God is greater

Today I read:

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

I cannot remember a time when somebody has referred to this verse and not said that it was talking about God being greater than the devil. Rereading it today I discovered something. There’s no mention of the devil anywhere near this passage. Obviously God is greater than the devil but that doesn’t seem to be John’s point. And I find that comforting and encouraging. Here’s why:

Pretty much everyone that believes in God gets that He’s stronger than the devil. That’s a no brainer. What I find myself most often forgetting is that God is also greater and stronger than anyone that could exist in the world. Not just a demon. But greater than people too. This understanding helps bring this verse closer to home and makes it way more encouraging to me.

God is greater than Obama or Trump. He’s greater than the woman who cuts you off in traffic driving like a lunatic. He’s greater than your boss. He’s greater than a corrupt government. He’s greater than Islamic terrorists beheading our fellow Christians. He’s greater than you. He’s greater than me.

He’s greater than anyone that could exist and He’s in me. And you if you know Him. I’m finding myself feeling more empowered, confident, happy, and relieved. With a God this powerful in us, we become very powerful too. He wants us to move in His power.

He’s got our back. And He wins. Always.

Love starts at home

I find consistent reading of the Bible incredibly engaging because I am always learning and relearning important truths. Today I had one of these relearning experiences. In his first letter, John points out something that I am guilty of and I know that many other Christians like me are guilty of: mis-prioritized love.

One of the major themes of John’s letter is love. The aspect of love that I relearned today is that as children of God, our love must first be directed toward our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we with-hold love from those outside of God. There’s plenty to go around. What John does seem to teach is that our love for each other should take a top priority.

John’s letter is written to Christians and all throughout he’s admonishing them to love their brothers (and sisters):

  • Part of understanding that we have been born again into life is loving our fellow Christians (3:14).
  • We are to sacrifice ourselves for our brothers and sisters (3:16).
  • We are to make sure that our brothers and sisters have what they need to live (3:17).
  • We know that God’s love is perfected in us when we love each other (4:12)
  • The person who hates his brother or sister in Christ does not actually love God (4:20)
  • The person who loves God should also love his brother or sister in Christ (4:21)

I know that I can get caught up in focusing my attention in trying to love those outside of the faith and not intentionally loving my fellow saints. I’ve seen the famous words of Jesus misquoted hundreds of times and I’ve done it myself:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35

Jesus is telling his disciples that those outside of the faith will know that we love Jesus by seeing our love for those who are also Jesus’ disciples. Jesus is NOT saying that those outside the faith will know we love Jesus by how much we love non-believers. At least not here.

This is an important mindset shift to make. It seems like for many (myself included) that it’s easier to love those outside of the faith until they get saved and then we feel like we’ve done our part and move on to the next heathen. There are fellow Christians in serious pain and hardships in our churches and we are spending our time and money helping those who reject Jesus. Hear me- it’s not wrong to do this. What is wrong is neglecting our brothers and sisters in Christ to help those outside of the faith. In the above mentioned passages, it seems like John and Jesus want us to prioritize our love to our fellow believers.

But how will we reach people if our love is focused inward? Don’t we need to love those outside the faith too? Duh, of course we do. But imagine a community of Christians that love each other deeply. So much so, that they make darn sure that everyone in that community has what they need and feels loved and connected to everyone else. I think that when this happens, those outside the faith sprint to Jesus and his people with open arms. Isn’t this what everyone wants? A group of people who love and take care of you?

Maybe what Jesus is trying to tell us is that as His disciples, we need to love each other in such a special way that those who are not His disciples will not be able to resist becoming one.

Maybe instead of spending so much time and effort into outreaches, churches could invest more time and effort into “in-reaches.” Reaching out to those who are already believers but are struggling and need that love that Jesus commands us to give.

10 things I wish Christians cared about more

I’ve started writing lists as an exercise in creativity. I try to come up with 10 things that surround a particular idea. Like any idea. The point is to just think about all kinds of different, even silly things. I will periodically post some of these lists.

Here’s my first list, 10 things I wish Christians cared about more. I did not choose to elaborate on all of them so that’s why some don’t have an explanation.

10 Things I wish Christians cared about more

  1. Pets/Animals
  2. Nature 
  3. Healthy Eating 
  4. Adoption
  5. Biblical Literacy
  6. Generosity
  7. Holy Living/Obedience
  8. Friendliness
  9. Meditation
  10. Personal Responsibility 

 

10 Things I wish Christians cared about more
1. Pets/Animals
Why is it that the people who do the most good for animals almost exclusively non-Christian? From my experience, the attitude amongst many Christians is that anyone who sticks up for the animals is some kind of left wing nut job who doesn’t care about people. I used to be this person but my wife taught me to think differently. Our most basic function as humans is to manage the planet for God (see Genesis 1:26-30; 2:15-18). Taking care of the animals is part of this. My wife taught me that just because you have great love for animals, it doesn’t mean that you love people any less. There’s plenty of love to go around.
2. Nature
Similar to the above, many Christians behave ignorant to the fact that God put humans on earth to help him manage it. That’s a major part of what it means to made in His image (see Genesis 1:26-28). It’s shameful that the majority of people who fight to protect the environment seem to be all non-Christian.
3. Healthy eating
The Christian’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and must be treated as such (1 Cor 6:19). Do you remember all the sacrificial and temple laws in the Old Testament? These laws were very specific about how God only wanted the very best, cleanest, unblemished animals and people entering into His dwelling place. We are now God’s dwelling place. So why do we allow so many bad things into our bodies? This is still a struggle for me. Much of what I used to eat can’t even be classified as food. My attitude used to be one that I know many others have: what is the least amount of money I can spend on food each month? Now it’s completely changed to: how much can I afford to spend on food. Whenever possible we eat organic, non GMO, ethically raised food. It costs more but God’s Temple (my body) is a special and holy place. I’m trying to treat it like that.
4. Adoption
On any given day in the USA there are about 428,000 kids in the foster system. In 2015 over 670,000 kids spent time in the system. Excluding Catholic churches, there’s more than 300,000 churches with about 56 million attendees in the USA. If next Sunday, two couples from each each church decided to adopt, we would eliminate the need for the foster care system in a week. ONE WEEK AND THERE WOULD BE NO MORE ORPHANS. Taking care of orphans is a command all over the Bible. Maybe it’s time for Christian families to start thinking more about adopting a child that already exists rather than getting pregnant again.
5. Biblical literacy
6. Generosity
Many Christians are extremely generous and I understand this. What I want more and more people to start thinking about is how they can be generous in every facet of their life. Not just financially.
7. Holy living/ obedience
8.  Friendliness
9. Meditation
This is something that I am getting more interested in myself and I think it’s super important in our culture. Think about this. On average, goldfish have a 9 second attention span. The average human now has has an average attention span of 8 seconds. You read that right. Eight seconds is all a person can spend focusing on anything. Some debate the validity of this study but all you have to do is hang out with someone to see that attention spans are way too low regardless of the actual number. I’m still new to meditation but what I have found is that it really helps me practice my focus. I have always been a better single tasker than most, but I want to be able to give God and people my full attention because it seems like full human attention is a disappearing commodity. Trying to focus my mind on just one or two thoughts about God for 3-5 minutes a day has proved refreshing so far. It’s not weird voodoo or floating off into nirvana. It’s just calm, relaxed, thinking about God.
10. Personal responsibility
Can we please stop blaming the devil for everything? The devil is not omniscient or omnipotent. He can only be in one place at one time and chances are you have never and will never be in his presence. I would be stunned if the devil even knew I existed. He’s got bigger fish to fry. Maybe someday I be one of those fish. It would be a testament to my godliness if I could warrant the devil’s direct attention. I can get into more than enough trouble on my own. Sin in the world is the problem. The world is not broken because of the devil, but because of us. It’s time for many Christians to take responsibility for their own sins. He’s not sneaking around behind you testing you with porn, financial problems, or ice cream when you’re on a diet. That’s you. Your sin nature. Take control of yourself and stop giving him the credit.

God Loves Muslims

The God of the Bible that is. He really does. He even loves the Muslims who kill people. He loves them so much that He sent His only son Jesus to die for them (Jn 3:16). He wants all people, even the hateful murderous ones to be saved and come to know Him (1 Tim 2:4 and Ezk 18:23). 

God loves Muslims.

But I think it’s safe to say that He hates Islam. God will only tolerate something standing between Himself and people coming to know Him for so long. He even made a whole commandment about this: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex 30:3). All anyone has to do is read through the Old Testament book of Joshua to see how God eliminates pagan religions (and their adherents) to protect His people.

The only way to God, the only actual God, is through Jesus (Jn 14:6). This is how we can know for certain that Islam does not eventually lead someone to the same God that Christians know and love. But we don’t just have to pick on Islam. Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism,  basically any “ism.” None of it works. Anything that denies Jesus as the Christ does not get you to God (1 Jn 2:22).

Just because Christians are right does not get us off the hook. It’s actually the opposite. Jesus tells us to not only love those who are like us but those who are (or would appear to be) our enemies (see Mt 5:43-48). Jesus tells His followers to love those people who persecute, kill, suicide bomb, and even those who are just plain rude to Christians. Christians are to pray for these people. Maybe not pray that they get wiped off the face of the earth, I’m not positive that counts as the prayer Jesus is talking about. Pray that they stop deluding themselves and receive the invitation God offers to every human. While Christianity is exclusive, it’s not like the yacht club or something. You don’t have to be rich and have a boat. Anyone can be a child of God.

Consider this example.

In the New Testament times, there was a religious terrorist who was renowned within his sect. He participated in many killings, imprisonments, and even traveled around rounding up infidels to be killed. On one such crusade, he met Jesus. The redemptive power of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection changed this man from a religious murderer into someone who would be murdered for the very reason he used to murder people. His name was Paul and he ended up being one of the most influential men in human history. We know so much more about the love of God because of Paul that we would have without him.

It’s easy to write off extremists, killers, and jerks. But before you do, remember that Jesus once saved a terrorist named Paul. And this terrorist is probably the reason you are saved.

Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies. Bombs, bans, and tweets won’t change anyone. Let’s pray that our enemies meet Jesus. We just might have another Paul on our hands.

No News is Good News

I’m traveling for work right now and one of the challenges of this for me is finding the discipline and motivation to exercise. But today I made it happen. When I got there, someone else was also working out and they had turned on Fox News to watch while on the elliptical.

This was the first time I’ve watched any “news” in I don’t know how long. That’s one of the huge benefits of not having TV (I do have Apple TV). The news was only on for literally five minutes. I know this because it was only on as long as my 5 minute warmup. All it took was five minutes for me to realize why everyone thinks there is so much division in the country. Every “story” was spun in such a way to highlight or create any kind of division possible. The news was basically this:

  • Trump said something I don’t like and now my feelings are hurt
  • Can you believe what that celebrity tweeted?
  • The world is ending because of ____________ (fill in the blank)

It was nutty. Do people really think this way? If so, no wonder so many people are scared and pessimistic. Someone who is very successful businessman and also a good ole country boy once told me something that I will always remember: “We just live out in the country and do our thing. We don’t have TV and watch the news, we make our own news.” This is from someone who took his passion and turned it into a multimillion dollar business. He’s got some wisdom to share.

I don’t watch the new or do much more than see whatever news pops up on my Instagram in-between cat pics. I’m very positive about the future and I don’t think it’s because of the whole ignorance is bliss thing. I think a big part of it is the fact that all this negative “news” isn’t being broadcast into my brain every day. If we’re being honest with ourselves, nearly all of the news stories out there play almost no role in our day to day lives. They’re completely irrelevant. Who cares that someone hurt LeBron’s feelings and Leonardo DiCaprio is mad at Trump? I know I don’t.

If you do pay attention to the news, try taking a break for a week. See what happens with your attitude. You might find that no news is good news. Make your own news. I bet it’s good.