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My “Dirty Little Secret” or, “How to Properly Offend Others”

MMMSquareWhat I Remembered at the Daddy Daughter Dance…

I have a dirty little secret. It mostly only comes out at parties and weddings, but Friday night my firstborn and I attended our very first “Daddy-Daughter Dance” and it reared its ugly head: I can’t dance to save my life. Not that I don’t try… I used to think I was pretty good. I believed in my reputation of being a “great dancer” until a look of near panic came over my then fiancee’s face when we were at a wedding together. One look at my “interpretation” of the moves and she immediately thought: “Oh, NO! He’s a MESS on the dance floor!While I was initially offended at her opinion, I eventually faced reality. Not an ounce of rhythm in this dancer…

She’s now my wife of nearly 7 years. But, she who has all the moves still doesn’t understand how I can know so much about music yet be so “white” and clumsy on the dance floor. Having a ton of knowledge and doing the right motions, doesn’t mean you’re doing them with soul. It’s different to “know about” rhythm than to “have rhythm”. Wouldn’t you agree?

Jesus had a hard time with the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other religious types of His day because many of them were so caught up in their religious moves – outward behavior – that they didn’t realize they had no soul… Pharisee [Hebrew parûsh’] means “set apart”. And, I really believe that these guys started out in the same good place many of us do when we first come to know how holy God is and how utterly sinful we are apart from Him. I learned this in 2001 and immediately wanted to be “clean” in His presence. The problem for the Pharisees is that the ones Jesus was confronting had become so caught up in the moves – the external behavior – that they neglected the proper attitude of the heart: soul… rhythm… love for God and others.

They were Chris Brown in their minds… Montgomery Burns in their hearts… Therefore, Ed Grimley in their moves.

In the Sermon on the Mount beginning in Matthew 5, Jesus essentially tells thousands in attendance that the Pharisees, etc., had all the right moves in God’s eyes, yet no rhythm. How do you think they felt? Offended to know they had no rhythm? They had boiled a relationship with God down to a list of behaviors that demonstrate piety, but were devoid of it. In fact, throughout His interactions with them, Jesus exposes some of them as using God’s name and God’s law for their own gain. “Selfish ambition” is a drive for “progress” devoid of love for God and love for others. But, when it shows up in our own mirrors, ouch. Hurts to find out you’ve got all the right moves and no rhythm… Offensive.

Lately, I’ve heard a number of people talk about being “radical for God” or being “offensive for Jesus”. Most of them, are well meaning – out of devotion to God, and love for how the truth of Christ offends “those who are perishing”, they say offensive or radical things. Their initial hope is good: wake those who are slumbering to the love of God and the atoning work of Christ. However, there is a fine line between offending those enslaved by sin with the truth that can set them free, and being offensive just for the sake of offending.

How to Properly Offend?

We are in grave danger of walking in the Pharisees’ shoes when we seek to offend merely for offendings’ sake. The Lord didn’t offend merely to be countercultural and offensive. But, exposing “inconvenient truths” about deeply held convictions will offend those who do not have “ears to hear” constructive criticism. Jesus only offended with the “you ain’t got no rhythm” truth so that He could teach them “the unforced rhythms of Grace“, rooted in love for those who have all the right moves with the wrong heart and soul. Agape love – the kind of love that God offers us through Christ – is the kind that seeks to elevate others at our own expense, not vice versa. This is the proper starting point for offending others – aim with restoration in mind.

White Boy SyndromeSo, Lemme Askya…

Before you say one more thing to that guy who’s a hypocrite at work, before you send that private Facebook message, before you send that Tweet – are you seeking to offend only to be offensive or because you’d love to see the hypocrite transformed by the Truth, set free by the Lord, and welcomed as your brother/sister in Christ?

Much love (and a whole lot of rhythm),
AP

Be a VIP at the Biggest Super Bowl Party Ever!

NOTE: Late this afternoon, we will begin publishing the transcript of Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s keynote address at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. For now, please enjoy this week’s installment of Monday Morning Momentum in a Minute.
AP

“But, if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 2 Peter 1:9”

     When we lose touch with the massiveness of the sins we’ve been forgiven, we’ve become nearsighted and blind. You and I are “eternally opposed” by the enemy, be it Satan, our old sin nature, or the world and their common MO is to keep us so focused on present circumstances and worries of what is yet to come that we are just that: nearsighted and blind. The result – discouragement, ineffectiveness, and “unproductiveness”.

     This morning, I was interrupted on several occasions by each one of our three toddlers and even a few requests by my wife. When you crave uninterrupted time in the word like I was craving it this morning, “interruptions” can easily become the objects of your wrath. Knowing I couldn’t unleash my full fury on my bride or these three precious children, my brain followed the natural pecking order – “point your anger somewhere else”. In this case, it was inward. In other words, rather than exploding at my wife and kids, I chose to be discouraged. I had become short sighted.

     Ever been there?

     The beauty of my folly, or should I say the God who saves me from my own folly, is that ten minutes later, my wife encouraged me with this very verse:
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1.10-11)



Don’t Be Tardy to the Party…

     Imagine for a moment, the scene outside the Oscars or the Super Bowl – the atmosphere is rife with celebration and anticipation of the imminent event. The air is charged with excitement, with everyone looking forward to great moments of victory for someone(s) who will be honored very soon. But, this isn’t the Oscars and the crowd is far larger than all of the Super Bowls combined. 

     It’s THE biggest party EVER – the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) and the day we all get to meet Jesus face to face! And, that’s not all… You hear your name announced in 4-D Dolby Pro Logic 10.1 Infinisound. At the mention of your name, Jesus and the billions in attendance all shout “WELCOMMMMME!!!!” in unison. Balloons fall from the ceiling of heaven, a warm blizzard of confetti flies in your face, choirs of angels sing and Chris Tomlin (God’s worship leader) plays power chords on his 50-string guitar. You are given a VIP welcome to the biggest party EVER!!! Whoop-whoop!!!

     Would that not be “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom”?

Be Encouraged
     This is the target we have to keep our eyes on. This is the target I’m praying right now that God keeps my eyes on. It is so easy to become discouraged, ineffective, and unproductive when we are caught in near-sightedness. Lift up your eyes – look far into your past to see all the sin Christ has lifted you out of. Lift up your eyes – look into the future where a rich welcome awaits those who choose not to forget that we have been cleansed from our past sins.

Free to be Constrained

Ever Feel Threatened?
     There’s a guy in my life who’s avoiding a conversation with me right now because he thinks I’m expecting something for nothing. Actually, I owe him something, but it’s something I can’t give him until it first comes back to me. Long story short, he’s already written me off as lawless and fears I only want to talk my way out of it. Big communication shutdown. I’m in the wrong and need to make amends. But, when I’ve asked for mercy (“…press your plea with your neighbor… (Prov. 6:3b)), only suspicion has been returned.

     What he doesn’t know is that as a believer in Christ, I’m not only subject to the law (Romans 13:1), but I’m also subject to the law giver. Anyone who’s ever paid a speeding ticket knows that it’s no fun to be on the wrong side of the law. But, imagine coming face to face with the God who created the universe and hearing Him request an accounting of everything you did while on His planet in the time He gave you… Does that sound a bit more intimidating than traffic court?

     For me, it does.

Renewed by the Word
     Yet, the great news that God popped off the page is this – while there are men and women out there who would love to entice us into argument, character assassination, word wars, and even litigation, God is sovereign even over them. As I’m reading Proverbs, Chapter 1, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Prov. 1:10)”

     Am I calling this guy a sinner? No, categorically, not. I don’t have access to God’s Facebook friends list and I won’t be so arrogant as to sit in judgment over the guy from my mere human vantage point. Furthermore, I’m the guy in the wrong on this one, right? So, let’s focus on the point here and experience the freedom we have in God, shall we?

     Our freedom in Christ seems oxymoronic. To be free to say “no” seems a bit of a dichotomy. Yet, you and I, as Christ followers are compelled by Christ (see 2 Cor 5:14) to only one option – “do not be enticed into doing wrong”. Yes, the example given in this proverb is about being invited to join people who want to go inflict evil upon others, but it also extends to the broader category of “wrongdoing”.

Be Encouraged
    Sometimes, freedom is saying “no” when you have all the room in the world to say “yes”. Could I engage this guy in a verbal war? Could I bite back with character assassination of my own? Sure could. I might even be right at the end of the argument. But, I’d be wrong in Christ and would be abusing my freedom and would miss out on one of the greatest fruits of the Spirit: self control. My freedom actually constrains [Greek: ‘sunexei‘ to control or hold together with constraint] me to one option: love someone who is acting as if I’m any enemy and pray for him while he’s persecuting me. While it sounds painful now, I’d rather do that than lose both the fruit of the Spirit and eternal reward. How about you?

    Until Christ returns, there will always be those who want to wrangle with words and accusations, stir up dissension, even cause us physical or legal harm – they may also try to entice us into sinning against God with them. But, we serve the God who will, in the end, see their knee bowed to Him just as our knee will bend; they, too will be called to account for their actions. May our hope not be in our words or our temporal vindication, rather in the God who searches hearts and minds and will repay us all according to our deeds. (Rev 2:23)

in Christ,

AP

Making the Grades? – Monday Morning Momentum

     One of Cristine’s favorite Old Testament figures is King Josiah. Thrust onto the throne at age 8 after his father was assassinated by his own cabinet at the end of his two year reign. How does an eight year old kid cope with his dad’s untimely murder? The same way you and I ought to respond – “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.”

     I’m sure he grieved the loss. I lost my dad to divorce when I was about his age. My dad was still alive and it marked me for life. I won’t sit here and tell you it was easy. But, Josiah’s heart was all God’s. At eight, he’s crowned. At 16 he begins massive reform figuratively equivalent to bombing ESPN, MTV, FOX, and NBC’s broadcasting operations (2 Chron 34:3-6). He completely turned their culture upside-down. At 26, he restores the temple and the Book of the Law was found.

     If I’m this 26 year old “kid”, I’d be feeling pretty good about myself at this point – I’ve made up for my father’s wickedness, I’m serving the one, true, living God and routing out all other rival gods… I’d be fired up to see how my actions were lining up with this famous manuscript. It’s report card time!

“F.”

     I don’t know how far off the mark Josiah was or even where he was missing the mark, but when he read the text, he “tore his robes (v. 19)” in shame. Even though God had put the wheels in motion to begin the demise and exile of Israel because of their wicked disobedience to Him, the prophet Huldah tells the administration that Josiah will be spared this destruction. For the remaining 13 years of his reign, it’s pretty much “all good in the ‘hood” for Israel and they celebrate a Passover feast that even rivals anything put on in the time of King Solomon or even David, all on Josiah’s dime.

     The key is pretty obvious here – God postpones judgment on Israel a few years “because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God… (v 27)” It’s a gospel message all over again. Repent – change your mind and turn your heart away from idols and lesser gods – and you shall be saved.

     Seasons of Life is about relationships restored, first to the Father, then to the people. When our vertical relationship with Him is intact, often the relationships with those around us bang on all four cylinders with less stalling and coughing. In relationships, one of the greatest idols that comes between us and our God is expectation. When pride gets the best of us, we bank all we have on our plans and expectations of how things should go, people should act, outcomes should manifest. In so doing, we leave little or no room for the plans of God, leading to death, destruction, depression, and/or discouragement either figuratively or literally.

The Good News:

     As always, the gospel offers a reset button of sorts. When we set aside our altars and high places, holding our plans with open hands, we’re free to let God remove from our hands what is temporarily “ours” and replace it with what He knows we really need. With open hands we also lower the risk of losing our fingers when He removes something from our possession very quickly.

     As we grieve our oldest daughter’s departure to live with her dad, we thank many of you for your heartfelt prayers and encouragement. We thank others for tearing their clothes, sitting on an ash heap with us, and weeping without words. But, we also thank God that He has shown us two things: 1) that our children are not ours forever – we are to raise, love, and steward them as any other charge He grants us and 2) that we can trust Him with the expectations we had for how her life would go. Yes, we must grieve the loss of “our plans”, but Josiah’s dextrous feet shifted his balance so nimbly. God grants us the grace to repent of our plans, however good they may have been, and concede to His higher, greater, and better plans.

     What expectations are you holding onto? Will you trust God as Josiah did and run full force in the opposite direction if God so guides you? Even if it means going against what culture and comfort say is right?

The Better News:

     The message of the gospel is not “be good”. It’s “an A+ is completely unattainable” or “you’re wicked and completely incapable of pleasing God, so He did it for you.” You don’t have to try harder to tear down the altars and high places in your life. You’re incapable of doing it on your own. Thank God!!!

Be encouraged. Jesus took your test and passed it with flying colors! His grade can be trusted.

in Christ,

AP

It’s in There

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way,
    he makes his steps firm;
 though he stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)”

     OK, hermeneutical time out – a psalm is poetry, poetry is not a promise. However, throughout both Proverbs and Psalms are great nuggets of wisdom, insight into the character and nature of God, and a repletion of principles we can regard as “best practices” or “bet your 401K on it”. Are we tracking?

     Our family is at a very difficult crossroads right now. Over the weekend we were faced with a decision so big, I literally woke with a 6 hour headache and took two hours to write a 4 paragraph email. To say that we were mentally and emotionally taxed would be grossly understating things. Repeatedly, I found myself talking out loud to God, begging Him for either overall clarity or at least enough mental acuity to stir the pasta sauce on the stove – neither of which I felt any mastery over. There was nothing useful in my head. Just a pile of unorganizable, edgeless thoughts.

     I’m an external processor – my thoughts untangle themselves best outside my head, such as in discussion or writing. Saturday, I had no one I could talk to immediately who’d bring appropriate experience to the table and mere moments to move on some of the moving parts of the decision. I felt mentally stranded, struggling to find internal resources to bring to bear on the situation.

     On top of that, I had three toddlers running around the backyard, each asking me to play something different with them or screaming that one of the others wasn’t sharing. I felt as if I was holding a live bomb with both hands while having my legs pecked off by a chicken. “Lord, I’ve got nothing to add to the situation but my need for You. Help. Me. Please.”

     Out of respect for your time, I’ll skip to yesterday, when answers came – I opened a bible to Psalm 37 and began reading. If you’ve never had an experience where the words are jumping off the page, pray for one. It will blow… your… mind. With all the thoughts swarming through my head and all the background “noise” outside it, I have never experienced a moment where everything around me just seemed to stand still and the living word calmed my storm. I was flooded with encouragement (I mean, just read that thing!), perspective, counsel, and peace.

     Why does this matter to you?

     Glad you asked.

     The bible does not promise us a wrinkle free life. It does not promise that good things will only happen to good people and the wicked will fail in all of their evil endeavors. It’s never that cut and dried. You’re going to be lied to by people who believe wholeheartedly that if you’re not experiencing great prosperity and material abundance, it’s your fault and your faith is not strong enough. But, scripture speaks forcefully against this:
1 Thess 5:23-24:Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” God is in charge of outcomes and He will achieve His purposes

     Ultimately, the Lord upholds our hand. His plans, not ours apart from Him, will ultimately succeed. If calamity is on us, it is no surprise to Him and He can be trusted to bring us through it. We may fall, even fall off a cliff, hitting rocks and branches on the way down. This does not make scripture a liar. Remember, poetry is figurative literal, not word-for-word literal. In the end – after everything we try so desperately to preserve is turned to ash at the coming of the Lord and the new heavens and earth – we who are made righteous by the blood of Christ will have a “safe landing”.

     I’m not waxing eloquent today to tell you “God is in control” and leave you with that. I’m passing this on in hopes it will spark one of you to lean into God and beg him for the encouragement you need when you need it and to remind you “it’s in there”. God has not left us to wander without direction. He has sent the Holy Spirit to “come along side us” and comfort – one of the ways He does this is to illuminate scripture as we seek the living God who inspired it. Trust in the Lord, wring the truth out of His word. That’s why He put it there. That’s why He sent the Spirit.

in Christ,

AP