7 Questions Christians Should Ask Themselves Before Posting About Politics On Social Media

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Recent political events in our country have caused American Christians to become more politically vocal than ever before. The primary avenue for this vocalization has been through social media, as I’m sure you have noticed. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter have become our primary voices – our primary way of communicating with one another – for better and for worse. As I watch approximately 98% of my Facebook friends (A rough, unscientific estimation) post, rant, complain about the political goings on of our nation, some questions came to mind. Here are just a few questions I think Christians should ask themselves before posting about politics (especially controversial issues) on social media:

1. Will this bring about unity or disunity in the body of Christ?

Every single person is entitled to their political beliefs. But when we become Christians, we submit our own preferences and ideas to Christ and we become part of a group of believers called the church. Individualism has no place in Christianity – which is communal in nature and practice. Because this is true, we should consider whether or not our bold statements on social media about politics will unify or divide us from our brothers and sisters in the seats next to us on Sunday morning. You may have a very strong stance on something like immigration – but if a brother in Christ sitting next to you in church is an immigrant – your vocalization of political views may cause disunity. Before you post political things on social media – ask yourself whether or not it will harm your relationship with anyone in your church. Church unity and healthy church relationships should be more important to you than your political preferences.

2. Do I view politics & government as savior and king, or Jesus?

I wrote something on this not too far back called “Well, Here We Are”. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican party, candidate, or platform belong to God. They are human political constructs – not saviors. Though Christians have the freedom and the right to partake in the political discussions in our nation and should be vocal about many things, it is downright wrong and incredibly dangerous to view either party or any political leader as God’s chosen agent in this world. Jesus alone is Savior and King and the church alone is God’s chosen embassy of hope. Before you post your political manifesto on Facebook, examine your heart and determine whom you truly honor as savior and king.

3. Will this help or harm my Christian witness to the world?

You may be right about your political beliefs. In fact, I’m sure you are! But even if you are, there are more important things than being right. I can hear my wife snickering as she reads this – but it is true. Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 8 in a discussion about eating food sacrificed to idols. His point is this: that your relationship with other believers and your witness to unbelievers is more important than being right about something. Sometimes believers are called to tone things down, even if they are technically right about something, in order to maintain healthy relationship with other believers and a strong witness to the non-Christian world. Certainly we should not sacrifice truth for the sake of being “seeker friendly”, but, I hate break it to you, your political preferences most likely do not classify as truth. So ask yourself before you hit “Post” whether or not your post will help or harm your representation of Jesus and his church to the world.

4. Are my political beliefs really as Biblical as I think they are?

Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. You may be totally convinced that they are. But guess what, odds are that there are other Christians who disagree with you and would also use the Bible as their reasoning. Because we don’t have a government built on Scripture, this will always be a reality. It is easy to climb up on our high horse and view ourselves and our political beliefs as more godly, more biblical, or more righteous than the people who disagree with us. If you haven’t, you should closely examine what God’s word really says (or doesn’t say) about something before mounting that horse.

5. Have I really listened to the other side?

I’m not talking about the kind of “listening” that means being quiet just long enough until there is an opening to tell the speaker that they’re wrong. I’m talking about really listening to the heart and beliefs of another person and giving them the utmost respect and kindness – even if they treat you like you are inferior, stupid, or ignorant. Sit quietly and patiently and listen to the thoughts, beliefs, and reasoning of someone who disagrees with you- whether Christian or non-Christian. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to be respectful and I would say that as a Christian, you are even required to pursue healthy relationship with that person regardless of political beliefs.

6. Do I care more about politics than Jesus and his mission?

Like I said a few months ago in a post called “The 2016 Presidential Election and Misplaced Passion”, Christians are certainly entitled to their beliefs and their political preferences just like anyone else. But should American politics be the thing we are most vocal and most passionate about? Definitely not. If our love and passion for politics is greater than our love for Jesus and our passion for his mission then we have a serious heart problem. Most of us are quick to share our political beliefs, but silent about who Jesus really is. We are eager to talk about government, but not about our church. Maybe you should delete the long political rant you are about to post on social media and post something about who God is or what the Bible says or invite someone to church instead.

7. Would Jesus be pleased with my engagement in the political discussion?

This sort of an overarching summary question, but it is worth asking all the same. “Would Jesus be pleased with my…” is a good question to ask about anything in our lives. Would Jesus be pleased with your heart? Your words? The way you treat those who disagree with you? The way you represent Him to the world? There is a healthy way and an unhealthy way for Christians to engage in political dialogue. The healthy way is one that God would be pleased with based on what he has spoken through the Bible. Examine your heart ask yourself if Jesus would be pleased with your engagement in the dialogue of American politics.

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What do you think? How should Christians engage in the political discussion? What would you add to or remove from this list?

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26 Reflections on 2016

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In my own personal walk with God, I have found little more helpful than journaling and writing down some of my prayers. Doing this allows me to openly and honestly express my thoughts and my prayers and direct them toward God, but it also allows me to look back at them in the future. For the past several years, I have read back through my entire year of journaling and written prayers at the end of each calendar year and compiled some of the highlights of what God taught me and revealed to me throughout the year. As believers, we are called to remember our past and what God has done for us and give praise to Him for it. Some of the things that I agonized over in early 2016, had completely left my mind by September. Prayers from January were answered slowly but surely throughout the year – but I was only able to see that in retrospect. Here are just a few of my reflections on what God did for me and taught me in 2016:

  1. Never underestimate the value of getting away for a few days in order to spend time with friends/family & focusing on spiritual matters.
  2. In the race of the Christian life, some people are just trying to finish – but we should all be trying to win. In other words, we should be training ourselves, disciplining ourselves, and striving for holy, obedient living every minute of every day. No one stumbles into a life pleasing to God.
  3. When we return to sinful living after being saved, we are like pigs returning to the mire. In doing so, we re-crucify Christ, spurn his sacrifice, and forfeit the sacrifice for our sins. God takes sin seriously and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that.
  4. When it comes to making major decisions, God will always provide a path forward. It may not be clear and we may not be confident, but God always takes us the way he wants us to go.
  5. Practice and make it a habit to try to turn every conversation with a stranger into one that discusses God, church, or spiritual things.
  6. Sometimes remaining faithfully where God has you is harder than moving on.
  7. We must lay down relationships (even with friends and family) that are harmful to our walk with God. It isn’t easy, it causes pain, but it is always worth it in the end.
  8. Never stop praying – sometimes it takes months, years, even decades for us to understand how God answered our prayers.
  9. Humble confession of inability and weakness is God’s launching point for progress and growth.
  10. Churches have life cycles. Not every church is meant to last.
  11. God cares infinitely more about the holiness and love of a church than its numbers and programs.
  12. When God calls you to something, scout out the landscape and have enough trust to obey and follow Him.
  13. Sometimes God makes us wait for his timing in order to strengthen us and build up our faith in Him. This is way more valuable than getting what we want when we want it.
  14. Every believer is called to use 100% of their money and resources for God and His mission. We don’t just give 10% to God and get to keep the rest and spend it however we want to. Whatever we give to the church is simply the money we relinquish control of to God’s church for ministry use. The rest is to be used by us for the same general purpose – building God’s kingdom and doing ministry. Find ways to use your home, your car, your TV, and everything else in  your house for ministry.
  15. It is important to take stock and evaluate every area of our lives and of our churches on a regular basis. Not just the weak spots, but the strong spots as well.
  16. There is no where we can go where God is not. Even the most remote corners of the earth are filled God’s presence.
  17. The world is vast and there are billions of lost people in our world that desperately need to encounter God. We must never cease praying for nations and people around the world and seeking to share the good news of Jesus with them.
  18. God is calling every single one of his children to something specific – to serve him in a unique way that only they can. Seek God, find his desire for you and how he has designed you and then obey his calling.
  19. You cannot possibly have a healthy relationship with God without regular prayer and scripture reading.
  20. As Christians, we have submitted ourselves wholly to Christ. He has authority over our lives. Obedience is therefore not an option for us. OBEY him, even if it is hard, scary, or illogical.
  21. Would your church be healthy if everyone prayed, read the Bible, and evangelized like you did?
  22. Gut up and stop making excuses – talk to people about God. Sometimes all we lack is courage.
  23. The amount of time we spend in prayer and Scripture reading directly correlates with how often and how clearly we hear from God.
  24. 5,000 thoughts on engagement, marriage, and the spiritual truths surrounding them. Here are a few of them.
  25. Stop. Breathe. Pray out loud.
  26. Fight the good fight. God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of boldness and courage. Stand firm and be a strong and mature ambassador for Christ.

I would strongly encourage you to reflect on your 2016 and remember what God has done for you. What are some of your key reflections from the past year?

No One Is Perfect

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No one is perfect. Except Jesus.

He lived the perfect, sinless life that Israel couldn’t live and that we cannot live. Throughout Israel’s history, they proved over and over again that they could not possibly live the holy and sinless lives that was required to be in healthy relationship with a holy God. So God provided his written Law and established a sacrificial system so that his people could do what was needed to have their sins forgiven when they transgressed. But the Law wasn’t enough. Even Following the law and even performing sacrifices wasn’t enough to permanently maintain a holy and healthy relationship with God.

Then, God sent his Son, Jesus. He sent him to deliver humanity from sin and evil so that we could finally have a path to a permanent relationship with God. In order for this to happen, Jesus had to live the perfect life so that he could die the perfect death as the ultimate sacrifice – not just to cover sins, but to completely eliminate them.

And in order for Jesus to live the perfect life and take our place on the cross, he had to face the temptations that humanity faces and he had to resist them. We see this happen in Matthew 4:1-11.

It is worth noting that this account of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness occurs immediately after his baptism where the Spirit descends on him and God the Father proclaims Jesus to be his Son. Immediately, that same Spirit guides Jesus into the wilderness in order to be tempted. Jesus had to be tempted like we are so that he could succeed where we fail.

In the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus “in every way” (Luke 4:13) – but three major temptations are recorded in the gospels. In order to understand how significant and how beautiful Matthew 4:1-11 really is, we must observe the parallels between Israel’s history and Jesus’ life. This table highlights just a few of these parallels:

Events in Jesus’ life in Matthew Israel’s History
Slaughter of newborn boys (2:16-18) Slaughter of newborn boys (Exodus 1:22)
Time in Egypt (2:13-15) Egyptian captivity (Exodus 1-13)
Baptism (3:13-17) Crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14)
40 days in the wilderness (4:1) 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:34-35, Numbers 32:11-15, Joshua 5:6)
Temptations (4:3-11) Temptations (Exodus 17, Exodus 32, Numbers 11, Numbers 13, Numbers 14)

Through these parallels, we begin to understand that Jesus was in fact living the life that Israel was supposed to live – that we are supposed to live. He was obedient, trusting, and faithful where Israel was disobedient, rebellious, and unfaithful. Jesus’ life is about redeeming Israel’s disobedience – in essence, rewriting and redeeming Israel’s history on their behalf and in so doing, redeeming all of our histories.

Now, let’s look at the three temptations Jesus encountered. Satan temps Jesus with three of the things he would have wanted more than anything at this point in time. Sometimes we pass these off as things that were easy for Jesus to deny because he was God. But he was also human and these were very real temptations for Jesus.

1. Temptation #1 – Meet YOUR needs NOW

The reality of the temptation – Jesus hadn’t eaten for 40 days and he possessed the power to actually turn the stones into bread. This temptation was very real for Jesus – to utilize his power and authority to serve himself, rather than trust in God to provide it for him. Basically, Satan wanted Jesus to take for himself what he wanted, when he wanted it.

How Israel failed – They didn’t rely on God – they complained and craved the food they had in slavery, thinking it better (Numbers 14). The demanded bread to satisfy themselves right then. And even when God did provide food for them miraculously – they complained about it to the point of wishing God had never even saved them.

How we fail – We demand things of God like spoiled children – expecting God to give us what we want, when we want it and throwing a fit when we don’t. We seek to satisfy our own desires rather than deny ourselves and rely on God’s word to sustain us.

Jesus’ success – Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 and overcomes the temptation and relies fully on God and God’s word alone to meet his needs and provide for him. He has complete faith and trust in God to provide for him – not in himself. He chose to deny his own wants and trust in God’s provision.

2. Temptation #2 – Show the world who you really are

The reality of the temptation – “Prove to the world that you actually are God’s divine Son! Have him save you miraculously – that way everyone will know who you are – isn’t that what you want?” It would have been tempting for Jesus to do something drastic to prove the whole temple and nation that he really was God’s Son by doing what Satan said.

How Israel failed – In Exodus 17, the people demand provision in the desert from God. They basically say, “God, if you’re actually among us and you actually care about us, then give us what we want!” In verse 7 they say, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” In essence, they tested God and his love and provision for them by demanding he give them what they wanted.

How WE fail – We do the same thing. We put God to the test and demand he give us what we want to prove his love for us or make his presence known among us. We may not ever claim this to be true, but our lives tell a different story. When he doesn’t heal our sick loved ones or give us the job we want or provide for us how we want him to in some other way, we either stop or slow down our love for him. It isn’t real love if we throw a fit and stop loving him when he doesn’t give us what we want.

Jesus’ success – Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 and tells Satan that God is not to be tested – not even by the Son of God. If anyone had the right to do this, it was Jesus. But he does not test God by making demands to get what he wants for himself. To test God and demand proof of his power or love in our lives is sinful – and Jesus overcame that.

3. Temptation #3 – Skip the suffering, claim your throne NOW

The reality of the temptation – The Messiah’s reign over the kingdom was fact to the Jewish people. Satan is tempting Jesus to avoid the suffering, rejection, and the pain that he knew he would endure in order to more quickly receive his throne and authority. Jesus knew that the cross was waiting for him in Jerusalem. He even prayed in Gethsemane that this punishment might be taken away if at all possible.

How Israel failed – Israel worshipped false god after false god after false god. They perpetually worshipped these idols in an attempt to gain worldly wealth and authority. They thought they could worship God and receive his blessings while also reaping the worldly benefits of worshipping other gods as well.

How WE fail – We believe Satan’s lie – “You don’t have to suffer and be rejected”. We falsely believe that we can worship God and something else and avoid the suffering and rejection and pain that come from obeying God. We think we can be good Christians and love God while also loving other idols and serving them too.

Jesus’ success – Jesus’ responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13. It is God alone who is to be worshipped and served. Jesus remained true and faithful to God alone, despite the difficult path that lay ahead because of this (his suffering and death on a cross). In essence, Jesus says, “I will remain faithful to God alone no matter what I must endure.”

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In this passage we see that Jesus was able to do what Israel wasn’t, and what we aren’t able to. If we were in Jesus’ shoes, we wouldn’t even have made it past temptation #1 – most of us would turn stones into bread in 40 minutes – let alone 40 days. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness so that he could face and conquer these temptations (and every other kind) for our sake out of great love for us.

This account is just a glimpse into how Jesus lived the perfect life that we couldn’t live. His whole life on earth was about being the perfect man in our place so that he could die the perfect death in our place. Matthew’s account shows us that Jesus was perfect for us because we couldn’t be. His death, therefore, is enough to bring us life. He did it for us. He was perfect for us. He overcame temptation for us. He lived for us and he died for us. He beat sin and death for us. This season – Christmas, the coming of Jesus – reminds us that without him, we are nothing and we are not capable of doing what needs to be done in order to receive eternal life and enter into healthy relationship with God. Adam and Eve failed, Israel failed, and we fail – but Jesus succeeded.

Christmas: The Perfect Answer to the Question “Who is God?”

 

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Christmas is about God revealing himself to the world. In John 14:9, Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”. Jesus is God himself in the flesh being revealed to humanity.

Part of the reason Christians cling so closely to verses like, “We walk by faith, not by sight” is because we think we need to remind ourselves that we believe in and worship an unseen God – that we believe in and worship an invisible God. And to be fair – in many ways we do. We do not visibly see Jesus Christ walking down the street or hear his voice audibly in our lives every day. But we most certainly do not worship an abstract and impersonal God.

The word “Incarnation” is the fancy theological word for Christ’s birth and becoming human while remaining divine. In other words, Jesus Christ is literally God in the flesh. We use phrases today like, “Put some flesh and bones on it” to refer to the idea of making an abstract idea into something tangible. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see God “putting flesh and bones” on himself – to become tangible, real, and personal like never before. This is one of the major practical reasons that Christmas is so important – because Christmas is the time when we celebrate God’s revealing of himself to us.

Here are 5 key truths this morning about God’s revelation of himself through Jesus’ birth and what practical significance that has for our lives.

1. God wants to be known.  

The entire Bible is filled with hundreds of accounts and stories of God revealing himself to people and communicating with them. Many people wrongly believe that God is distant and inactive in the world or in our lives. They believe that he is real, maybe even that he created the world and set it in motion – but that he has been “hands off” ever since (Deism). This is false. Scripture teaches us that God is actively involved both in world affairs and in our personal lives. He is both transcendent and immanent. That is, he is above and beyond all that we can comprehend and imagine, and yet he has chosen to be active among us and communicate with us and seek relationship with us. God wants to be known. He wants humanity to know him and has proved himself willing to go to extreme lengths in order for that to happen.

2. Through Jesus, God reveals his identity

We know that God wants to be known because of the many ways that he revealed himself to his people throughout the Bible. God walked with Adam and Eve. He spoke to Noah. He called Abram to uproot his life and move to the place he had for him – and so on and so on throughout the Old Testament. He spoke through visions and dreams. He spoke to Judges and through prophets. He gave his written Law. He spoke in a still, small voice; and he spoke through thunder on Mt. Sinai. The Psalms declare that God can be known by the great things he has done in our lives and Romans even tells us that creation itself proclaims the identity of God to the world. And the list could go on for hours, but none of these, NONE of these – even if you added them all together, come even close to the fullness of God’s revealing his identity that exists in the person of Jesus Christ. God wants his identity to be known and Jesus’ is the ultimate proof of that.

3. Through Jesus, God reveals his character.

Throughout the Gospels, we see God’s character made vividly clear in the person of Jesus. The Old Testament gives us a taste of God’s character and heart – but Jesus is the perfect and complete picture of God’s character. Sometimes it can be difficult to read through books like Leviticus and Numbers that contain chapter upon chapter of laws. But even these laws, along with the entire rest of the Bible, give us a glimpse into the character and heart of God. But Jesus himself is the ultimate revealing of God’s character. In Jesus, we find the heart of God. We find him caring for people, loving people, rebuking the hypocritical religious people, healing the sick, setting the demon possessed free of spiritual oppression, letting children come to him, bringing people back from the dead, and much more. In each teaching of Jesus and in the life of Jesus; in every story and every parable; every healing and every exorcism; we see the character of God clearly made known. As we read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, we see the heart and character of God on display.

4. Through Jesus, God reveals his purpose.

There is perhaps no clearer description of Jesus own mission and purpose in this world than we find in Luke 4:16-21 – Jesus’ mission statement:

“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” 

Though many of the people of Jesus’ day thought his purpose was to set them free from Roman oppression, Jesus actually came to set them free from something far more powerful and far more oppressive – sin, evil, and death – an oppressor that only God could conquer and overcome. Jesus came to set humanity free from enslavement to sin once and for all. He didn’t do this just to do it. He didn’t set us free for freedom’s sake – he set us free so that we might be in relationship with him and know him and love him. In short, Jesus’ purpose in coming was to do what was necessary to set us free from sin so that we could enter into a loving relationship with him. In Jesus, God made his purpose known, not only for the world at large, but also in our individual lives. His overarching purpose was to set each person AND all of humanity free from enslavement to sin and to provide a way for his people to be in healthy and holy relationship with him. Through Jesus’ teaching and his death and resurrection, we have the perfect revelation of God’s purpose.

5. Through Jesus, God reveals his love.  

The love that Jesus exudes throughout the Gospels is the perfect display of love. Jesus himself said that the greatest and purest form of love is to lay down one’s own life for the sake of others (John 15:13). In Jesus life and especially in his death, God’s deep and unfathomable love was perfectly revealed as he laid down his life, not just for his friends, but for his enemies – those who hated him (Romans 5:8) – and for all of humanity. Even though we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that we could be made right with him – so that we could know him and commune with him forever. He was willing to endure the punishment we deserved and die the death we should have died, simply so that we could know and love him. His birth, his life, and his death are the perfect revelation of God’s love to humanity.

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Christmas is an important time for believers to reflect on these truths and their importance for their faith. Christmas reminds us in ways that few other things can, about the true identity, character, purpose, and love of God. Only in the person of Jesus can we see all these things in their full and complete form. During this Advent season, as we approach Christmas Day, there will be nothing more spiritually meaningful than to reflect on and grow in our understanding of who our God is and what he has done for us.

How to Avoid Missing Christmas

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Advent (noun) – The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

There have been years in my life where I wake up on December 26th and feel like I missed Christmas; like there was all kinds of build up to it and then suddenly it was gone; like there was a blur of seasonal lights, food, family time, decorations, and music – and before I knew it, it was January. I believe observing the season of advent can help eliminate the possibility of feeling this way on December 26th. Here are 4 simple reasons that I believe observing advent can help make every Christmas an incredibly rich and spiritually meaningful time for believers.

1. Advent helps combat loneliness, depression, materialism, and distractions.

Christmas should be one of the most joyful parts of a Christian’s life, but it isn’t always easy. For some, Christmas is clouded by sadness, darkness, burdens, and distractions. Reflecting on advent helps us combat the clouds of darkness and distractions that our culture and our bad experiences have created. Advent combats loneliness by reminding us that God became flesh so that he could be with us and us with him (John 1:14). Advent combats depression by reminding us that God humbled himself by coming to die for us because we have such immense value, and because of that, we can have hope (Ephesians 2:4-7). Advent combats consumerism and materialism by drawing us back to focus on what really matters, Christ and his love for his people (Hebrews 13:5). Advent combats busyness by calling us to rest and reflect on Christ’s coming and what it means for our lives. It calls us to pause, to slow down, and to remember what he has done and look forward to what he will do. There is no replacement for sitting at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42).

2. Advent deepens the significance of Christmas Day.

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of King Jesus helps give us a greater appreciation and love for Him when he actually arrives. Eager anticipation deepens the significance of what has been anticipated. In other words, longing for and waiting for something, and reflecting on the significance of that notable person, thing, or event, will make its arrival or manifestation infinitely more meaningful. As Christians, if we don’t spend an appropriate amount of time and energy waiting with excitement for the coming of Christ and reflecting on its significance for our lives, then Christmas will be just another day. If we are to truly grasp the significance of Jesus’ arrival among us, there must be a period of eager anticipation.

3. Advent reminds us that our entire lives are about waiting for Jesus to come.

 This eager anticipation is something that the prophets and the Old Testament faithful understood all too well. For hundreds of years, Israel longed for the coming of the Messiah, their deliverer. Just like the prophets longed for Christ’s first arrival, we the church now long for his second arrival. The church now is like Israel was – in exile, under oppression, longing for the return of our King, who will bring deliverance. Christmas is about reflecting on the past coming of Christ and anticipating the future coming of Christ. It reminds us that our entire lives are spent reflecting on the first coming of Jesus and preparing for the second. Our King will come again and our entire lives should be spent eagerly waiting for the day when we step into eternity with him.

4. Advent brings us back to the gospel.

Advent reminds us that there was only one way and there is only one way. It involved sacrifice, pain, suffering, and eventually death. Christmas, like all else in the Christian life, is a powerful reminder that there is only one way to salvation, hope, and eternal life – Jesus Christ, the Messiah – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Most people spend their whole lives looking for meaning and purpose in places that never provide those things. And most people, including many Christians, spend the whole Christmas season worshipping Christmas. But Christmas and advent are a means to an end. They are both completely and entirely about Christ and what he has done for his people. Advent reminds us of the truth of the gospel and helps us worship God more fully as we reflect on what the gospel means for us.

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If you have never observed advent before, I would encourage you to do so. Spend every day and every week leading up to Christmas reflecting on Jesus’ birth and what it means for believers. Don’t allow darkness or distractions to dominate your heart this Christmas. Choose the good portion, like Mary did in Luke 10, and put all the serving, distractions, and worry aside and simply sit at the feet of Jesus this Christmas season. Reflect, praise, pray, and worship the King who came to be our God so that we could be his people.

Well, Here We Are

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Though the majority of the nation is still surprised and in shock, half the nation is angry and hurting, and way more than half the nation is still overwhelmingly discontent with the outcome of last night’s election, here we are. The election process is over. Half of the country helped elect what they consider to be “the lesser of two evils” and the other half is stunned that the victorious candidate is considered by anyone to be “the lesser of two evils”.

As I have spent time reflecting on this election – this crazy, unbelievable, disappointing, and astonishing election – I have found myself ending up at the same place over and over again.

Though (I hope) few, if any, Christians would actually say this, most seem to view their political party of choice as the primary agent of cultural change and hope for our nation. Then again, I know many who would actually say that. But the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of God because it prioritizes things like diversity, equality, harmony, and caring for the poor, or, likewise, the idea that the Republican Party is the party of God because it prioritizes things like religious freedom, pro-life movements, and a conservative supreme court – needs to go. Neither party is capable of transforming our nation into a holy and godly nation.

Now, let me be clear – part of the beauty of our democracy is that we all have the freedom to care about certain issues and vote our conscience. That freedom is a gift from God for which every American should be grateful. But, Christians cannot continue to allow the church to become as polarized as our nation. Yes, our nation is more polarized than it has been in a long time because of this election and the events surrounding it. But in the face of such polarization, the church ought respond with unification, recommitment to the Kingdom of God and the gospel message, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our identity as the Church defines us infinitely more deeply and profoundly than our identity as Republicans or Democrats. To see so much passion and so much anger surrounding this election only reminds us that so many have slipped into the idolatrous idea that our government is our savior and king.

Neither candidate was messiah and neither party is God’s chosen agent of change in this world – His Church is that agent of change. Neither party will deliver us from evil – only God will. Neither party can save us from a downward spiral, only God can. Neither party can offer true hope, only God can. There is no easier day and no easier year to see these truths than on this day of this year.

American is not God’s chosen nation. The Democratic Party is not God’s chosen party. The Republican Party is not God’s chosen party. And most importantly, neither party is His great love. The Church alone is God’s chosen people, whom he has drawn to himself and called to be the greatest agent of change the world has ever seen. The church alone is God’s embassy of hope, left here to represent his kingdom in this foreign land.

As we begin a new four year “reign” under a new political regime, may we constantly remind ourselves that Jesus alone is King and that his gospel message is the only message that matters.

What Being Engaged Has Taught Me About God

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346 days ago, I committed myself to the woman I love. I knelt down on one knee in the middle of an apple orchard in Southern Wisconsin on a cold, nasty, rainy day and asked her to marry me. She said yes (Hallelujah!) and all of the sudden everything was different.

My life changed that day. In fact, pretty much everything about my life changed that day. I have spent the last 11 months reflecting on my engagement to my bride-to-be and seeking to understand God and his love for us through that lens. And God sure has taught me a lot.

Scripture gives us the imagery of Christ as the Groom and the church as his bride. There is perhaps no better description in the whole Bible to help us understand the love that God has for his people. The loving relationship between God and his church is similar to the loving relationship between groom and bride-to-be. I initiated relationship with Alyssa, I introduced myself to her, eventually we liked each other, then fell in love, then committed to one another – and now our wedding day is fast approaching. Likewise, God initiates relationship with us, reveals himself (along with his love and his commitment) to us, then we get to know him and eventually fall in love. When we reciprocate that love and relationship, we commit to one another. After all, love + commitment = relationship. Our time on earth is our “engagement” with Christ. It isn’t yet complete and we won’t fully know him until the wedding day, which is still to come as described in Revelation 19. We spend this life walking with him closer, getting to know him better, learning to love him better, learning to submit humbly to his wishes, and constantly preparing ourselves for the day that we will finally be fully present with him.

Here are just a few reflections on what God has taught me during my engagement:

  1. The day and the walk.

October 24, 2015 marks the exact date that the course of my life changed. But every day of knowing and loving my bride since then has been just as important. The engagement wasn’t everything – it was just the beginning of a beautiful walk toward the wedding.

The parallel: The exact day of our salvation is an important one. It is the day that the course of our lives changed, but every ensuing day of loving God and walking with him through life is just as important.

  1. Relational Exclusivity

When I asked my fiancé to marry me and she said yes, we committed to being in an exclusive relationship with one another. We committed to knowing and loving one another above all else no matter what happens.

The parallel: Though it seems more common sense in an earthly relationship, too many people basically commit to an open relationship with God – where say they love him but then live life loving other things. The problem is that God won’t allow that. When we commit our lives to Christ, we commit ourselves to being in an exclusive loving relationship with him. No matter what happens in our lives, we will walk with Him and He with us through it all. We must forsake our idols and demolish anything that threatens our love for God because he did the same thing for us when he destroyed sin and death through his resurrection.

  1. Her, not me.

When we got engaged, everything in my life changed. All of the sudden, every decision I made, every path I took, every dollar I made became about her, not me. I was giving up my independence. Giving up my selfishness. Giving up my right to live for myself.

The Parallel: When we commit our lives to God, everything changes and we forfeit ourselves. He paid for us, he bought us, and now we belong to him. Every decision, every choice, every dollar spent becomes about God, not us.

  1. Engagement is good, marriage is better.

Our time of engagement has been wonderful. We have fallen in love with one another on a whole new level compared to when we were just dating. Our time together is sweeter, our love is deeper, our commitment is stronger. As wonderful as our engagement has been, it is all still about the wedding and the marriage. The engagement is a time of preparing ourselves for an unending marriage. CS Lewis said, “If that [to travel hopefully is better than to arrive] were true…how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for.” The engagement, traveling hopefully, is not everything and it is not better than arriving. The wedding is arriving and the marriage is a permanent state of having arrived.

The parallel: This life with God, as sweet and wonderful as it is, is simply preparing us for eternity with him.

  1. Wedding preparation is hard and expensive.

Though the engagement has been wonderful, preparing for a wedding is hard. A large portion of the engagement is focused on preparing for the wedding day. We’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours preparing for the wedding. We’ve argued, we’ve disagreed about the way it should go, the clothes we should wear, the number of people who should come, and much more. The process itself has forced us to humbly love one another and put the other’s wishes ahead of our own. Not only that, but it has cost us quite a bit.

The parallel: Spending this life preparing ourselves for eternity with God is hard. It requires effort, blood, sweat, and tears. And it will cost us dearly.

  1. The wedding and marriage are worth it.

Though it is hard, stressful, and has cost us a lot – the wedding and marriage are worth every penny and every drop of blood and sweat. That day will be the best day of our lives. We have to keep reminding ourselves of how amazing the wedding day will be in order to help us endure the hard parts of the engagement.

The parallel: Though being in a relationship with God and preparing for eternity with Him is hard and requires commitment, time, energy, and sacrifice, it will all be worth it.  In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul writes, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” Though it is hard, it isn’t even worth comparing to the glory of an eternity with God in loving relationship. Though following Jesus in this life can be painful, we must keep our eyes fixed on eternity with him – only then will we see our “present troubles” as the insignificant things they really are.

  1. The whole process is about the love between two people.

It is easy to get caught up in the food, the drinks, the music, the ceremony details, the clothes, and so on. Though it is all important, and the wedding day couldn’t happen without all of those things, all of that preparation and work is simply a part of the big picture – which is our love for one another.

The parallel: All the Christian “stuff” of this life is important, and the wedding day couldn’t happen without our obedience, our prayers, our Scripture reading, our church attendance, our discipling of one another, mission trips, small groups, etc., but all of those things are just a part of the big picture – which is God’s love for us and our love for him. We mustn’t lose sight of that during the engagement.

There are far more than 7 things that I’ve learned throughout the last 11 months. These were just the most prominent and big picture ones. What parallels do you see? What else can we learn about God and his love for us through the Groom/bride and engagement/wedding imagery that God has given us?