It’s just not relative.

What time to be alive. Things change so fast, culture can swing around a hinge point and into something new so fast now. The institutions that people used to count on aren’t guaranteed to exist next year and legacies come crumbling down because of sins long buried. So many things seem fragile, and still people want to subdivide and claim truths and rights apart from those others might claim, railing against traditional values and long-held beliefs. The phrase ‘That’s your truth” has become passé from overuse, but its still a drumbeat that so many move to every single day.

IMG_3E9144B79363-1.jpegI saw an article yesterday that said the CEO of Twitter had to apologize for eating at ChickFilA during Pride month. If a chicken sandwich company can get you outed for offending people, then just about anything is possible. We walk on pins and needles, so many of us unsure about what we can or cannot say. SNL did a skit earlier in the year that hit this nail on the head.

(Warning, this is SNL, there are sensitive topics discussed here with some language, and I don’t endorse the show itself.)

As Christians we just have to understand and accept that what we have to say about Jesus, morality, sexual conduct, lifestyle choices, parenting, fiscal policy and pretty much anything else you can think of, will be at odds with the opinions of people who walk according to other, worldly standards. We will offend people. We shouldn’t seek to be offensive in our presentation, being tactful and sensitive is always good. Building relationships with people so we can have difficult conversations with them is also very important. We have to earn a degree of personal credibility with them. But we cannot apologize or be fearful because of the hope that we have in Jesus.

Listen to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. They were very much a divided culture, and Christians stood apart (or were supposed to, at least) from what society endorsed and expected.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1

Paul goes on to say that our pride must be sourced in God, and not in ourselves anyway. We trust in God for our worth, purpose, identity and voice. We reject the things of this world, and we stick with Jesus. Human beings and our institutions cannot ever serve as a replacement for what we should receive and expect from God. They will never be our voice. They will never represent us. We belong to Christ and His Church. We are children of God, residents of another kingdom. We do not share a common values system, ethical foundation or set of expectations with this world.

Even if we need to be reminded of it every day, and often we do, it is still gloriously true. We find our peace with Him. Truth is not and cannot be relative. If it could be, it would no longer be truth. We must learn to have bold, definitive conversations with people, but take them from the love of God for His wayward children. God’s truth never changes, and because we can be steady in Him, we can be steady in anything. Let’s show that peace, steadiness and faithfulness to the morally ambiguous, shifting and unsteady world around us. May His love compel us to do so.

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Relentless Faithfulness

We worry too much, don’t we? Every day has a million components, thousands of moving pieces and so many things that could go wrong, fall short or come up empty. And so we worry. We lack a feeling of control, a perception of peace, and so we worry. We worry about finances, about things at home and different things at work. We worry about our kids, our family members and about things in the national news. We worry about people and situations that we have absolutely no say over, or influence around, and so we become accustomed to worry. It becomes a pattern for life. It becomes acceptable, and we weave it into our worldview and understanding.

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But that’s not God desire for us.

That’s not what He has in store for His children. And so if we follow Christ, if we claim to be in Him and simultaneously experience these weighty worries that distract us from His plans for us, then we have to ask if the promises of God in Jesus are really that effective. Does He care? Why do I feel this way? Why don’t I feel happy more often? Why do I feel so insecure? Where is God?

And these are natural questions that we struggle with as we learn to transition from walking outside of Christ into the new life we have been gifted in Him. There’s an incongruity between what we say we believe and what we actually do in practice. And so we add guilt for worrying to our worry. Again, we make this our life.

But Paul reminds us of something different, something that God intends for us as he begins his first letter to the church in Corinth. He was getting ready to hit them with some tough love, because they had been doing things in their own way, rather than in God’s, but because of the love & grace & mercy of God, he wanted to remind them of what they needed to hear. They needed to be reminded of God’s love, His plan and His provision. Rather than worrying about trying to balance their new walk with Christ with their old life, He begins to set the stage for them and reminds them that God’s gift for them is sufficient. It is better than what they might manufacture.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Paul reminds them that God’s covering over them in Christ is sufficient for everything. He reminds Tham that this was something confirmed in them, they’ve already borne witness to Him, and that God has a good, guilt-free life laid out for them in preparation of out final realization of His love when Jesus returns. There is so much goodness that there is no need to be wrapped up in what used to be, in old identities, old cultures and in old pathways. God has so much more for us, something so much better.

So why worry? Why waste your time in those old ways, those dead ways? We don’t hang out in cemeteries looking for lively conversation. Why would we expect to get anything worth anything from our old, dead selves?

His faithfulness is relentless. Trust Him with your today, and then trust Him with your tomorrow & watch Him reveal Christ at work in you through His Holy Spirit.

Speaking From Authority

We all want to be a little authoritative don’t we? We like when we say something and it sticks, when people pay attention or when our particular expertise is recognized, taken into account and decisions are made from whatever we have to say. It’s an ego thing, right? We all like to feel good about ourselves and to know that we are ‘right’ in any particular situation.

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When you start a new job or position, and you suddenly find yourself in charge of people who used to be your peers, it can feel a little odd to become that voice of authority. You might feel like they’re looking at you and thinking “Who does they think they are now? One day they’re joking around in the break room with us, and today they’re giving us orders and polishing their new name tag.” There can be that dose of intimidation that comes from people that you’re now supposed to lead. This can lead to frustration on both sides and even conflict.

This is human nature, right? We see it over and over again throughout human history. We see it in our workplaces. We see it at home. Oddly enough, we see it in our church families, too. There are occasions where people get ‘too big for their britches’ and the swagger kicks in with an attitude to match. That’s not cool, and everybody knows it. Even if you’ve worked hard and earned the position fairly, people still expect you to be…well…you. They may fight against the ‘authoritative you.’

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul begins his letter (a letter of correction, mind you) to the church that gathers there. They know him well. He helped plant the church, trained the leaders, discipled the first gatherings and then left them to go and do it again elsewhere. But now he’s having to come back with his ‘dad’ hat on, to speak in a very fatherly/authoritative way. He has always held this position with them, but even then, we can come to resent those in authority over us if our attitudes are wrong.

In the first three verses, we see this coming through pretty strong, but laced with love and concern from the onset: (emphasis mine)

Paul, called / by the will of God / tobe an apostleof Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus,/ called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace / from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you see & hear these different references to authority? Paul points out calling, Lordship, Whose they are and that there are things that flow from God to them as gifts, not as privilege or from demand. They are owned more than they might claim ownership or to be in the lead position. Paul wants to establish the hierarchy here, not to promote himself above what was right, but to speak into the role that God had called him to in Christ. More importantly, he wants them to recognize and remember the authority & supremacy of God.

When we speak truth in love to our friends, family, coworkers and neighbors, we need to follow Paul’s lead. In our world today, we are likely overly cautious, almost fearful of speaking from a perceived point of authority. That is part of our culture today, everyone has their truth that they own, and voices of external authority can be perceived as oppressive or even cruel. This relativistic mindset makes us hesitant to speak with the authority that Jesus has given to us (Matthew 28:18-20) in the Great Commission and that we see Paul moving in here in 1 Corinthians 1.

Speaking from authority is a gift. It is a point of peace for us. It’s not meant to stroke our ego or to inflate a false self-importance. It is meant to give us confidence to bring people into an understanding of the things of God and His true authority over us and in every aspect of our lives.

The danger here, with speaking in relativistic terms, is that we wind up creating God as a god in our own image. And that’s what Paul is going to have to talk about with the church in Corinth. We need authority, as Christians, we should be open about the benefits of authority. And when rightly used, authority is meant to benefit those it is held over. It is not a tool for manipulation or pressure, but for freedom and life. Paul is getting ready to walk through a letter, in love, that is meant to point the church in this crazy city back toward freedom and away from the oppression of sin & human vice. He means to reissue what he originally laid out for them in the Gospel.

So, when we speak from our God-given authority in Christ, we need to keep that same mindset. We speak from love, we speak from concern and we do not speak to lift ourselves up. The only one lifted up is God Himself, this was the way & attitude of Jesus, too. So may it be with us.

Letting grace move us

Father God, Lord of life, You provide us in every way & for every need. You keep us running, direct our hearts & sustain our souls, body & mind. You bring us life & a hope we can call on every single day. We come seeking You out in all these ways & more every day, because outside of You, we have nothing. On our own we have no hope, no strength, no provision, only empty promises we make to ourselves, but have no power to see through to the end. Forgive us our failings & pride, guiding us to completion in Jesus Christ instead. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to walk with You today. We need to desperately & deeply. You are our rock & refuge. Restore us & bring glory to Yourself. We bless Your holy Name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you feel called by God? Can you sense His will at work in your life? Have you ever felt sent by Him to do a particular work? Do you know what that connection feels like & what it is He compels you to accomplish?

Here’s what we find to help us answer those questions. Paul begins by acknowledging these callings in his own life. God has made them abundantly clear. He says that he is called to do these things & that the church in Corinth is called to be a gathering of saints that call upon the Name of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges the call of an individual & the call of the gathering of believers collectively. There are things that we must do on our own & there are activities that we participate in together. That’s not revolutionary or difficult to comprehend, but there are temptations to neglect one of them or both, from time to time.

We often make excuses & tell ourselves it’s okay that we aren’t doing something that God has called us to as an individual, or that it’s not a big deal that we aren’t serving corporately with the rest of the body. But when we look at the second part of the passage today, we find out just what we are missing when we stand apart from this work of God in us.

Paul begins talking about grace & peace that comes to us through Christ. He acknowledges that this same grace is a gift from Christ and how He enriches us in every way through that grace. He blesses our strength. He blesses our knowledge. He blesses our speech & fills us so we do not lack in any gift. This all comes from walking in His will & in being obedient to the call of grace on our lives.

Grace doesn’t call us to simply rest in Him, which it does provide. Grace doesn’t call us to simply know about itself, which is part of how peace works its way in us. Grace calls us to an active participation in the Gospel work in us, it leads us into a new way of living, a movement in the rhythms it provides us, and in those rhythms, we find a new cadence for our lives that brings fulfillment, hope, peace & joy that we can in turn share with others. None of this is passive. None of this is meant to belong only to us. We live this & share in this together. This is what grace does. We are called, provided for & encouraged by grace into a deeper love, a full life & a living hope.

Because of this grace, we can also stand guiltless before God, and that is the greatest gift of all. This is what Jesus has provided for us through His life, death, burial & resurrection. Grace makes the calling & the life of dedicated obedience possible & it brings us to God’s unending well of joy, peace & fulfillment. It’s a wonderful place to be & a deep joy to walk out day by day. Christ is revealed in us through it all. Let Him reveal Himself in your life today. Seek His leading. Walk in His rhythms.

Sourcing Your Fruit


Lord, keep our frailty before us, that we might set our hearts on You. Be our strength & be glorified in our sustaining. Amen.

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‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:16-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

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. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

It’s kind of hard to ignore fruit on a tree. It is the symbol of the health of the tree, it identifies the type of tree, it indicates a zone or region where that type of fruit can be grown. There’s a lot to be said by just looking at a tree. About a year ago, we were out walking in the woods as a family, and coming to a trail head we encountered a persimmon tree. The kids have never tried persimmons, let alone wild persimmons. They. Were. Tart…and dry, dry, dry! I asked them if we had created a memory that day. Sometimes as a parent you have to create teachable moments.

When it comes to the fruit of our life, we have to realize that we are walking, talking teachable moments for other people. We are showing the fruit of our hearts and intentions on a regular basis. In how we interact with people, how we respond to difficult situations, how we talk about people when they aren’t around…our fruit is obvious. Is there selflessness coming from us, or self-centeredness? Do we build people up or tear people down? Are we driven by compassion & mercy or do we just look out for number one? Do we run with the whims and desires of our physical body, or do we exhibit restraint and self-control, knowing how to discipline our bodies?

1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I train my body and bring it under control. Then after I have preached to others, I myself will not break the rules. If I did break them, I would fail to win the prize. 

Hebrews 12:11 No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does this for those who have been trained by it. 

Colossians 1:9-14 That’s why we have not stopped praying for you. We have been praying for you since the day we heard about you. We keep asking God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants. We pray he will give you the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Then you will be able to lead a life that is worthy of the Lord. We pray that you will please him in every way. So we want you to bear fruit in every good thing you do. We pray that you will grow to know God better. We want you to be very strong, in keeping with his glorious power. We want you to be patient. We pray that you will never give up. We want you to give thanks with joy to the Father. He has made you fit to have what he will give to all his holy people. You will all receive a share in the kingdom of light. He has saved us from the kingdom of darkness. He has brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Because of what the Son has done, we have been set free. Because of him, all our sins have been forgiven. 

God desires fruit from us, & He has a right to see it come about in us, reaping a harvest for Him. Jesus told the parable of the wicked tenants, people who did not own the vineyard and would not recognize the authority of the one who did. The fruit they were intended to raise was usurped by their own selfishness & greed, and they wound up paying the price for their misdeeds.

If we bear the fruit that God requires, and if we live lives of fruitful multiplication, we can be assured that our Master will be pleased with our effort. We are ultimately accountable to Him for the fruit of our life, our choices and our desires. If we value good fruit, and pursue practices that encourage good fruit then we will produce good fruit. If we choose to do otherwise, our lives will exhibit those choices instead.

Fruit bearing requires submission & daily obedience, but we will never regret that choice.

Lord, keep our frailty before us, that we might set our hearts on You. Be our strength & be glorified in our sustaining. Amen.

Become all things, but do not sin // Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinth church // chapter 9

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV

Sometimes people read this passage and use it as a way to justify their behavior, walking on the wide path or in living in the way of the ‘old man.’ Paul didn’t intended this passage to be a general permission slip to go and do whatever you want, whatever your flesh desires, under the umbrella of the gospel.

There are unscrupulous people who, on the company dollar, will eat extravagantly and stay in excessively expensive hotels when out on business trips. They figure that they are out representing their company, and ‘no one really cares’ so they go a little nuts with the company funds. It seems harmless, and so they live it up a little.

As Christians, we know that everything we do is done in representation of Christ. Everything we say is as His ambassador. We should do anything and everything to bring people to Christ, not neglecting an opportunity to share Jesus if we have a chance. But we do not do this in a way that would compromise the most basic principles of our faith.

For the sake of reaching Hindu people, I would eat vegetarian and wear the same clothes as those in their country, but I will not worship with them in a Hindu temple, even though they would most likely accept it. For the sake of reaching Muslims, I would grow out my beard (already done anyway) and give up bacon and pork BBQ, but I am not bowing to pray when they pray, lest they misunderstand. And to minister to an alcoholic, I am not going to go to a bar and get wasted with them, just to prove I can walk their road.

Become all things to all people, relate with them, speak in their language, approach them where they are, but do not compromise the truth of the gospel or its calling on your life. We cannot effectively GoLove others if we will not stand firm in the truth that we proclaim. We must do whatever we can, within reason and propriety, to share Jesus Christ with anyone and everyone.

There are about 1,560 unreached people groups remaining on earth. Less than 2,000 dialects that lack the gospel in their heart language and do not have a missionary presence in their culture. In order for us to complete this commissioning, some of us must be willing to Go and Love others in a way that resonates with them, but is foreign to us, in a place remote to us, but called ‘home’ by someone else. God is moving His people in work, both home and abroad, to complete this epic task of evangelizing the world.

This is our calling. This is our joy.
What is your part in it?

Life is not about you. Consider your impact. // Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinth church // chapter 8

“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
1 Corinthians 8:7-13 ESV

Okay, so the issue of the day was was obviously something that doesn’t directly apply to us today. When I go to the grocery to buy food, there isn’t a sign over the meat case saying ‘These cows were offered up to Zeus.’ Or ‘These chickens were sacrificed to Baal.’ And so this ‘meat sacrificed to idols’ issue doesn’t really come up.

But the application for us today should be pretty obvious. If there is something you can simply not do and in the process you can save your brother or sister from temptation, why not just give it up? If your brother in Christ struggles with gluttony, why insist on going to your favorite buffet for lunch every week? If your sister in Christ has a problem with drinking, don’t sit across the table from her with a cocktail or a glass of wine. You and I going without something that we don’t really need to have is a much better option than causing someone else to stumble and sin.

We cannot feel so entitled to do whatever we want that we place another living human being underneath a simple desire, acting as thought they are of less value than an impulse.

How many people whine and complain, even as adults, when they don’t get what they want? How many people spend life focused on what they get to do or want to do over their own family members. Personal desire becomes a greater drive than the welfare of another person, and that is no mysterious condition.

It is simply pride.

Paul, the Spirit speaking through him, is encouraging us to consider others as more important than ourselves. That we would do to them as we would want them to do to us. It is not a new teaching, not even a radical idea within the scope of the Kingdom. It is love. So, if giving up meat, or buffets, or alcohol, or a gossipy environment, or secular music (or whatever may come up) will help my brother or sister live more securely in Christ…then why not do it? A want can be put on hold or dismissed. The need for righteousness cannot be ignored.

GoLove by putting others and their needs first.