Category Archives: Uncategorized

Isolation or investment?

My greatest fear about this Coronavirus is not catching it.  Nor is it a crashed economy, losing my retirement savings or government over-reach.  I suppose any of those things could happen with powerful consequences.  But my greatest fear is that at the end of this extraordinary time of disruption I will not have experienced the full transformation God is trying to work in me.

Just as the prodigal son was changed by his social isolation among the pigs, I believe God wants to change us during these difficult days: challenging our assumptions, exposing our passivity, and supercharging our impact upon the world.  In the distant land the wayward son awakened to his sorry condition, remembered his father’s kindness, and realized that he was squandering his life in a dead-end routine among pigs. 

We were born to change the world; every one of us, or perhaps more precisely to make a Kingdom difference in the little portion of the world around us.  C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Enemy occupied territory, that is what this world is.  Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed… and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”   (Or… if you prefer Kanye West, “We were born into a broken world, and we are the cleanup crew.”)

The question I keep returning to day-after-isolating-day is, “What am I doing at this moment to make a difference in the world?”  These exceptional times are not for treading water or entertaining ourselves until the coffeeshops, churches and restaurants open again.  These long hours are God’s gift to us; a “time out” to consider our ways, our purpose, and the imprint we could be leaving upon the world. 

It pains me to think I’ve had a slow start in coming fully on board, but I’m engaging this morning in what may be the latter days of our confinement, hoping I’ve not squandered too much precious time.    

Updating this blog is one response I’m making this morning.  What are some of the actions God is calling you to?  

Worldview and the Coronavirus

Worldviews inevitably go astray when they depart from the middle way of truth: Materialists are half correct when they say the world is material. But it is more! Spiritualists are half correct when they say the world is spiritual. But it is not only spiritual. The world is a glorious mix of both spiritual and material. That is the truth and the natural order of creation.

As we followers of Jesus approach the coronavirus we stand in need of recognizing the middle way. Already I am hearing some friends say reckless things like, “I’m not concerned. God will protect me.” God does protect us. But that is only half of the truth. The other half is that God has given us an understanding of how viruses are spread, and we need to honor the natural component of the sickness as well.

One friend mentioned that it’s not “unbelief” to wash up, avoid crowds, and take precautions any more than it’s “unbelief” for a Christian surgeon to scrub-up and wear a mask for surgery. No one wants to be operated on by a surgeon who simply “trusts in the Lord” to keep infection away.

A Biblical worldview honors both the spiritual and the natural. Foolishness sees only one end of the equation. The Old Testament is full of laws about social distancing from lepers, avoiding unclean foods, and practicing proper sanitation. These are legitimate injunctions regarding the natural world. But at the same time, we are admonished to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. That is the spiritual end, and both sides are important. As we plot our way through the challenge of coronavirus I encourage you to keep social distance inasmuch as you are able and to practice good hygiene. But I also encourage you to trust in God. Do not be afraid! God’s Word is full of promises about these sorts of situations.

As you distance yourself and take wise precautions capitalize on the time to memorize Psalm 91, and the many other promises God has given to us. And don’t fall into the foolishness of half-truths! We are in this situation with God at our side.

Perfect Harmony

Back in 1971, the New Seekers recorded a commercial jingle for Coca Cola, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony. It became one of the most influential TV ads in history, and an expanded version, (dropping the Coke references), rose to the top of popular charts all over the world.  The tune was lilting, but it was the lyrics that captured the imagination of the young.

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms, and keep it company.
I’d like to see the world for once, all standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land.

The song tapped into the heart of a troubled world and a generation at war with itself, giving voice to hopes and dreams programmed into our primordial DNA by the Creator Himself.  Without doubt, the entire human race is longing for a world in tune with itself; a world of perfect harmony. 

But perfect harmony doesn’t just happen; It takes the long, skillful work of composers, arrangers, conductors, musicians and instrument tuners.  And it’s the same in the Kingdom. Jesus gives us the master pitch, and brings us into tune with Himself: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus our Lord has done for us.”   (Romans 5;1) But that’s only the beginning, the tune-up note for the symphonic beauty which follows: “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all men.” 

As we step into 2020 we find ourselves in a discordant world of political bickering, divisive opinion, finger-pointing, and contempt. I pray that each of us would refocus our lives on the Prince of Peace, the Master of perfect harmony; learning his ways of honor, love, and respect. Disagreements are inevitable; ugliness is optional. May our discipleship lead us into that world we’re all dreaming of.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God.”
Matthew 5:9

The compelling power of beauty

In my last post I wrote about the imperative of restoring beauty to the Christian Gospel. Common people flocked to hear Jesus not only because his words were beautiful: “Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, go the second mile;” but even more so because his life was beautiful. God himself had stepped into human flesh and was living among us as a lover of outcasts, a healer of broken people, and a perfect reflection of His heavenly Father.

It’s impossible to read the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman taken in adultery without feeling the awesome beauty of this sinful woman finding forgiveness before she even asked. That was Jesus – the Word become flesh. But the incarnation continues in his disciples, the word is still becoming flesh in us, or at least it ought to be. The true follower of Jesus will always be looking more like his master.

Has Jesus called us to change the world through politics? No! Has he commanded us to go into all nations pointing out sin? No! Has he commissioned us to argue the world into faith on Internet discussion boards? No! But this is our call: “…as He is, so also are we in this world.” (John 4:17) Our call is to be like Him; to be beautiful like Him.

“You are the light of the world! A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. So let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16). In a world as dark as ours, a beautiful shining city will draw multitudes into its gates.

A personal update

It occurs to me that some of my friends and readers may wonder from time to time what I’ve been up to.  Teaching in YWAM, (Youth With a Mission), is a joy that offers a nearly endless stream of new settings and delightful young students who are eager to change the world.   Making disciples is my call, and the Kingdom of God is my message.

Most recently I’ve been in Herrnhut Germany, Tyler Texas, and Hisar Bulgaria where I facilitated training for our national staff workers and then spoke at a conference organized by YWAM.   We had Bulgarians, Romanians, Greeks, Norwegians, Swiss, Roma, and American missionaries, pastors and professionals in attendance; passionate servants who are embedded in the culture, loving, praying, training, and making disciples.  As I stood before that small conference crowd I had the distinct feeling that this Kingdom message would be like a mustard seed that would grow and spread change across the entire nation of Bulgaria.

Whenever I can, I take friends and former students along with me on these travels for the fellowship, the discipleship, and the intention of training them to carry the Kingdom message to places I’ll never see.   Their company is always a special treat.

But teaching is just a part of my schedule.  People around home,  (Maryland), have always known me as a musician, and in the past few months God has been opening many doors to bring musical programs, worship times, and gospel encouragement to a number of churches and nursing homes in the area around home.

With my own Mother in a care facility, I recognize the power of music to connect people with Jesus and to encourage their hearts.  Last weekend I led worship for a ladies retreat in South Carolina on Saturday, for my home church on Sunday, and then did a musical/inspirational program for a local retirement community on Sunday afternoon.  These musical programs offer a chance for me to put into practice the insights God is teaching me about beauty, and it’s honored place in the Kingdom.

Tonight I’m writing from Lebanon, PA, where I’m teaching in a small Discipleship Training School.  Next week I’ll be with YWAM Charlotte doing the same.  And between now and the first of the year my schedule will take me to New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Hawaii, and West Virginia.  It’s a very busy season, but I feel so blessed to have a small part in this Kingdom story God is writing among the nations.

You have a part of it too, and it’s almost certainly more important than what you think it is.

God’s total answer for man’s total need

This morning as I prayed, “Lord… reveal your Kingdom for the world to see”, the Holy Spirit said, You reveal it”.  Clearly He is getting serious with me about my shameful neglect of this blog.

It’s August already, and here in America national elections are just three months away.  The media is sponsoring a devil’s buffet of campaign promises, accusations, propaganda and bias, and if you’re like me you just want some clarity about the reality behind the hype.  Don’t expect it from the world.  This is a time when believers need to pray for discernment and ask the Father to reveal the underlying reality behind the devil’s smoke and mirror show.

And it’s time to dig our heals into the message of the Kingdom.  Politics will never solve the world’s problems.*  Never.  This tired earth wasn’t designed to be administered by political power structures, but by a Servant King ruling in the hearts of His people.  (Matthew 20:25-26).  We do well to remember that in the words of E. Stanley Jones, “The Kingdom is God’s total answer to man’s total need”.

  • Is the problem lawlessness?  The Kingdom is the answer.
  • Is the problem poverty and unemployment?  The Kingdom is the answer.
  • Is the problem guilt, despair, mental illness, broken families, drug abuse, tyranny, or indolence?  The Kingdom is the answer.

If America is ever lost, the blame will rest firmly at the door of a church that has preached nearly everything except a clear message of the Kingdom.   These are the days of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), and it is up to God’s people to go public with the news: “God has a plan!  He is with us to redeem and to make all things new!  There is a better hope than the failed politics of the past”.   The Kingdom is the only hope big enough to sort out the mess we find ourselves in.

 

* It goes without saying that Kingdom people will be involved in the political process, even though our hope does not rest there.   To have a voice, and to make it known is a gift from God. 

 

Auschwitz

Today we visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps and saw first hand the final solution of Hitler’s Nazi Experiment.   Well over a million men, women and children were exterminated in the gas chambers of these two camps.   One room contained two tons of human hair that was being processed into fabric for lining winter coats.  Another room contained over 20,000 shoes of all shapes and sizes.  Both were just a tiny fraction of what was collected from the corpses.   We stood in the gas chamber, looked into the furnaces and peered into the ash pits where countless human beings – created in the image of God – were snuffed out and erased from human history.  I have neither the words nor the emotional equipment to categorize my experience here.

Tonight we stay in Krakow.  Prior to the final solution Poland had a Jewish population of over three million.  Today there are fewer than a thousand.   May God have mercy on us.

“We know that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day’s work at Auschwitz in the morning.” -George Steiner

Generation K

They’ve been called “Busters”, “Boomlets”, “Gen Xers”, and “Mosaics”, but I’ve officially dubbed this amazing demographic of young people “Generation K,” the “Kingdom Generation.”  The generation who introduced us to Attention Deficit Disorder hasn’t the ability toignore their unsatisfied heart-longings.

My Generation missed it.  We faithfully sowed a half-gospel of forgiveness and reaped a church prepared for heaven but hopelessly detached from the rest of life.  Forgiveness without the kingdom left behind a heritage of decaying inner cities, broken families, staggering debt, bulging prisons, and broken communities.

These “Gen K” students will no longer settle for a half gospel.  It requires both the cross and the kingdom to answer the longings in our hearts as well as the staggering challenges of our culture.  One young Scandinavian student came up after class and said “I want to thank you for showing me that European Socialism is not the answer.  The real answer is the Kingdom of God.”  When Generation K turns its Attention Deficit eyes upon Jesus and sets it’s hope on the Kingdom there’s no telling what beauty and hope might lie ahead.

We are the problem

The election fray has a great capacity to deaden our souls.  Yesterday I took deliberate time to pray for America and the American church because I believe we – the church – need to take responsibility for the alarming drift of our nation.

First off we need to repent of the silly idea that politics and elections can cure the cancer of our culture.  America’s disease is a spiritual malignancy, and not a political one.   And to go on believing the disease can be cured by politics is not only foolish and idolatrous, but it is diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of God.

If we honestly want to make an apologetic towards the Marxist / Socialist agenda knocking at our door, then its time we believers repented of our own love affair with comfort and ease and began living a truly Christian lifestyle of moderation, justice and compassionate involvement.

  • It’s time we stopped seeing the enemy’s face in our Liberals friends, and began looking in the mirror at our own failings.  America’s rot began when we abandoned the gospel of the Kingdom for the gospel of Heaven; when we turned away from good news for the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed to the the Trojan horse of the Rapture.  (Yes… I do believe Jesus is coming back.  And I look forward to it with great anticipation.  I just believe He clearly intended us to focus on the Kingdom until his return just happens in His own good time).
  • It’s time we said “Enough of the American dream!  Enough comfort and ease and three-car garages and TVs in every room.  Enough extravagant church-buildings and self-entertainment.”
  • It’s time we repented of consumerism and extricated ourselves from an ungodly economy rooted in greed, covetousness, eternal growth, and the love of money.  The system that told us on 9-12 that “we must keep shopping” is deadly to the human soul, and we simply can’t live that way anymore lest God fulfills his own oath to us:  (“Woe to you rich…”  Luke 6:24)
  • It’s time we learned to practice Biblical self-government with its generous, sacrificial love, and stopped pushing our civil servants to solve problems of poverty and immorality.  These problems are owned by the church.
  • It’s time we – the church – surrendered our self-appointed role of judging the masses and began walking in our God-given prophetic role of pointing to a glorious Kingdom of compassion, justice, mercy and grace.
  • It’s time we willingly shared our food with the hungry, our homes with the homeless, and a generous half of our wardrobes with the the world’s naked.  To continue in our ease while one billion of our worldwide neighbors have no clean water to drink is to forfeit our right to complain about the Marxists who at least have a plan to help.

I’ll be voting Republican on Tuesday primarily as a vote against the Marxist ideology of Barack Obama.  (I don’t say that lightly.  I’ve done the research).  But I don’t condemn Barack Obama.  He’s the product of a society and a church that is stump-dumb when it comes to understanding the Kingdom of God.  Unfortunately I don’t believe there’s any real hope in John McCain either.   The answers simply are not found in the political arena.  They’re found in the stunning good news of the Kingdom of God as revealed in the scriptures.

My friends, WE are the problem with America.  I am the problem with America.  Until we become the light of the world and the kingdom emerges in the practical ways of justice, simplicity and compassionate living,  the questions of Marxism and Socialism will NEVER go away.

Off on a mission

Tomorrow after church a group of five of us are heading up the road to DC for a four day prayer outreach.  The guys, (high school students, Zak, Josh, and Kyle), along with Avie and I have been preparing for the past two months for this mission.  We’ve been asking the Lord about scriptures and prayer targets, and our intention is to pray at the Capital, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, the Holocaust Museum, and National Cathedral.  It’s all very exciting.  I’m stoked about sharing this experience with these young spiritual warriors.  Stay tuned!