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Jesus does, and so should you. In life, it’s vital to keep the main thing the main thing. The whole point of identifying with Christ as a “Christian,” is to become like him in character. If we miss this point, we miss the whole point. A person who says they are a Christian, but who doesn’t have a commitment to Christ-like character, is like a couch potato identifying as an Olympic athlete.
If Lady Gaga is a “Christian woman,” then I am an eighteen-year-old, Native American female astrophysicist.
Last week, while dressed like a prostitute in the middle of a concert, Lady Gaga stopped mid-song, extended her middle finger, and shouted a four-letter word to the President and Vice President, calling VP Pence the “worst example of a Chrisitian.” The crowd roared in approval. Then, in an amazing instance of the pot calling the kettle black, Gaga identified herself as a “Christian woman.”
VIDEO: Lady Gaga stops a song to shout out a four-letter word, and then calls herself a “Christian woman.”
What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong is that the majority of people don’t understand that being a Christian means being like Jesus Christ. We want six pack abs while gorging ourselves on cheese doodles.
If Lady Gaga is a “Christian woman,” then I am an eighteen year old, native American female astrophysicist. Does saying so make it so? Hardly.
In today’s politically correct, self-identifying world, it’s easy to self-identify as anything we like — but is that enough when it comes to being a real Christian? Watch it yourself, here. Her claim to be a “Christian woman” is about the 1:05 mark:
Yup, I get it. You may say “nobody is perfect,” and you’re right. Yes, there are conservative Christians who haven’t represented Jesus well. But there are liberal Christians just as guilty. Hypocrisy is hip these days — but that doesn’t make it right.
Using someone else’s failures as an excuse for our own does nothing to shape Christ-like character in us. Poor conduct from others is no excuse to continue as we have been, or for ignoring blatantly bad behavior from hypocrites. We’ve each got to call out bad behavior, starting with ourselves.
It’s one thing to behave badly. But real Christians, when they recognize their bad behavior, apologize, repent, and get back on their horses. If that’s not happening, something is wrong at the most basic level.
A genuine Christ follower has a growing concern for personal purity and Christ-like character. He or she has to exhibit, at some point and in a growing manner, a genuine, obvious commitment to being perfected — to becoming more like Jesus Christ in character. If that’s missing, genuine faith is, too.
You’ve heard them, I’ve heard them, and you may have even said them. They’re popular pithy phrases people toss out these days, and if you’re not careful you’ll believe what you hear (and perhaps even promote). The only problem is that the phrases are entirely false, and here they are, in all their splendor:
“Jesus didn’t judge.”
In today’s “I can believe anything I want and still be anything I want to be” world, the above statements seem credible — until we go to the book where we get our concept of the historical Jesus in the first place. There, we find that not only did Jesus judge, and not only is he going to one Day judge again, but that anyone who claims to follow him must do the same. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from the Good Book yourself:
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2, NIV).
Did you notice that Jesus will be judging — and that real Christ followers must do the same? See the words “correct” and “rebuke”? Do we understand what they actually mean? In order to correct, something must be out of whack. In order to rebuke, someone must be off base. These words describe judging people.
Yes, my friend, Christians must judge people. Have the humility and the courage to confront your own sin, and use the same when confronting the sins of others.
Jesus judged people his first time around (remember the cross?) And, Jesus will judge again. There is no escaping it.
2 Timothy 2:3 gives the reason we should judge, especially in today’s politically correct, upside-down, wrong is right world:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3).
America has become the land of the free and the home of the brave, to our detriment. We want freedom without restraint, and are brave to our own embarrassment. We are a nation where itching ear syndrome has spread far and wide. Plug your ears and stand your ground, or you will be infected . . .
Jesus judged. If you claim to follow him, you must judge, too. If you reject this, and buy into the “don’t judge. Jesus didn’t judge” nonsense, you don’t have the most basic concept of what it means to really identify with Jesus Christ.
It’s time to stand up, speak out, and be courageous. Judge, because the time has come and itch ears abound. Start with yourself, and it will go a long way in helping you judge with love and compassion, not just the expression of truth.
Be thankful! We hear it all the time. Here’s a powerful suggestion that will show you how to develop an attitude of gratitude that will change your life!
People have asked me if I’ve ever heard God’s voice. The answer is “Yes, I have.” Inevitably, they want to know what it sounds like. “Does he sound like a man?” they wonder. “Is his voice deep?” they probe. “No,” I say, “God sounds remarkably like my wife.” It’s true. He often speaks to me through Janet. I know for certain, because almost every time I have ignored or belittled her advice there were negative consequences. Maybe you can identify. And if you can’t, maybe it’s time you did.
Last week Janet was across the country visiting family. Temporarily abandoned, I had to fend for myself – and be reminded of how lost I am not only without Jesus, but also without the helpmate he provided for me through my wife. The boys and I had a great time, but not nearly as great as it would have been if Janet were with us.
Character, not gifting, is the one thing we have a huge say in – and godly character is often lacking in difficult people.
During one of our phone conversations she again assumed the voice of God, saying “I think I know why the country is in the condition it’s in. It’s because of the Church. Church leaders have failed to lead, and that’s why our country is in the condition it’s in.” Lord, I couldn’t agree more. We need to make some fundamental changes in how we’re leading so that everyone will benefit – for the best.
The main problem with many church leaders today is that we aren’t leading. The leadership void in our churches will be filled one way or another – it’s just a matter of time and people. Someone is going to lead your church, and their leadership will have holy or hellish consequences. There is no in-between. Who is leading your church, and is their leadership allowing the Holy Spirit to move with as little resistance as possible? If not, it’s time for a serious check-up – not only of your lead leader, but also of everyone in a leadership position.
The lead leader in your church will not be as effective as he will be if supporting leaders don’t pull their weight. Elders, deacons, and department leaders must all be leading effectively in support of one another toward a common goal – with zero tolerance for bad behavior and secondary agendas. Yes, we must be gracious, but people in leadership positions (staff or volunteer) need to be firing on all eight cylinders. Once someone is in a leadership position, basic conduct, leadership and interpersonal relationship skills need to already be in place. A leadership position is not the place to learn the basics.
Once you see this consistent phenomenon, look at how successful leaders – the ones who kept moving forward – dealt with difficult people.
If one of your leaders is under attack, the rest of your leaders are faced with a decision. Do you sit back and watch, or stand up and defend? If you do nothing, you’ve forgotten an age-old tactic of our adversary: isolate, divide, and conquer. When a difficult person in your church punches a fellow leader in the nose, it’s not always biblical advice to turn the other cheek. It sounds so spiritual to do so – and you can even find a chapter and verse to support the turning. But the Bible interprets itself, and each verse must be put into context with others.
If a church leader is struck by an adversary, sometimes the worst thing other leaders can do is turn the other cheek. Why? Because people who are willing to strike a shepherd are also willing to devour the sheep. The first responsibility of church leaders is not to feed the sheep, but to protect them. If the leaders don’t protect the sheep, they won’t be left with a flock to feed.
I love creampuffs, but as a dessert, not a leadership style. Today, many folks think the job of pastors, elders and deacons is to appease people and simply oversee a democracy of people so that everyone can simply get along and maintain a smile on their face. But the truth is that smiles on faces don’t necessarily reflect the happiness of God. 2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV) says “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” A biblical leader always wants to please God. When he or she does, that leader pleases the people he or she needs to please. The opinions of other people don’t matter. Get over it so you can get on with it — and help your fellow leaders follow your example.
When church leaders fail to lead, the flock will flounder, things will get distasteful, and darkness will overcome the light.
The larger a church, the less her people have in common. The larger a church, the more competing ideas there are about how it should be run, what real ministry is, and about what it means to be a church that is truly led by the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day, the sheep are not called to graze without shepherds who provide direction, protection and influence. If church leadership does not understand and revisit this truth, it will only be a matter of time before the sheep try to lead themselves without direction and protection from leaders. That’s when hell breaks out. Literally.
God calls leaders to be salt and light (Matthew 5). Think about that symbolism used by the Master Teacher to describe the impact we should have. Salt preserves – but it does far more. It also changes the flavor of whatever it touches. It’s not a passive ingredient that remains unnoticed. Salt changes what it touches. The same is true for light. It overcomes darkness – even in the smallest amount. Strike a single match in a pitch-black room and the room is no longer pitch-black.
When church leaders fail to lead, when the fail to act as salt and light, the flock will flounder, things will get distasteful, and darkness will overcome the light.
I have a challenge for you that may change the way you lead. Go through the Bible and look at the leaders God consistently used to advance his agenda. You’ll not only recognize that God used them, but also how people opposed them. Once you see this consistent phenomenon, look at how successful leaders – the ones who kept moving forward – dealt with difficult people.
Now, don’t wimp out and think it’s up to God to deal with unruly people, because that’s a cop-out. Nearly every time God dealt with difficult people, the instrument he used was, you guessed it, human. Leaders are God’s instrument to deal with difficult people. Until you are willing to deal with difficult people in your church, the difficult people will deal with you. They will wreak havoc on more than your leadership team. By the time they affect your leadership team, they will have most likely caused at least one major relational train wreck among the people in your flock.
But people don’t blaspheme in church, right? Think again. It happens all the time. It’s just that a great majority of church leaders today are so used to it happening that we no longer take it seriously.
When you read the Bible, you will quickly see that God is not afraid to confront difficult people whose attitudes and behaviors are a threat to his agenda. Church leaders, like their Chief Shepherd, must be courageous. Think about Moses and the rebellion by Korah and his followers. Think about Ananias and Sapphira, or about Hymenaeus and Alexander, two men referenced by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the young leader he was training, Timothy:
“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:18-20, NIV)
In the first century, a church was seen as an umbrella of God’s protective covering. We need to resurrect that understanding, today. To be handed over to Satan was to be out from underneath God’s shelter – and everyone would know it. Exposure to satanic elements would serve to bring Hymenaeus and Alexander to their senses, teaching them to no longer do what they had been doing while within the church: blaspheme.
But people don’t blaspheme in church, right? Think again. It happens all the time. It’s just that a great majority of church leaders today are so used to it happening that we no longer take it seriously. But we must. Paul’s statement was public, specifically identifying the people without concern for a lawsuit, protection of his own reputation, or the reputation of Timothy. Would there be backlash? Most likely. Anyone who is unafraid of God has no fear of people. If someone is willing to blaspheme God, they will have little problem doing even worse toward people.
If you’re a leader, stop whining about the difficult people in your flock. Deal with them — directly.
Paul’s words to Timothy are just one example of multiple examples of people who are forever canonized in Scripture as trouble-making flies in God’s ointment, like Alexander the Coppersmith and Diotrephes. They are people who church leaders were not afraid to mention by name – because everyone in the community was privy to their sinful conduct. One of the forgotten principles in the Bible that we need to resurrect is that we church leaders must deal with difficult people.
The arena of the sin determines the arena of the rebuke. The more public sinful conduct is, the more familiar the people are with the difficult people and consequences of their conduct, the more public leaders must be in addressing the people and their sin.
Why would we think things would – or should – be any different today? Like yesteryear, a church will not only be filled with people who want God’s best. It will also be filled with hurting, selfish, manipulative, unteachable people who are not at all led by the Holy Spirit. Yes, many of these people will be incredibly gifted individuals – but spiritual gifts are determined by God, not us. Character, not gifting, is the one thing we have a huge say in – and godly character is often lacking in difficult people. Difficult people typically overlook the importance of developing Christ-like character.
The first responsibility of a leader is to assess reality. Ministry is hard even when it’s good. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by allowing difficult people to take you off point.
Outwardly, trouble-makers may be handsome or beautiful. Others may have impressive resumes they bring from the business world or prior “ministry” experience. But underneath it all their pesky problems persist. They have a history of broken relationships, an inability to resolve conflict in healthy ways, have a hard time following anyone but themselves, and have difficulty both forgiving and asking for forgiveness with genuine remorse. For them, repentance is a foreign concept. But repentance is a primary characteristic of the man or woman after God’s heart. Church leaders, are you paying attention? Do you want unrepentant, difficult people to influence the rest of your flock? Do you want that kind of ungodly behavior replicated?
Eventually, difficult people will cause hardship for others. Where surrender is lacking, hardship will abound. Any life that compromises on the calling to glorify God will cause problems for those who have taken the calling to heart and made God’s glory their number one pursuit.
If you’re a leader, stop whining about the difficult people in your flock. Deal with them — directly. If you don’t, those people will continue to present you with problem after problem – because in most instances they don’t care about God’s agenda. When all the dust settles, that’s the bottom line. Difficult people care only about themselves. They are not truly, passionately, concerned about God’s glory; they are concerned and consumed about their own. A key calling of every leader is to make sure that no one in your flock gets the rest of the people off track in this fundamental endeavor. Everything is about the glory of God, and whether or not you are willing to do deal with the people who aren’t passionate about the same.
The first responsibility of a leader is to assess reality. Ministry is hard even when it’s good. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by allowing difficult people to hijack God’s glory and take you off point. Deal with the difficult people or the difficult people will deal with you. God’s glory, your effectiveness as a leader, the effectiveness of your leadership team, and the health of your entire flock, depend upon it.
Now, get busy and lead. Your title or position doesn’t mean a thing if you aren’t really leading.
THINK. PRAY. ACT: LORD GOD, help me to not confuse being in a leadership position with actual leadership. Help me to lead with courage, and to not take my calling lightly. Help me to depend on you, but to be responsible and do what you called me to do as a leader. Help me to be concerned about your opinion far above the opinion of any mere mortal.
In regard to spiritual warfare, we must always remember that it’s never ultimately about what the enemy is doing. While it’s important to recognize his maneuvers, it’s important to understand their origin. If you don’t, you’ll fret when you should be standing in solid, immovable faith. The enemy never plays offense. He only reacts to things that get under his skin.
Every seasoned warrior understands that spiritual warfare is always about what God is doing – and what He is about to do. The greater the oppression, the more significant the offense; God, not Satan, is the One who has the ball. God never plays defense. If you are His child, take note. The best defense is a good offense, and God has the best in the business. Stop playing defense. It’s time to play offense.
“At best, the devil is not an initiator but a reactionary. He is always responding to God’s moves. So, if we see the enemy hard at work it is only because God, the Great Initiator, has made the first move.”
On the heals of a national election, it’s easy to mistakenly think our answers are found in politicians. The answer is actually found in the Person of Jesus Christ, and His great work. But Jesus doesn’t roll solo. He calls people like you and me to join Him in the monumental task of changing the world one person at a time. God uses the Church, and He uses Christians to change the world. The church is referred to with the feminine pronoun “she” in the Bible, as a matter of honor. In light of what’s happening in the world today, where is she — and where are you?
Colossians 4:5-6 reminds us of how great offense is played, and, brothers and sisters, great offense is what we need today:
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Most Christians fixate on the phrase “full of grace” in the above passage, and miss the part about the salt. It’s why so many of us have adopted a passive attitude toward national and world events. We’ve mistaken fatalism for faith, and think undeserved favor (grace) means we have no supernatural say in the matter. Grace cannot be properly dispensed without the seasoning of salt, which changes everything in the equation. It’s the change agent. Think about how we use salt. It preserves – and it also changes bland, distasteful things so that they are palatable. Get the point?
The objective of the conversations is to not just be gracious. The objective is to season people’s thinking so that everything about them positively changes and glorifies God. If our conversations don’t leave people thinking about God, and what is right in a world gone wrong, we aren’t using our conversations strategically. We’re missing opportunities, and we are not playing offense.
At best, the devil is not an initiator but a reactionary. He is always responding to God’s moves. So, if we see the enemy hard at work it is only because God, the Great Initiator, has made the first move. And God will make the last move, too. Don’t forget it.
WE’D LOVE TO READ YOUR COMMENTS . . .
THINK. PRAY. ACT — LORD GOD, please help me to join you in playing offense. Help me to not merely be gracious, but to also be strategic in my conversations, deliberate in what I say so that it is kind and transformational. Help me to take bold steps toward speaking truth with love, seasoning what I say with salt, so that people are left thinking about you – and their lives – in positive ways that move them forward.
Someone you know needs to watch or read this. It may even be you . . .
Disobedience to God is no small thing – it always invites discipline. Obedience, on the other hand, always invites God’s blessing. Yes, we know that every blessing God gives is undeserved – it’s all grace – but that doesn’t mean there is nothing anyone can do to receive gifts from God. The grace of God is that he has revealed to us – in advance – truths about what we can expect from him. When you do what’s right, you’ll be blessed. When we disobey, we always invite divine discipline, which is designed to get us back on track to start walking with him once again.
Whenever we disobey God and don’t experience his discipline, it’s a result of his mercy, when God withholds from us the discipline we deserve. But we must always be careful that we don’t tempt God and take his mercy for granted. If you get into the unhealthy habit of disobeying him, thinking he will always forgive you, you wander into dangerous territory. You must be careful you don’t take God’s undeserved favor, grace, and his undeserved pardons, mercy, lightly.
“No one who truly surrenders to God will ever live to regret it – but there are a great many people who have resisted God and paid a heavy, heavy price.”
Being faithful to God, not popular with people, is life’s true objective. It’s the pursuit that will set you free – and keep you walking in freedom. Being faithful to God is the most rewarding pursuit in all of life, because whenever you disobey, you set yourself back. Disobedience is a choice to contradict the very purpose of your life, which is to love and enjoy God, and to glorify him in the overflow. No one who truly surrenders to God will ever live to regret it – but there are a great many people who have resisted God and paid a heavy, heavy price.
In 1 Samuel 15, there’s the story of how God clearly gave instructions to King Saul. He was told to listen to the LORD and obey him completely. When the whole episode was over, the attitude of Saul’s heart was exposed: “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them” (1 Sam. 15:24). Saul’s fear of people was greater than his respect for God, and it cost him dearly. Proverbs 29:25 says it this way: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
Throughout your life you will be constantly tempted to be more concerned about the opinions of people than the opinions of God. Be careful you don’t confuse the two, because they are on a collision course and cannot mutually co-exist. One will always dominate the other. If you obey God, you’ll please the people you need to please, and those you don’t end up pleasing don’t have opinions that should sway you, anyway. In all you do, all the time, trust God and leave the consequences with him.
PRAYER: LORD GOD, please help me focus on being faithful to you, and trust you with the outcome. Protect me from the subtleties of being influenced by people in ways that may threaten to gradually lead me astray from pure and sincere devotion to you. Help me to be faithful to you today, and every day, in every choice I make, so that my life is increasingly characterized by faithfulness to you.
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Noelle Smith didn’t expect the photo of her daughter, praying with friends at a Longhorn Steakhouse on prom night, would start a firestorm – but it did. She sent the picture, below, to journalist Frank Somerville, with KTVU in Oakland, California, with the following comments:
“I want to share a picture of my daughter and her friends from prom night . . . Now with the stories today about teenagers and tide pods and condoms gathering headlines — this picture speaks for itself.”
Facebook users erupted in typical anti-social media form. An example of the criticisms expressed reads as follows:
“I’m so tired of the arrogance many religious people display and their disdain for non-believers, if you are confidant [sic] in your beliefs then you don’t feel the need to ‘save’ everyone else.”
You know what, #doublestandard Facebook users? A growing number of us Christians are getting a bit tired of your fatigue, reverse intolerance and bigotry against anyone who comes out of the Christian closet. So many people applaud folks when they come out of their closets, but you want us to keep our faith to ourselves. For those on Facebook who are going nuts over the mealtime prayer, it’s time you practice what you preach.
STOP SITTING DOWN AND SHUTTING UP
I’m not taking the nonsense sitting down about my faith and my God any more than Daniel did when tossed to the lions, or David when he defied Goliath — and neither should you. We have a God-given right to worship God freely and openly – the same way you have a right to reject or ignore him.
Note that I said this is a God-given right. It’s not given to us by the Constitution. The Constitution simply acknowledges the origin of this right, and protects it. That’s why the Constitution matters, gang.
The Facebook firestorm is a clear example the “reverse intolerance” I discuss in detail in A Call for Courage. Everyone wants to talk about “tolerance” these days – and insists upon it – unless you’re Christian. Tolerance doesn’t apply to us. At least that’s what others want us to think. In reality, it’s nonsense.
IT’S TIME TO STAND AND DELIVER
The above kinds of criticism against Christians miss the point — entirely. And it’s time for people of faith to stop apologizing for our beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. Now is not the time to sit down and shut up. Now is the time to stand up and speak out. It’s time to rise and shine.
We live in a nation where the First Amendment is first on purpose. It protects everyone’s right to free speech and the freedom of religious expression – in public.
Yup, more and more people want you and me to sit down and shut up. But should we? If you allow yourself to cower in such docile environments, over something as limp as social media, what will you do when the struggle becomes real, as it has been for decades in closed and communist countries?
All that’s necessary for the freedoms of speech and religion to go the way of the DoDo bird is for people just like you and me to give in to peer pressure. Live for Jesus wherever you are — and don’t apologize for it. Express your faith with humility – but for God’s sake, literally, express it. If not for yourself, do it for future generations who will need (and want) the freedoms of speech and religion we so often take for granted.