Daniel 1 (Part 2) Life In Exile

On January 24th I started preaching through the book of Daniel. HERE is the link to my outline and thoughts regarding the first sermon. Then yesterday I took some time to preach from Jeremiah 29. The reason I preached from Jeremiah 29 was because it contains clear instructions to the Jewish people who were living in Babylonian captivity.

Introduction

How do we live in a post-Christian culture? When the political world seems to be spinning out of control. When values we have always believed in are no longer respected. In the book of Daniel we find many answers to this question about how we live today in a Babylonian culture.

Retell the story in Daniel 1

Judah, the Southern Kingdom has been invaded by the violent, wicked, Babylonian Empire. This has happened because God’s people are not seeking God with all of their heart.

Daniel and his friends taken into Babylonian captivity. Daniel came to Babylon as a teenager and stayed there into his late 80s. King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to change Daniel and his friends through the power of their culture (name change, language, food, education). Daniel is one of the few characters in Scripture that we don’t learn about him sinning or wrongdoing.

Read passage: Jeremiah 29:4-14

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,1 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare2 and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, band I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

IMPORTANT: This passage must have been shocking to the Jewish people.

In Psalm 137:8-9 we learn that the Babylonians had dashed the Jewish babies upon rocks and raped the women. And yet God, through Jeremiah, is telling them to seek the welfare of Babylon. It’s hard to imagine a more shocking letter than they one the Jews received in Jeremiah 29.

How do the people of God live while they are in exile?

Define Babylonian culture: James Davison Hunter literally wrote the book regarding culture wars in 1991. Here is my personal take on what a culture war is all about. It is the spirit of the age, working against God and his purposes in the world. It is characterized by idolatry; man, not God, is at the center of the universe, sexual immorality is pervasive, the pursuit of pleasure, and attempting to remove God from our world. There seems to be a strong demonic force at work in the Babylonian culture. In Revelation 18:1-2 we read this:

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons…”

There are three bad ways we can respond to our culture and one good way that is modeled to us by Jesus Christ

(ONE) Fight: We fight culture wars

In Jeremiah 29 God does not tell his people to fight against the Babylonians. We are not the moral majority but we keep acting like it. We keep acting like we are the ones with the power and on top of that we have grown accustomed to using the world’s tools to fight a spiritual battle. All of the problems we see in culture come from the wickedness of the human heart. Only the gospel has the power to change the heart.

There was a culture war going on in Jesus’ day. Zealots were fighting against Roman Empire. Did Jesus tap into the rage? No. Jesus pointed his disciples in a different direction.

The result of fighting a culture war is that the world misunderstands what the church and Jesus is all about. The world will think that Christians are angry, outraged people on the conservative side of the aisle. Instead, we should be known because of our love.

People have shrugged and seemed to say in a whisper, maybe politics will fix our problems. That is easier than getting involved and actually living like salt and light.


“A final irony has to do with the idea of political responsibility. Christians are urged to vote and become involved in politics as an expression of their civic duty and public responsibility. This is a credible argument and good advice up to a point. Yet in our day, given the size of the state and the expectations that people place on it to solve so many problems, politics can also be a way of saying, in effect, that the problems should be solved by others besides myself and by institutions other than the church. It is, after all, much easier to vote for a politician who champions child welfare than to adopt a baby born in poverty, to vote for a referendum that would expand health care benefits for seniors than to care for an elderly and infirmed parent, and to rally for racial harmony than to get to know someone of a different race than yours. True responsibility invariably costs. Political participation, then, can and often does amount to an avoidance of responsibility.” -James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

Picture taken from Cruxnowdotcom

(TWO) Escape: We hide in our houses (and churches) and wait for the Second coming

Jeremiah 29 makes it clear that we are not to hide from our culture. We are to be a part of the culture, yet live such holy lives that others take note. If we choose to escape then we will have zero influence on the Babylonian culture around us.

Jesus is the better Daniel. Jesus left his safe neighborhood (heaven) and moved to a dangerous neighborhood all because he was on a rescue mission.

(THREE) Compromise: We end up looking more like the world than Jesus

Daniel could have very easily chosen this option. He was given the best food, the best wine, living in the royal court. He could have simply said that he was going to enjoy the good life all around him. Daniel, a teenager, resisted the temptations all around him and instead was used in a powerful way for God.

What are the ways in our life that we have begun to compromise our Christian values?

(FOUR) Engage: Live in culture as salt and light, love people, make disciples

In Jeremiah 29: 7 we learn that Christians are to love for the welfare for the people and the city around them. The Hebrew word for welfare is ‘shalom.’ Christians are to be looking to bring peace into their everyday life. What does that look like?

ONE: Don’t be afraid of putting down roots where you live. I am hearing from people all around me that fear is taking deep roots in our lives. Fear is 100% not the way of a follower of Jesus Christ. In the middle of being taken into captivity, the world seemed like it was ending, Jeremiah does not tell the children of God to stop living. He does not tell them that fear is ever justified. We simply do not know when the Second Coming of Jesus will be so we live life with purpose and meaning every single day.

TWO: Focus on prayer. Jeremiah 29:12 we are told that the proper response, one way of seeking the welfare/shalom of the city, is to pray. My strong conviction is that as a church we must be pursuing corporate prayer on a more frequent basis. Corporately and personally. Are we seeking God in prayer? Are we getting on our knees and praying for the good of our city?

THREE: Repent of sin. Tim Keller writes this, “We must be far harder on ourselves in gracious, humble repentance, than we are on the unbelieving culture around us. This was a major lesson for the exiles and for us. Our first response should be repentance. We should be very understanding toward people who have failed to believe in Christ because the weakness of the church’s testimony. A lot of what is happening in our culture today may be more our fault than we are willing to admit.”

“The church is waiting for the world to become regenerate, while the world is waiting for the church to become repentant.” –Leonard Ravenhill

FOUR: Seek spiritual renewal. Do we desire spiritual renewal in our lives? Our church? Our city? Again, are we praying for it? This is one of my constant prayers these days. Lord, save the lost sons and daughters all around us. Wake up those who are spiritually asleep in the church.

FIVE: Make disciples. Imagine if Christians spent less time watching the news and talking about conspiracy theories and instead started building relationships and making disciples! What a powerful transformation this would have in our churches and in our culture.

SIX: Be people of hope! Stop giving into despair! The people all around us need to see that we trust that God is sovereign and that we are not ruled by fear.

Vision of our church: Our vision is to be “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties” all around us. We are to live for the welfare/shalom of the area in which God has strategically placed us.

We have to stop seeing the world as the enemy and instead see them as our mission field. We pursue people in our Babylonian culture with the same love that Jesus Christ has showered upon us.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12

Are you changing the world?

My study in the book of Daniel has led me to think deeply about how we live in the middle of a post-Christian, Babylonian culture. Some of our methods are good, some of them not so much.

About 15 years ago the missional conversation hit the church like a run-away train. I read everything I could get my hands on and it had a strong impact on me and the way that I think about the church. One of the passages in Scripture that was frequently mentioned was Jeremiah 29. Now that I am digging into Daniel I have an even greater appreciation for the message that Jeremiah was communicating to the Jewish exiles who were living in Babylon.

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Jews were living in captivity to a empire that was 100% at odds with their Jewish faith and way of life. Yet, God was telling them that they are to embrace everyday life, put down deep roots, pray for the people and the culture all around them. Daniel was not asked to fight a culture war. To use a phrase from the New Testament, Daniel was called to live as salt and light. As American Christians we don’t always choose the path that Daniel took. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t always seek to walk in the ways of Christ. Here is what I mean…

Changing The World Through A Culture War

  1. You watch the news too much
  2. You feel anxious, worried, and angry
  3. You are trying to treat the symptoms of the world’s problems
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle don’t sense that you care about them
  5. Your social media comes across as harsh
  6. You are focused on winning arguments
  7. You talk about politics more than Jesus
  8. You see the people in this world as your enemies
  9. You are not involved in the life of the church and you don’t think it is important when it comes to changing the world
  10. You don’t pray very much
  11. You are not discipling anyone

Changing The World By Following Jesus

  1. You immerse your heart and mind in the Word of God
  2. You feel hopeful because God is in control
  3. You know the key to change is the gospel impacting the human heart
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle sense that you love them
  5. Your social media comes across as kind and gracious
  6. You are more concerned about winning people than arguments
  7. You talk about Jesus more than politics
  8. You see the people in this world as your mission field
  9. You are actively involved in the life of the church for the good of the world
  10. Your life is filled with prayer and especially for the lost and hurting world
  11. You are discipling others

11 Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. -1 Peter 2:11-12

Reclaiming America For Christ

One of the primary arguments that I want to make in this brief article is that Christians in America have relied too much on politics to change the world when in fact our focus should be on the good news of Jesus Christ. How did we get to this point?

Brief history of the Moral Majority

falwell and ronald reaganThe Moral Majority was started in 1979 by Jerry Falwell, a Southern Baptist pastor, who worked to unite other conservative evangelicals to address what they saw as the problems in American society.

There were lots of things going on in American culture in the 70s and 80s that led to the formation of the Moral Majority. Abortion, gay rights, sexual immorality, humanism in the public schools, liberal Supreme Court rulings, etc.

But could there be more behind what really got the Moral Majority started in the first place?  You can go HERE to read some other theories as to what inspired the Moral Majority to move into action in the first place.

Getting involved in politics is a good thing

On a personal note, I want to say that I strongly believe that it is good for Christians to be very involved in the political world. One of my heroes is William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who worked zealously to end the slave trade that was prominent in his day. In order for Christians to live as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) they must engage the world they live in rather than retreat or withdraw.

So what was the problem with the Moral Majority?

Paul Michael Weyrich, co-founder of the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, wrote these words, “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Re-create the nation? Really? Does anyone today really think that our nation has been “re-created”? Ed Dobson who co-authored the book, “Blinded By Might: Can The Religious Right Save America?” wrote these words as he pondered the impact his time working for the Moral Majority had in American culture:

Did the Moral Majority really make a difference? During the height of the Moral Majority, we were taking in millions of dollars a year. We published a magazine, organized state chapters, lobbied Congress, aired a radio program, and more. Did it work? Is the moral condition of America better because of our efforts? Even a casual observation of the current moral climate suggests that despite all the time, money and energy-despite the political power-we failed. Things have not gotten better; they have gotten worse.

What are the unintended consequences of making an idol of politics?

One of the unintended consequences for being so involved in the world of politics, and losing sight of the power of the gospel, is that Christians have become known more for their political ideology than they are for mercy, compassion and love. Thomas Kidd puts it like this, “In short, evangelicals have gone from being known as born again Christians, to being known as religious Republicans.”

But there are other consequences as well. By engaging in a culture war we have alienated the very people that need to hear the gospel story. Our angry rhetoric pushes people away from us because we have been treating them like our enemy and not the lost sheep that Jesus came to die for (Luke 15:1-7).

Is there a better way?

As Christians we should long to see the world changed and actively work towards that end. Of course what we should strive to do is evaluate the way we are living and contrast it with what we read in Scripture. What do we learn from observing the life of Jesus and the apostle Paul?

Jesus emphasized serving

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus’ disciples completely misunderstood that it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God. In Matthew 20 we see James and John come to Jesus seeking power and glory and Jesus has to redirect them and tell them that they way that the kingdom of God flourishes is when Christians seek to put others first and serve them.

Question: How are you, and your church, serving others in your neighborhood and city?

Jesus emphasized making disciples

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry years making disciples who would go on and make disciples. This was Jesus’ plan for changing the world, spending time with people, helping them to become more like him, and then releasing them so that they could go and do likewise. What is our plan for changing the world? Does it look like the method that Jesus employed?

Question: Who are you discipling?

Jesus and Paul emphasized love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that if there is anything that Christians should be known for it is love.

What does this love look like? Love is not winning an argument. Love is not an insulting meme that belittles our political rivals. Love has a heart filled with compassion that longs to see the lost sons and daughters of God come to know the grace of Jesus Christ.

Question: Are you known on social media, and in everyday life, for being a person of compassion and love?

The spirit of the moral majority lives on today

There is no doubt that some of the negative aspects of the Moral Majority, and the Religious Right, are alive and well today. The problem is that it is such a part of the air that we breath that we have a hard time seeing the error of our ways. The key will be for Christians today to refocus on the words, and the life, of Jesus Christ and how he worked to transform this fallen world.

Are you changing the world or fanning the flames?

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you have a desire to make a difference in this world. The thing that is causing me great concern lately is that it would seem that far too many Christians are actually doing more harm than good when it comes to making the world a better place.

The best place to look when it comes to an example to follow is, of course, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth out of a desire to bring abundant life to a world that desperately needed it (John 10:10). So what we need to do is examine the way that Jesus spent his time. We need to carefully contemplate his methods for ushering in his kingdom and bringing lasting change.

So, how did Jesus do it? Yes, of course he lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and three days later he rose from the grave victoriously. Praise God, this is the heart of the gospel story! But Jesus has given you and I a specific mission, something that he personally modeled during his three years with his disciples.

Here it is, Jesus discipled 12 men. Yep, that was his grand plan. Jesus was super relational. He got to know people who were far from the Father and built deep, meaningful relationships with them. He prayed with them. He ate with them. He taught them the Scriptures. He loved them. He partnered with them in ministry. He taught them to go and do likewise.

Some where along the way the Great Commission has been hijacked by a culture war. Dictionary.com defines a culture war like this, “a conflict between groups with different ideals, beliefs, philosophies, etc.” Issues that we Americans are willing to fight about include abortion, climate change, claims about absolute truth, conservative vs. progressive,  LGBT rights, immigration, racism, global warming, standing or kneeling, the right to die, etc. Wikipedia points out that the phrase “culture wars” became a part of our everyday vocabulary when James Davison Hunter wrote his book in 1991 called, “Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America.”

Is it possible that you are caught up in the culture war and are not even aware of it? Maybe you are not sure. What does it look like to be fighting a culture war?

  • You focus too much on winning arguments.
  • You have an unhealthy anger towards people on the other side of the political aisle and it is eating you alive.
  • You are known more for what you are against than what you are for.
  • You emphasize the passing of laws over the need for salvation.
  • You believe a post on social media is more effective than having a neighbor over for a meal.
  • You don’t pray as much as you use to.
  • You are anxious and worried instead of hopeful and optimistic.
  • You have never discipled anyone and have no plans to do so.
  • You have forgotten Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

So this begs a question. How in the world have we taken the command to make disciples and twisted it into fighting an angry culture war? I believe there are three primary reasons why so many Christians have gotten involved in a culture war.

First of all, let me say that I do not believe Christians have consciously decided that they want to minimize the Great Commission and engage in a culture war. I think it happens because it is the air that we breathe. The culture war is raging all the time on social media and in the news. Before we know it, we Christians are fighting the same way that the world fights. We are using their weapons and we are only fanning the flames of anger and outrage all around us. Tragically, we are making things worse, not better.

Second, we have lost sight of what the true solution is to our cultural problem(s). Jesus said “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (John 15:19) All of the bad behavior that we see in society today comes from the sin nature that is a part of each and everyone of us. The only thing powerful enough to change the human heart is the good news of Jesus Christ. So, when we are consumed with the culture war we are often times failing to address the main problem, the sinful heart of men and women.

Third, fighting a culture war is easy and our sin nature loves it. It is much easier to fire off an angry post on Facebook or Twitter than it is to get involved in a meaningful, personal relationship. Let’s be honest, you simply can’t follow Jesus and refuse to invest in the lives of other people. Jesus told us many times that to follow him would be costly and, quite honestly, many of us don’t want to pay the price (Luke 14:25-34).

I am not advocating for the unbiblical idea that Christians should retreat from the world and live in a holy huddle. It’s great for Christians to be involved in politics and to speak up about the issues of our day and time. Personally, I would love to see Roe v. Wade overturned. But we need to always remember that our hope is in God alone, not in the POTUS or the Supreme Court. 

Let me wrap this up by asking you what are some practical steps you can begin taking to build relationships with people in your neighborhood, workplace, school and city? It is in the context of relationships that the gospel is able to work it’s way into the deepest parts of our lives. Jesus’ plan for changing the world has not changed, disciples making disciples.

Let’s recommit to actually living the way that Jesus lived so that we can make this world a better place (instead of fanning the flames). Let’s be known for being the most relational, loving people in the world.

Angry Christians and the Compassion of God

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” -Matthew 5:43-44

Jonah had just preached the shortest sermon recorded in Scripture to the wicked residents of Nineveh. The very thing that Jonah was nervous about happened; the Ninevites repented of their sin.

Here is how the prophet Jonah responded to revival breaking out in Nineveh:

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. -Jonah 4:1-2

Everything in this story is upside down. The prophet of God is rebellious and the wicked city of Nineveh is repentant.

But don’t miss this, a direct contrast is being made between Jonah and the God he claims to be serving. Jonah is angry and God is merciful and slow to anger. The point being made is quite clear. We need to be less like Jonah and more like God. We need to drop the unrighteous anger and instead become people of compassion.

It seems to me that there is more anger and rage present today among confessing Christians than what I have witnessed in the past. You see it online in the name calling, demonizing spiritual and political opponents, and the failure to love people who are different than us.

“The tragedy is that in the name of resisting the internal deterioration of faith and the corruption of the world around them, many Christians – and Christian conservatives most significantly – unwittingly embrace some of the most corrosive aspects of the cultural disintegration they decry. By nurturing its resentments, sustaining them through a discourse of negation toward outsiders, and in cases, pursuing their will to power, they become functional Nietzscheans, participating in the very cultural breakdown they so ardently strive to resist.” -James Davison Hunter

Here is a critically important question, why do we react with rage and anger when God is calling his people first and foremost to be people of compassion? I think there are a variety of answers to this question but I will highlight three.

  • Christians are angry because they feel like they are losing ground in today’s culture war. As Christians we are accustomed to our society being under-girded by our faith. What we find unsettling is that our American culture is increasingly becoming post-Christian and therefore more secularized. The result is that people are losing their mind when others do not see politics or the world the same way they do. My opinion is that we should not be fighting a culture war in the first place. Our rage and commitment to winning arguments is not going to change the world. Deep down we know this, right? What will make a difference is if the world sees Christians entering into this suffering world with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
  • Christians are angry because they care about the wrong things. You know how the story ends. Even after God explains that he is going to withdraw his judgment upon Nineveh Jonah heads up to a hill for a better view just in case God does decide to wipe them out. As Jonah is watching and waiting God provides a plant to give him some shade from the heat of the sun. Then God sends a worm to destroy the plant and Jonah’s response is that he would rather die than deal with the heat. What God was exposing in Jonah’s heart is that he cared more for his own comfort than he did the eternal destiny of the Ninevites. This begs the question, what do we care more about? Our material possessions, careers, success and comfort or to see people entering into the kingdom of God?
  • Christians are angry because they are losing sight of the basics of the gospel. I really think this is the huge, underlying problem with how Christians are responding to our culture today. Jesus died for us when we were dead and lost in our sin. We were living a rebellious life and had done nothing to merit the compassion of Jesus. Yet Christ still pursued us out of a heart filled with great compassion. When we truly comprehend these gospel truths we discover that there is no room for unrighteous anger towards others who are lost without Christ. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” -Romans 2:4

Let’s be honest, being angry is the much easier option than living as people of compassion. When we are motivated by unrighteous anger we don’t need to bother with being led by the Holy Spirit. When we are angry we are more likely to stay in our house, behind our locked doors, and far away from others who are different than us. Compassion is going to require much more from us. The church is not called to simply vote for politicians who will meet the needs of our hurting world. The church is called to get involved itself and to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

So the question before us is the same one God asked Jonah at the end of chapter 4. Is it good for you to be angry?

Picture is taken from dailycallerdotcom

World Vision, The Movie Noah, And Mercy

One of the aspects of our current Christian culture that saddens me is the judgmental, critical manner in which we treat one another. Think of all the buzz that was created on social media about the movie Noah and World Vision. It would seem that we love to sit around, evaluate what our brothers and sisters are doing, and then spend an inordinate amount of time nit-picking what they did and did not do correctly.

Sounds familiar…

Lord of the SabbathAt the time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

Couple observations…

  • Jesus and his disciples were not breaking the laws of God, they were breaking the man made traditions that the Scribes made up to protect the law.
  • Didn’t the Pharisees have something a bit more redemptive to do with their time? Critiquing the behavior of others? Criticizing the disciples for…eating? Broken and hurting people all around them and this is what they are obsessed with? Deep sigh…

Jesus is very clear with the Pharisees that their focus is dead wrong. He says in verse 7, “And if you had known what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Jesus is quoting from Hosea 6 and is strongly rebuking the Pharisees for focusing on the rules of religion while at the same time failing to be a people of mercy.

I would like suggest a few points of application…

  • Make an effort to be more careful on social media about throwing others under the proverbial bus. Is it really the best use of our time? What would it look like instead to walk in the ways of Love?
  • Turn the TV/laptop off and put the phone down. Spend some time getting to know your neighbors. Ask questions, listen, talk and just enjoy the company of the amazing people all around you.
  • The only way we will ever change from critiquing/criticizing to being a people of mercy is by slowing down and spending time with the Lord of the Sabbath. We will never have the heart of Jesus if we have no margin in our life to unplug and spend time in his presence.

 

Politics and Misplaced Hope

There were a few Jews in the 1st century who were waiting for a Messiah to deliver them from their sins (Matthew 1:21); but the vast majority were longing for a Messiah to come in political power and to end Roman domination.

That is why when Jesus was incarnated as a homeless baby so many Jews failed to grasp that the kingdom of God had arrived. Come on, how could this guy lead an organized rebellion against the forces of Rome?

politics.jpgI’m thinking we are not much different today from the majority of Jews in the 1st century. I listen to so many of my brothers and sisters who are outraged by what is going on in our world and shake their fist at D.C. It would seem, just like in the days of Jesus, Christians today are expecting the kingdom of God to advance through political means. As I reflect on all this anger it leaves me with this simple thought, many Christians today have misplaced their hope.

I firmly believe that Christians should be engaged in every arena of life, including politics. But the hope of the nations is the same today as it was in the 1st century, Jesus Christ. Lest we forget, we the church are the body of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).

So maybe all this angry rhetoric and hand-wringing we do about politics is a big, colossal waste of time. Perhaps it reveals something even more insidious, we don’t truly understand the gospel.

“If you are devastated or irate over the outcome of a presidential election, relax. Things will be okay. We only need, and already have, one Messiah. And he did not lose this election. If you are ecstatic about an election outcome, relax. Take inventory. We only need, and already have, one Messiah. And he did not win this election.” -Scott Sauls

In the gospel we see Jesus humble himself through the incarnation, live as a blue-collar worker, become a friend of sinners, extend grace and mercy, enter into the brokenness of society to bring healing. How do we look at the life of Jesus then come to the conclusion that we should spend our time fighting a culture war? If we truly understood the gospel we would spend less time blaming Washington and more time walking in the ways of Jesus.

Above pic taken from DNews