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Hi, my name is Judah and I am overly political.
Have you ever known someone who is overly political? Someone who continually posts political things on social media? Someone who thinks you are intolerant if you hold an opposing view as theirs? I’m sure that you aren’t like that…but maybe you know someone who is?
Back in the 1960’s people were asked if they would mind if their son or daughter married someone from the opposite political party. They basically said that they didn’t give a rip. Only about 4-5% of the people said that it mattered.
How do people feel about that today? Now research has confirmed nearly 50% would be displeased if their child married someone from a different political party. This is astonishing because only about 13% would mind if their son or daughter married someone of a different color. So the reality is that partisanism has become the new racism.
I find it very interesting that while everyone is trying to fight racism they are falling into an equally vicious cycle of hate and anger towards those with opposing political beliefs.
Now, I know that what I say next will offend some people. So, if you are easily offended and you already feel the hair bristling on your neck, perhaps it is best to just close this page and move on. However, if you can keep an open mind, this might be just what you need to read.
Just. Live. Your. Life.
Are there certain things that we should stand for? Absolutely! But at some point, you just gotta live your life. So, the election didn’t go your way? Just live your life. There’s a new law you do/don’t agree with? Live your life.
The problem is that the media is racing to spew out half-accurate, divisive statements which we then gobble up and regurgitate online and in our conversations. It is obvious that much of the media no longer cares about being right, they merely care about being first.
We have so much information at our fingertips but what has it brought us? More hate and animosity towards those who disagree with us. Perhaps we should consider limiting our consumption of this drivel? Do we really need a play-by-play of everything that is going on in the world around us? And don’t we tend to gravitate only in the direction that spins the news in a way which reinforces our view?
Maybe it’s time to admit our overly political tendencies and just live our lives?
These days the word tolerance is tossed around like loads of horse crap from a stall. When people use that word is reminds me of that scene in “The Princess Bride” where Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
A simple google search brings up this definition:
tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
Is this really that difficult to understand? And yet, it seems like the people who scream for tolerance the most are the most intolerant people. People who claim to be so tolerant are really only tolerant of other people like themselves.
I believe that true tolerance is being able to accept people who hold an exact opposite view. True tolerance is accepting people who are intolerant.
I don’t think many people would willingly wear the label “INTOLERANT” and yet Facebook is flooded with hate criticism and intolerance. After skimming my feed for a few moments I feel like screaming, “I’m sick of this! I’m so intolerant of this intolerance!”
Oops…I just fell into it again.
See how easy that is? We claim to be tolerant but we just can’t stand those idiots that disagree with us. Ding. Ding. Ding. That’s intolerance.
The problem is that when we say we want “tolerance” what we really mean is, “I WANT PEOPLE TO BE TOLERANT OF ME!!” We don’t want to tolerate THEM! We just want them to tolerate me. Don’t judge me. Don’t hate ME. And if you do…well, I just can’t TOLERATE that!
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2
Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Making allowances for faults. That is true tolerance.
How come “Christians” are often seen as some of the most intolerant people? That should NOT be the case. Jesus said that his followers should be known by their love. Why does that grate against us so much. Why do we feel the inescapable need to prove ourselves right and everyone else wrong.
Time and time again Jesus was seen with the outcast, the rejects of society. He hung out with the very people who the “tolerant” people were intolerant of.
How about you? On a scale of one to ten how tolerant and loving are you? I don’t mean tolerant of your best friend and the people who dress like you, eat like you, vote like you and have the exact same values as you. Sure, it can be hard tolerating them too sometimes. But I mean how tolerant are you of those who voted different than you did? How tolerant are you of those who hold opposing beliefs?
When Jesus instructed us to love our enemies he dropped the mic and walked off the stage. Essentially He was saying, be tolerant and love everyone. See the best in people. Build bridges not bombs.
If you scrolled through your newsfeed today and felt condescending towards those protestors, those “fill-in-the-blank-political-leader” supporters, those liberals, those conservatives, those losers or any other classification that ticks you off…can you really call yourself tolerant?
My challenge for you today. When you feel that tinge of bitterness, anger, and intolerance, replace it with love and acceptance. Just because you don’t approve of someone’s views or behaviors doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t accept them as a person.
The other day my good friend Bonnie sent me a link about relevance. It was a good article about how some churches have watered down or compromised their message to be more “relevant.” It seems like that is the popular thing to do. The thing that I realized is that watering down the message doesn’t make you more relevant.
As a guy getting ready to launch a church in Connecticut this conversation is very close to me. I want to be hip and rad. I want people to like me and like what I say. But ultimately that has nothing to do with being relevant!
The problem seems to be that people think that being relevant means doing things that make people like you. Not so.
Imagine that you are driving down the road at 65 miles per hour and a police pulls you over and tells you that the speed limit is 25. Does this make you like him and the law more? No, of course not. Is it relevant to you? Yes.
On the other hand imagine that he pulls you over and begins searching your car for illegal immigrants. Is this relevant? Hopefully not.
According to Noah Webster’s website the word relevance means: relation to the matter at hand; practical.
Relevance means that the information is practical and relates to the situation. Jesus was undoubtedly the MOST relevant teacher that ever walked the face of this rock. Did he try to simply impress people with a magic show? No of course not. He knew how to relate to the common man. He made his teachings practical.
Being relevant is NOT about not offending people. It is also not about lights and moving pictures. It is not even about being “cool.”
Relevance is about being practical.
The biggest issue unchurched people have is usually not the hot topic issues that we love to bloviate about. They just simply say that church didn’t seem to relate to them. It was out of reach. It wasn’t practical.
They are struggling with debt but church is about angels and saints. Their marriage is on the rocks but all they heard was something about Jesus handing out fish sandwiches.
Jesus was a master of making things relate to real people. Tax collectors. Fishermen. Stone workers. Common folk.
I believe that this doesn’t just relate to churches but it also relates to you and me. Do I relate to those around me that are far from God? If faith comes up in conversation am I able to bring out practical applications that relates to what the person is facing?
Does my conversation make God’s Word seem real and practical? Or is it just pie-in-the-sky babbling?
I make no apologies for wanting to be relevant. As Christ-followers we need to present God’s message in an accessible way. If we are not relevant then we are irrelevant.
What do irrelevant people accomplish? Not very much.
So I have officially jumped from the “frying pan into the fire!”
God sure has a funny way of doing things. After serving in full-time ministry for 18 years at the church that my dad founded I have felt God lead me to starting a new church. Although this has been something that has been in the back of my mind for about a decade I never really thought it would happen.
If I am honest, I enjoyed dreaming about it but didn’t really want it to happen. Not because I don’t love God or people, but because I know what is involved. I grew up behind the scenes of church-life and I have seen how hard it can be at times. It is hard giving your life to serve people only to have those people turn their back on you, question your motives and criticize your ministry.
So I kept looking for excuses of why NOT to start a church. I guess I was just being a coward.
After wrestling with God for several months I have finally decided that I will be starting a church in Connecticut (Thomaston to be exact) called Thrive Church.
When you think about CT and faith what do you picture? Well, if you are like more people you picture a spiritually dead state…and you wouldn’t be wrong. Gallup studies the spirituality of the 50 states each year and all of the New England states are in the bottom 10. Connecticut is #8 on that list with only 32% of people claiming to be active in their faith.
I want to change that number.
You may have heard the story about the shoe salesman that went to an island to sell shoes. After 6 months he came back dejected having not sold any shoes. When asked why he was unable to sell shoes he gave the response “The people there don’t wear shoes!”
A short time later another salesman went to the island and after only a couple weeks called the shoe company and told them to send as many shoes as possible, because he had sold everything he had. When asked why they were selling so well he simply said “The people there don’t wear shoes!”
Many people look and laugh at the thought of starting a large, thriving church in Connecticut. Their excuse? “The people there don’t know God!” Well, I look at it and I see that as an opportunity! Jesus himself said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
I believe that the harvest in CT is ripe! I want to play a part in bringing in that harvest.
In order to get CT to the spiritual level of say Pennsylvania or Florida we would need to go from 32% actively involved in their faith to 42% (this basically puts us in the middle of the pack). I did some basic math and I realized that since CT has a population of around 3 million people that would require around 300,000 people giving their life to Christ.
That is 1,000 churches of 300 or 150 churches of 2,000. Currently there are only a few churches even close to 2,000 in CT.
That means there could be 150 churches of 2,000 people each in Connecticut and not touch one single person who is actively going to church. So why are so many churches still trying to reach churched people?
I have studied church growth for years and I am a firm believer in the concept of multiplication. Many churches in the US have launched multiple campuses and have been able to experience rapid growth. The one thing that I noticed is that their growth is often still by addition and not by multiplication.
My goal is to start a multi-site church similar in concept, but with one strategic difference. I want to build our DNA around each campus launching another campus within two years (sooner if feasible).
In a laboratory, the model would look like this.
Years 1-2 would have one location. Year 3-4 would have two locations. Year 5-6 would have 4 locations. On and on until years 21-22 would have 1024.
If each of these locations reaches 300 people then we will be reaching 300,000 people! Granted this is in a perfect world, but I believe it is possible. I want to see these campuses not just in CT, but all of New England and eventually everywhere!
Before you write me off as crazy and insane. Let me just say this…I don’t believe that my vision is bigger than God’s. I also don’t think that I want people to come to Him more than He does.
One of my favorite miracles from the Bible is the wedding where Jesus turned the water into wine. The servants brought jars of water and Jesus turned them to wine. My trick question is…
How much wine did Jesus make?
He made the same amount as jars of water that were brought to Him!
If the servants brought 10 jars then Jesus would have made 10 jars of wine. If they brought 20, He would have made 20! In other words, the more jars they brought the more wine He would have made. I believe that is the same when it comes to vision and reaching the lost. If we bring a big vision to God then He will fill it.
Here is where you come in. This is a vision that is far bigger than me. There is no way that I would be able to accomplish it on my own. So here are three different ways that you can get involved:
Prayer changes things. Would you commit to pray for me, the Launch Team, and Litchfield County? Here are some specific things to pray for:
We need to raise $100,000 for the launch budget. Please pray and ask God if He would have you financially contribute to help launch and support this church. All contributions can be sent by mail or securely online at: thrivechurch.co
We are looking for at least 50 people to help make this vision a reality. We believe that God wants to do something incredible in the lives of the people in Litchfield County and we need people that are committed to serving and attending. We need you!
Imagine being born blind. Never being able to see the light of day. Never being able to appreciate the beautiful colors of a sunset. Darkness is all you see.
Not being able to work you choose to subject your life to the mercy of the passerby. You hold out your cup and beg. From time to time some generous soul tosses a coin into you cup.
Often you hear that sound. Your ears are one sense you can rely on. That sound. Someone getting ready to spit. You try to move away but without being able to see you move the wrong direction and you feel it. The wetness of some jerk’s saliva dripping down your face…
How can people be so rude and insensitive? You’re just trying to get a few coins so you can go to bed with a full stomach. But they have to add insult to injury by spitting on you.
Time and time again. That sound.
One day as you sit and beg a man comes by. You hear a crowd. They say he is a healer. He stops and looks at you and you hear them debating why you are blind. Who cares why? What is the point of debating the cause of someone else’s misfortune?
This man, the Healer, says that you are blind so God can be glorified. Well, that’s a new one! You’ve heard people say it was because your parents sinned. You’ve heard that it was because you’ve sinned. But never once has someone claimed that it was so God’s power could be displayed. That doesn’t even make sense!
Then…that dreaded noise.
Here it comes again. Do you even bother trying to dodge it?
Fortunately it was a miss. This spitter must not have good aim. After a few moments you feel warm hands smudging mud on your eyes. The ground is dry and you shutter to think where this mud came from.
The nerve of this guy!! It’s not enough for him to simply spit on you? Now he mixes it with dirt and smears it across your face?
You hear a few chuckles ripple through the gathered crowd as your anger begins to rise. This man then speaks and everyone falls silent. “Go wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.”
Is this some kind of cruel joke? Is that it? Why can’t he just give you a towel?
I don’t know how you would have felt but I would have been pretty irritated.
You stumble your way through crammed alleyways and over obstacles. You wonder why are listening to this crazy man in the first place. But what do you have to lose?
At last you make your way to the small pool. You dip some water out and begin to rinse the now crusty dirt and spit mixture from your eyes.
You can’t wait for this day to be over.
As the mud rinses from your eyes sparks of color and light begin to penetrate your once useless eyes. The brightness is so bright that it is almost painful.
You stagger away from the pool as a flood of emotions overwhelm you. You remember the pool…the mud…the spit. The Man.
You begin to run, you’ve never had the luxury of running before. You jump, dodge and leap over obstacles that would have once caused endless frustration. You are looking for that Man.
As you run the irony fills your thoughts. That spit…the thing that was once the most disgraceful and utterly disgusting gesture has now become your healing salve. What used to cause you pain and embarrassment was just used to transform you.
Now it all makes sense. Your blindness did show God’s power. Your past has now been transformed into His present. God used the very thing that you found gross and dispicable…the thing that repulsed you.
He used it and brought healing.
What holy spit has God been using in your life? Is there some painful, embarrassing, ugly or disgusting thing that is being used to bring God glory in you?
The first five words in the Bible are…
When you examine all the various forms of life on this planet you will never find any other species that has the ability to improve their own life. Some people write silly articles trying to claim that animals are smarter than people. If they are so much smarter, let THEM write the stinkin’ article! Who’s researching who? I’ve yet to see apes examining a lab full of scientists.
Animals continue to exist with the same basic quality of life that they have always had. You don’t see them developing technology. They aren’t building better homes. They aren’t finding better ways to acquire food. And they certainly aren’t creating.
Sure, there are some people who have been taught animals to paint. And there are some elephants that can paint almost as well as a five-year old.
I hate to steal the thunder of an artistic elephant, but the beast did not teach itself to create. In fact, I doubt it even knows it is doing something artistic. At the very least I have never heard of any animal fashioning paintbrushes from wood and hair, stretching canvas and mixing pigments to depict a lovely summer sunset.
Only humans can do these things.
The very first attribute that we learn about God was not his love, his forgiveness or his justice. It was his creativity. Twenty-seven verses later we read:
Genesis 1:27 [NET] God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.
We were created in the image of a creative being. We were made to being like him. We alone have the ability to create as he created.
The earliest humans should have simply concerned themselves with scavenging for food and creating shelter. That would have been the most practical thing to do. Yet we find cave walls gloriously adorned with artwork.
Whether you realize it or not you have been given a gift that no other creature on earth possesses. The ability to create. For some reason society tends to beat that notion out of us. 95% of all 2nd graders know that they are creative but once they reach high school that number drops to only 5% who think they are truly artistic.
I think that when we create we are exercising a gift that only God and man possess. There are few things that give us the ability to be God-like, but art is one of them.
A novelist can with a word fashion a universe, create life, destroy life, and tell a tale that span eons of time.
A sculpture can take a piece of dirty stone and carve it into a beautiful image that will last for centuries.
A painter can take brush to canvas and capture a nuance of human emotion that anyone can relate to but few would have taken the time to notice.
A poet can weave words into meter and rhyme to convey ideas that can be expressed no other way.
A musician can play notes and sings lyrics that will reach into your soul and pull out an emotion you forgot you had.
A filmmaker can tell a story through images that can forever change the course of your life.
And the list goes on.
Somewhere along the line we were told verbally or non-verbally that art is not practical. Creativity becomes inferior to working hard, making money and being practical.
No…art is not practical. So stop being practical!
You have the ability to create. Use it. Create something. Celebrate the divine gift that was given to you. Do not let perfection stand in your way. Do not even let being “good” stand in your way. Create poorly if you must.
I have recently been going through “Becoming a Man of Unwavering Faith” by John Osteen. John Osteen was the founding pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and the father of Joel “Mr. Smiley” Osteen.
To be quite honest I started the book with a preconceived idea that it would be full of fluffy faith and witty platitudes. Instead I found a book full of God’s Word that teaches strong biblical lessons. I guess that really shouldn’t surprise me as John founded one of the largest churches in America.
This made me start thinking about these big and famous pastors. I call them “plastic preachers” because their hair always looks so nice. Anyhow, there are some people who claim to be “Christians” that take the liberty to speak evil about many of these prominent ministers.
They will talk trash about Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Jerry Falwell and many others…and sometimes they will make good points. They claim to use Scripture verses like 1 Timothy 4:1-2 to try to prove their point and discredit the ministry of these and so many more.
They criticize Bill Hybels for being “seeker sensitive.” I always chuckle and say that Bill should definitely be insensitive to people seeking Christ.
They laugh at Rick Warren for trying to get people to live a “Purpose Driven Life.” I agree and say that people should never live with purpose.
They mock Joel Osteen for encouraging people to live their “Best Life Now.” Yes, people should absolutely live their worst life now!
Many will pull out labels like “false prophet,” “false teacher” and “heretic” (of which I am rather fond) and slap them on the backs of preachers they have never even met. I am certainly not standing up for false doctrine, but I don’t think that attacking men of God is the best use of our time.
The funny thing is that the loudest voices criticizing these people are just looking for fault! They never point out the good that the minister is doing. They are looking at the black spot and ignoring the rest
I have discovered something. I will NEVER agree with anyone 100%. In fact, when I show up to Heaven one day if God lays down a cosmic theology quiz in front of me I doubt I will get 100% of the answers correct.
I wouldn’t ace the test. I don’t think that I am being cocky to say that you wouldn’t ace it either. Joel Osteen wouldn’t ace it and neither would Billy Graham. The Pope probably wouldn’t get an A+ and Benny Hinn might not fare much better.
Am I worried? Not at all. I believe in studying the Bible as much and thoroughly as possible, however I realize that there are certain obscurities in the Bible. Things that trip people up.
There are smart theologians that argue the concept of “predestination” which is whether or not God chose you to go to Heaven or if you have some say in the matter. These guys are brilliant and yet they sharply disagree. I am not as smart as them, but I realize that the Scripture is not particularly clear on certain topics, and I am OK with that.
Let’s keep the main thing the MAIN THING! There are things that the Bible IS crystal clear on. Jesus, for example.
I can assure you that if we sat in a room with many of these major preachers and asked them their opinion on John 14:6 we would get almost identical answers. They might not agree on much else, but they do agree on this.
John 14:6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is the way…the ONLY way to heaven.
We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23).
We deserve death for our sin, but Jesus offers us eternal life (Romans 6:23).
God really loved this ball of dirt so much that he send Jesus to die, come to life and give us a life with him (John 3:26).
If ANY preacher out there blatantly disagrees with these things then I will be willing to stand up and call a spade a spade. But don’t jump down their throat because they teach about God’s love too much.
Yes, I know the Bible teaches about judgement too, but guess what…God IS love! If they only teach about judgement, well that’s kinda harsh, but we should still give them their space.
God is a multidimensional being. Our attempts to describe him are bound to fall entirely short. It is like the story I heard about the three blind men trying to describe an elephant.
One felt the elephant’s leg and said that the elephant is tall and round like a tree. Another blind man felt the elephant’s trunk and disagreed saying that the elephant was long and slender like a snake. The last blind man felt the elephant’s ear and disagreed with the first two saying that the elephant was flat and rough like a piece of leather.
Which blind man was correct?
They all were, but they were all wrong too. They were focusing on one characteristic of the elephant but were not able to see it as a whole beast.
Often God will show himself to one person as a God of love and to another as a God of power. Are either of these incorrect? No! Since I know that God demonstrates both of these qualities does that prove that I know God in his fullness? Hardly.
I am aware of 102 different names of God throughout the Bible and there are probably more. Each name reflects a different virtue of our heavenly Father. Each reveals more about his character.
As long as I am on this earth I will never be able to fully comprehend the complexity of his nature any more than a common ant can understand mine.
So let us be not be quick to judge these spiritual leaders. You may not agree with them, but before you criticize them try extending them some grace.
1 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I know that some of these ministers may rub you the wrong way. It may be irritating how they smile so much and always tell people who God wants to bless them. But what if they are doing exactly what God wants them to do?
Believe me, it is a huge responsibility being a pastor, and I don’t think that these people take that responsibility lightly. Instead of pointing out their flaws look at your own flaws. Don’t forget they are just normal people like you and me.
Psalm 105:15 “Don’t touch my chosen ones! Don’t harm my prophets!”
There was once a person that stood up to rebuke D.L Moody and said crassly, “I don’t like your method of evangelism.”
Dwight looked at the person and humbly asked, “What method of evangelism do you use?”
“Well, I don’t have one.”
Dwight quickly replied, “Well, I like mine better than yours.”
Before we start throwing stones as someone’s ministry let us first evaluate how we are ministering and sharing the Gospel with those around us. I think you will soon find yourself so busy actually serving God yourself that criticizing someone’s ministry won’t seem nearly as important as it once did.
The other day I was reading through the Gospel of Luke. I like to read the Gospels because it is about Jesus. The problem that I have is that I have heard SO many teachings about Jesus and have read those books of the Bible SO many times that I tend to fill in the blanks while I read.
Have you ever known someone who finishes your ____________? I have a friend like that. Whenever I say something he jumps right in and says what he thinks I am trying to say. I love to play games with him so I will say something like “Today has been such a long day, I really feel…” He will jump in and say something like “feel tired and exhausted?” I will quickly correct him and say, “No, I feel like clubbing a baby seal.” (My apologies to people who think that I would actually go clubbing with a baby seal. They are not my type.)
Well, sometimes that is how I read the Bible. I am reading a verse but my mind shuts off because I think that I have already heard that story before. I assume that I already know what it means. When I read the Bible I have to try really hard to read the Bible without any preconceived idea of what it is actually talking about.
So, I was reading this book of Luke, which I might add is the only Gospel that was not written by one of the twelve disciples, and it was the only Gospel not written by a Jew. I don’t know why I mentioned that. Maybe so you will think I am smart? Anyway…
I was reading the fourth Gospel in the New Testament penned by the one and only Dr. Luke and I came to a verse that I found rather troubling and intriguing. Jesus and his dirty dozen are sitting down having a meal that would be famously known as The Last Supper. As they are sitting there eating and going through their traditional Passover dinner Jesus decides to mix things up a bit by saying that the juice is his blood and the bread is his ripped up flesh. I wonder if anyone lost their appetite?
Jesus then decides to gives them this odd little piece of advice:
Luke 22:36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
I imagine that the disciples looked at each other and shrugged. This whole evening must have been really awkward for them. First they are having dinner in someone’s home that they never met. Then Jesus gives them all a foot bath. Later on he tells them that the food they are eating is actually his blood and body. Next he tells Peter that he will deny him. He also reveals that Judas would betray him. Now he is asking them to buy swords.
I think I would have felt rather uncomfortable.
The disciples take a quick inventory of their weaponry and reply to Jesus.
Luke 22:38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
That’s enough? What is that supposed to mean? First he tells them to buy swords, so they say they have two, now he tells them that is enough? What is Jesus’ plan with these bladed tools?
The dinner ended probably less glamorously than Da Vinci would lead us to believe. They decided to go for a stroll in a local garden but the boys were getting pretty tired. Jesus wanted to pray but everyone else started dozing off which seemed to irritate Jesus a little, but I’m sure he realized that they didn’t know what was coming next.
Somehow in the shuffle Judas had wandered off, only to now reappear and give Jesus a peck on the cheek. Jesus’ dozen (minus one) quickly realized what was going on and why Jesus had asked them to bring along the swords.
Luke 22:49-50 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?”  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
The disciples were probably getting ready to go out swinging. They were willing to fight to the death. But then Jesus does something really odd.
Luke 22:51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Let me get this straight. Jesus tells them to bring swords, so they bring them. An angry mob shows up, they take the swords and cut off some dude’s ear. Then Jesus stops them and heals this guy’s ear?
I’ve read about the guy’s ear getting healed hundreds of times, but for some reason I NEVER realized that Jesus actually requested the swords to be brought. Why did Jesus want swords there? Did he want a sword there JUST so the guy could get his ear cut off?
I have never had my ear cut off before, I have never even had my ear pierced before, but I can imagine it would be pretty painful. The closest I came to that was when two friends convinced me to let them pierce my lip. I’m not good with such things! The next thing I knew I was laying on the ground with a bump on my head and a needle halfway sticking out of my lip. I can only imagine that getting your ear cut off would be considerably worse.
Was Jesus actually planning for this guy to have his ear cut off? Perhaps this was one last opportunity to show the angry mob that he was in fact the Messiah? Or was Jesus’ flesh rising up and was he actually contemplating fighting back? I’m sorry but I don’t know the answers to these questions.
One thing I do know, is that the servant never forgot that day, and he had the scar to prove it!
I know that if I was the guy that got my ear cut off I wouldn’t really care what the reason was! Would I be thankful for the healing? Yeah…I guess. But I would have rather not had my ear hacked off in the first place.
As I pondered this scenario I began to wonder if I have ever gotten my ear cut off. Not literally of course. I wonder if Jesus ever set up the situations in my life, or allowed the situations to be set up, simply so that he could be glorified in the solution?
Would I have more faith if I knew that Jesus was in the midst of, and perhaps even orchestrating, the difficulties in my life? The problem is that it SUCKS going though hard times. I bet that servant was pretty upset when his ear softly plopped into the dirt. He was probably in a lot of pain and he was most likely pretty pissed. Kind of sounds like how I act when I am going through a hard time in my life.
I doubt that the servant was really looking for a miracle in the middle of that tragedy…but a miracle came anyway.
When we wade through piles of crap in life we often just focus on the crap around us instead of the Savior who is standing only a few feet away. The Savior who has come to save and heal us. Maybe he wants us to learn something. Maybe he is testing us. Or maybe it’s something that we can’t even comprehend.
I don’t really like to think about Jesus setting up difficulties in my life. I want a life of ease and comfort. But we can know that when we go through painful times Jesus is only a few steps away getting ready to heal our ear.
Can you imagine a fantasy-land where law enforcement does not exist? Wouldn’t it be great? You could drive as fast as you want, go wherever you want, do whatever you want without any consequence at all!
This utopian society does in fact exist, however it’s not as glorious as it may seem. In this fantasy-land crimes are going punished, criminals are walking away free, and the law enforcement of the land becomes the perpetrator of the crimes rather than the protector.
This dream-world seems very far removed, almost alien, from the life that most of us lead today. The unfortunate truth is this is the life that the poor of the world face each and every day.
Generally when we see the poor in developing countries we notice things like lack of food, lack of clean water, lack of medical attention and so on. At times we may even scratch the surface and see some darker issues such as child prostitution. Rarely do we go to the true depths of violence that plagues the poor of the world.
Our hearts are broken so we provide food, clean water, and medical supplies. Although this is a great help to those that are in need, it only addresses a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself.
What we don’t see is the rapes that go on behind closed doors. We don’t see the beatings that modern-day slaves face daily. We don’t hear the cries of the family who lost everything to an unjust legal system. We are oblivious to the criminals who prey on the lives of the poor.
And they are too ashamed to tell us.
I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of Gary Haugen’s new book The Locust Effect. Gary is the founder of the International Justice Mission and has given his life to helping to bring justice to those who have no voice. This book exposes the truth of violence against the poor in countries all around the world.
Why are the poor affected by violence more than anyone else? It’s simple. They have no recourse. They have no protection. They have no that will run to their aid when they are in need.
In many of the developing countries the rule is: he who has the most money wins. If you have money you can afford protection for your family. If you have money you can bail a family member out of jail that was imprisoned merely on an accusation. If you have money you can hire a lawyer to represent you in court.
If you don’t have money…you have no protection. No safety. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
As you can imagine, this becomes very demoralizing.
In the 1870’s many people were trying to build a new life on the Great Plains. The years were difficult but progress was slowly made. One particular year their hard work finally paid off and they were rewarded with plentiful crops. But their joy was short-lived.
In the distance they saw a dark cloud slowly approaching their crops and homes. Billions of locust descended on their homesteads and left them utterly barren. Crops were destroyed. Lives were ruined. As a result many died from the plague
If we saw the plight of these unfortunate souls we may be tempted to offer them seeds to start new crops. But new crops are now a year away. What they need is help…now. And what is the point of planting new crops if they will only be ravaged by locust again?
In much the same way we try to help the poor of the world but if we ignore the violence they are suffering our help falls desperately short.
What helpful is it to provide schooling for girls when many of them get raped in those very schools?
Is it beneficial to give families with livestock that can provide for their families when they live in fear for their lives every night?
How good is it to offer medical help for HIV victims when many of those have contracted the disease from violent rape?
As I think about these things I came to the conclusion that I value safety and protection far above many other necessities of life. I don’t know about you, but I would rather scrape by close to starvation rather than living in fear that my girls will be sexually abused on a regular basis. What good is food if I am terrified for the lives of those I love?
Yes, the poor need food and water and medical attention. But they need safety. Many of the poor are actually capable of taking care of themselves. They can provide for their families if the cloud of violence was lifted from their head.
This all seems very grim, but there is hope. Gary shows examples of how justice is being brought to some of the most violent parts of the world, but the work has only just begun.
It is time for followers of Christ, churches, governmental organizations and non-profits to work together to equip and enable local law enforcer agencies and courts to do their job honestly and effective. In some cases violent crime can drastically drops in only a few years
[quote]He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God. Micah 6:8[/quote]
It is time for us to seek justice for the poor. To protect those that have no protection. And to stand against the force of the world that bring them harm.
Buy a copy of The Locust Effect this week. For every copy sold, a generous friend of IJM will donate $20 to fight violence against the poor.
We will be giving away a copy of Gary Haugen’s brand new book The Locust Effect this week. The contest will run until midnight on February 8 EST. We will announce the winner via email.
The more you share the more chances you will have to win!