuit of what is right destroys fellowship and unity causing division, I have not love in my heart. I have gone the wrong way.
The heart will produce fruit that will manifest in reality. By the fruit, the wise can discern the motivation of the heart. We can attempt to manufacture ‘good fruit’ but eventually the facade will crumble and we will be found on the wrong way.
In the pursuit of doing the right thing, our way must be the way of love. It is a matter of the heart. The heart is the seat of the will. Our motivations are born in the heart.
The right way
A heart that is authentically regenerated and transformed will produce spiritual fruit in one’s life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23).
The wrong way
A heart that is not transformed remains under the authority of darkness and rebellion is completely incapable of producing spiritual fruit in one’s life. The bible calls this state of the heart ‘the flesh.’ “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these…. those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21b)
Doing the right thing the wrong way
There are examples in the Bible of people doing the right thing the wrong way. Cain’s sacrifice was not pleasing to the Lord because of his motivation. Abraham and Sarah’s decision to use Hagar to provide an heir. Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac to attain Esau’s inheritance. Somewhere along the path toward their goal of achieving what is right and good, they fell into the trap of the wrong way.
How do we know we are doing the right thing the RIGHT way?
- Pray it through: Why am I really pursuing this ‘good thing’? Is it to earn points with God or man? What is truly motivating me? What is driving me toward this cause or goal?
- Check your fruit: Keep a journal on your journey and look for fruit.
- Test it with Scripture: Read God’s word and allow it to minister to you. Don’t treat it like a cafeteria where you pick and choose what supports your goal/mission.
- Be Accountable: ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ (Pr. 27:17) Share what you are doing with a brother or sister who will test you and hold you accountable. They must be able to ask the tough questions. Don’t trust yourself because you can deceive yourself. Get a trusted friend to help.
The way of love ties it all together.
“Grace and truth need each other. Grace ceases to be grace if it lacks truth. And truth loses its power if it lacks grace. Grace without truth sanctions and perpetuates unwanted actions…. Truth without grace is harsh, usually self-centered, and un-Christlike. Grace without truth is deceptively permissive, often lazy and equally un-Christlike… Should I show grace or should I tell the truth?’ Both. Love unites grace and truth.” – Bill Robinson
“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.” – Matthew Parris (RichardDawkins.net article 2009)
The more brokenness and lostness you see in our world, the more you recognize that the problem at the core of humanity is NOT solved through material means. Governments and organizations provide tons of material relief where spiritual transformation is needed. Material resources do not solve the brokenness of the human spirit. Relief has its place but is not the answer. Relationship is the answer.
At its core, the human problem is a spiritual problem and demands a spiritual solution. Dumping money on communities that need rehabilitation exacerbates the problem. If your house was on fire, would you attempt to extinguish it with water or gasoline?
Jesus Christ is in the transformation business. He is the only figure in history to properly diagnose our disease (sin and death) and offer a cure (salvation and life through Christ alone). Every other worldview requires human effort. The world scoffs at the name of Jesus Christ. Strangely, an atheist recognizes the transformational power of the Gospel of Christ. I commend him for his honesty.
If you read the Matthew Parris article, you must conclude that the transformation he is describing in Africa is authentic. He is observing the outward manifestation (evidence) of an inward transformation of the heart. People who are truly ‘in Christ’ bear the fruit of Christ; sacrificial love, service, hope, joy, discipline and patience.
The entire article is very interesting, but Matthew Parris’s conclusion nails it:
“Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.“
Imagine waking up having settled the biggest question of life once and for all (destiny). No matter what the world throws your way, you are at peace. In the midst of the storms of life, you know for a fact that you are eternally secure. You are free to love and forgive others because you walk in the power of God’s grace in relationship with him. Experiencing God’s grace changes who you are, how you act and your motivations. Your relationship with Christ changes your relationships with others.
If you believe that ALL humans are created in the image of God, it changes the way you see yourself and others.
Further reading and resource:
“When Helping Hurts” (Corbett and Fikkert)
Matthew Parris: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God (2009 Article)
Are you looking to get high? Do you need an escape from the pressures of life or a quick fix? Would you like to experience a prolonged pleasurable passive state of being? How would you like the perfect combination of stimulation and sedation?
There is no need to put a needle in your arm or smoke, snort or drink. There is no need to break the law either. I’ve found the ultimate narcotic! It is cheap, effective and the supply is only limited by the amount of time you have to enjoy it.
Pleasurable effects of this drug:
1. Stimulating and sedative (simultaneously)
2. Reduces pain and tension
3. Provides a sense of control
4. Enhances a sense of relaxation and euphoria
5. Long lasting (the drug after-effects last for several hours)
6. Stress-free, quiet absorption
Do you ever think about what your life would be like if you could (fill in the blank)?
Or, what would the world be like if we could; cure cancer, end hunger, etc.?
Maybe you have a personal mission statement? I strongly recommend that you create one. We live in a culture that lacks purpose. You must be different.
Vision is born into the mind through imagination where it is held.
Mission is where a vision is transferred from the mind to reality.
Mission begins to affect reality when we make a statement followed by action(s). (more…)