Monday, February 29, 2016

Missional Politics: That's what He DIDN'T say

A few things neither God nor Jesus said:

How, then, can they vote for the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring political campaign points!”

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make partisans of all nations, registering them in the name of the right party and the right platform and the right opinions and teaching them to stick to the party line. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:
     Who should I send? Who will go for Us?
Isaiah said:
     Here I am. But I'm too busy arguing with my co-worker about gun control.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority with whom you agree: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are empowered by their politically correct followers to punish those who do wrong (according to them) and to commend those who do right (as they see it). For it is God’s will that by speaking the truth bluntly and with hilarious memes you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

Then He said to His disciples, "The candidates are plentiful, but the campaign workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the election to send out workers into His target audience."
Live such politically active lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of holding to wrong opinions, they may see your right-ness and glorify your grasp of truth on the social media. For it is God’s will that by being right you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for political correctness; live as God’s spin masters.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Now in Print: 140 Character

It’s not about getting noticed for what you tweet with your 140 characters. It’s about the godly character you express in the tweet.

David was a thought leader a millennium before the time of Christ. His 140th Psalm still speaks powerfully about how the people of God should conduct themselves online in the 21st century.

Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers; protect me from the violent, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips. Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet. The arrogant have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path (Psalm 140:1-5). 

Eugene Petersen’s The Message makes those same verses sound like David was talking specifically about the social media environment:
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt, speak venomous words that maim and kill. . . . Stuffed with self-importance, they plot ways to trip me up, determined to bring me down.
Read the rest at

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Missional Politics: Those people REALLY need Jesus

October 30, 2008,  over 35,000 people lined up to see and hear presidential candidate Barack Obama on campus of the University of Missouri. :
Lines formed early in the day for the nighttime rally, and security crews began ushering people through gates and metal detectors a little after 7 p.m. By the time Obama began speaking the crowd had nearly filled the area, and the security had relaxed. Hundreds of late-comers simply walked onto the quad and found a spot. (Columbia Missourian, 10/31/08)
By the time the gates were opened at 7:00, the waiting line had snaked back and forth through the campus streets and down the sidewalks bordering College Avenue, one of the main city streets.

The Mizzou Christian Campus House sits on College Avenue, and just before 7:00 I was standing on the front lawn with some students who were residents of the CCH houses.

After several minutes of silent watching, I pointed out there was a large captive audience standing in the queue just across the street.

One of the guys with me was part of the CCH worship team. He said, "If we had known, we could have set up and played worship music for them."

"Or," I said, "we could have organized students to take lemonade to the people and used the opportunity to begin discussions with a captive audience about Jesus."

"That would be great," one of the guys responded. "Those people really need it." There was some head nodding in response to that.

"Why do you say that?" I asked. "Why do you assume a crowd of people waiting to see a Democratic candidate are is some way really in need of hearing about Jesus, more than any other crowd?"

They looked at me, a little puzzled.

"If that were a crowd of Republicans," I asked, "would you assume they don't need to hear about Jesus?"

"Well," the young man responded, nervously, "odds are... you know..."

"No, I don't know," I said. "I think it's kind of presumptuous to assume anyone who might support Barack Obama - or is even just curious about Barack Obama - must not be a Christian. I'm certainly curious. I just don't see the point in standing in line in order be in a crowd of thousands hearing him say the same things he says in every speech."

"I also think," I added, "that any such assumption would put us in danger of putting our politics ahead of our mission. If we were to do that, then we would be the ones who really need to learn more about Jesus."

Little did I know that those students were simply expressing a sentiment that would become distressingly dominant among many Christians.

Looking back on the experience, I'm led to conclude that we, the church, are the ones who need to be taught over and over again about Jesus and the mission He gave us.

Friday, February 19, 2016

That's What HE Said: Little Faith

"For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
          - Donald Trump, February 18, 2016

 "If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?"
           - Jesus, Matthew 6:30 
“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
           - Jesus, Matthew 8:26 
“You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?"
          - Jesus, Matthew 16:18

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Missional Politics: Laughing at Kings

Psalm 1: Like a tree planted by the water...
Why do so many Christians get so worked up about the results of elections?
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,  “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”   
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. (Psalm 2:1-4)
If God thinks so little of them, why do we get so worked up about them?
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ (Luke 4:5-8)
Notice, Jesus doesn't dispute Satan's claim to having been given all the authority of nations and the rulers of nations.

It's an interesting claim, especially considering the logical next question: If that authority has been given to Satan, who gave it to him? There's really only one logical answer to that question.

God thinks so little of the power of nations and rulers, he's delegated that insignificant part of the world to Satan.

Let Satan have the politics. God and His people have the gospel.

Looked at that way, Jesus' reply to Satan could be read as having a double meaning.

  • No, Satan, I won't worship you. As the Son, I will only worship the Lord my God and serve him only."
  • Anyone who worships the Lord and serves him should be careful to not elevate concerns about the nations and rulers and all their authority (i.e., politics) above concerns about glorifying God and sharing the gospel.
Go ahead, have and share political opinions. Every Christian is free to be involved in politics and government. Every Christian is free to hold opinions (although nowhere in the Bible are we told we have to have an opinion on every topic, nor are we ever commanded to share what we think about every topic).

But keep such things in perspective. God has given the kingdoms and the kingdom authorities over to Satan. Followers of Jesus should make the same choice He did: worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Now in Print: What's In It For Me?

Eric and David, part of the Free Feast grilling crew, both said they volunteer for service to set an example for their kids.

“They see what I do and why I do it,” said Dave. “And they grow up wanting to do the same.”

“It helps me be a better husband and father,” said Nate. “It helps model to my family the example Jesus himself set, in that he came to serve, not to be served. When there are opportunities for us to serve at church as a family, it’s even greater!”

“Any event or activity where you can participate as a family strengthens the entire family,” said Steve.

Lydia, a staff member at the Mizzou CCH, said she grew up in a home where involvement in ministry was the norm.

“My dad was involved in ministry to people, so there were always people in our home. That meant there were so many more people in my life, setting an example for who I was growing up to be.”

All because she had a father who knew the value of serving the Lord.

Read the rest at

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Missional Politics: In Season and Out

Whenever someone asks, "What's your favorite season?", my answer is always the same. It's not Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter.

My favorite season is baseball season. More specifically, my favorite season is the college baseball season. Go Mizzou.

A lot people love the political campaign season.

I wouldn't say I love it, not like some people do, but I do get drawn in by the presidential campaign season. I read and listen to coverage and commentary and analysis from a broad variety of sources, from NPR to Rush Limbaugh, from Politico to Patheos.

There is one season that draws me in more than either the political season or Mizzou baseball season.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior. (Titus 1:1-3)
Yes, it's gospel season. Which means, as Paul says, it's also preaching season.

When it's college baseball season, the ballplayers are at the ballpark, playing the game. And I'm there with the other fans, watching the games.

When it's political campaign season, the presidential hopefuls are on the road, in front of crowds, on the TV, making their pitch to be the next leader of the free world. And politics geeks are watching, reading, soaking it all in.

But when it's gospel season, there are no fans, there are no followers, there are no geeks. When it's gospel season, God's people are actively involved, living the gospel, sharing the gospel, preaching the gospel.

The thing is, it's always gospel season. As Paul said to Titus, now is the time, now is the appointed season for his people to tell the world about the gospel.

Even during baseball season, when I'm cheering on the Tigers in Taylor Stadium, my job is to be on mission, focused more on winning my fellow fans to Jesus than on winning the game.

Even during political season, when I'm having a spirited conversation with my co-worker or some stranger on Twitter, my number one job is to on mission, focused more on winning people to Jesus than on winning the political argument.

Keeping your focus on the gospel when the political action is getting hot is not easy. Just as my zeal for the baseball experience has sometimes caused me to forget I'm there to be an ambassador for Christ, many people lose their firm foundation when they get too wrapped up in politics. As I said in my article in the current issue of Christian Standard, "When someone asks you the reasons for your political stance, do you remember to mention your faith and the name of the One who motivates everything you do? Or would a missional approach conflict with the tone and tenor of your vehement response?"
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. 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (II Timothy 4:1-5)
During the political season, remember to preach the Word. People will not want to hear sound doctrine. They'll prefer to hear sermons and conversations that satisfy their political desires and play to their political fears. They will turn aside to the myth that the outcome of the next presidential election is the most important event of this season, even though the scriptures are clear about who is in control of every season and every nation.
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. (Daniel 2:21)
Keep your head straight, rooted in the kind of wisdom and discernment only God can provide. And keep your focus on doing the work of spreading the good news whenever it is gospel season.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Missional Politics: Fake it to Make it

Over the past twelve years of being involved in a ministry in a women's state prison, I've encountered many different types of seekers.

There are the ladies who went to Sunday School, VBS, or church camp as a kid. Now, when they've hit bottom, they're genuinely struggling to nurture those seeds of faith planted in their hearts years ago. It's a joy to take that childlike faith and help them mold into a faith capable of sustaining them through the hard times ahead.

There are others who were going to church all along, perhaps even involved in the ladies circle or teaching Sunday School themselves. But there was something else going on in their lives, a dangerous walk on the wild side. They found themselves hitting bottom with a hard thud, in prison. These women often go through an initial period of feeling so much shame, they hesitate to show their face in the chapel. With some time and dedicated nurturing of their faith, they often become leaders among the Christians in prison. They have a fairly decent knowledge of the Bible, combined with a hard-won knowledge of the rougher side of life. The combination gives them the tools to be mentors and friends and counselors to the other kind of seekers.

And then there are the ones who, to use the prison lingo, "Fake it to Make it". They've discovered attending chapel can earn them brownie points or offer an opportunity to get out of their rooms and hang out with friends on the back row.

They learn very quickly, often from others like them, how to say the right things, use the right language, and tell a heart-rending testimony - well enough to earn the favor of the religious volunteers, many of whom come from middle class churches and have had little interaction with people on the rough side of life.

After a volunteer has been working in the prison chapel awhile you learn to pick up on the clues to a fake spirituality. They claim to have been active in a church back home, but their knowledge of basic church culture is sorely lacking. They can quote a few verses, presenting them as "what I found in my studies this week", but their knowledge of how to actually use the Bible is not only deficient (which is also true of many true seekers), but fake. The things they say are superficial and rehearsed, not a reflection of their hearts.

Every prison staffer and volunteer and chaplain learns to be wary of such fakers. They want something from you, something that will benefit themselves. But they don't really want to know the One True God. If you trust them, give them an inch, you're setting yourself up for the con.

Don't misunderstand me. Genuine seekers in prison often are awkward as they learn to read the Bible and pray and talk about faith. It's easy, though, to spot the difference between a genuine desire to learn versus an act put on for the benefit of people watching.

For a long time we had one lady who would show up in the chapel every three or four months and ask to sing a special or give her testimony. If we turned her down, she put on a show of being insulted and then would disappear for another few months. She only wanted to show off her put-on religion for the sake of others.

These fake-it-to-make-it religious people are like the one red-leafed tree in the picture above. Every Autumn that tree turns before any of the other trees. It looks stunningly beautiful against the green backdrop.

The truth is, that tree turns early because it's dying. Its roots are unhealthy. It will soon look like the dead tree next to it. Unlike the precious seedlings and saplings that are doing their best to grow tall and strong, this tree is putting on a grand show, but there's only a cold and false heart at the center.

I've watched it play out year after year in the fall foliage outside my office windows.  I've also learned to see the signs in the "fake it to make it" prisoners.

I pray that Christians will be discerning enough to recognize "fake it to make it" religion when it comes from the mouths of presidential candidates. By their fruit will you know them.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Now in Print: Theology in the Public Square

A once great nation is in the throes of transition from a democratic republic to a de facto dictatorship. A neophyte has been given the reigns of power, to which some critics maintain he has no birthright. The gap between the super rich and the middle class is widening.

People from other countries covet the benefits of citizenship, yet the nation’s reputation among the rest of the world is declining.

Christians find themselves increasingly at odds with the policies and morals of the nation. They’re seen as dangerous dissenters by those in charge and are increasingly marginalized and persecuted for their beliefs.

No, the neophyte leader’s name is not Obama and the nation is not America.

I’m describing the Roman Empire during the reign of Nero. This was the world in which Christians were living when Peter wrote his first epistle to the saints in Rome. Many will see parallels between their situation and ours.

Christian Standard, February 2016: Theology in the Public Square, by TR Robertosn