Do I really need to give up my life for everyone: a fresh look at John 15

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

John 15:12-13

What does it mean to lay down our life for another?

Is Jesus telling us to die for another literally? Or maybe he is saying give your life, with the emphasis on the word give? As in, you give your love, resources, your essence away to those who are your friends.

However, this brings up another question. Who is a friend? Like, what qualifies a person to move into the friend-you-give-up-your-life-for (whatever that means) category? It may seem a little extreme for either interpretation of “give up your life” to be applied to the guy you see on the bus every once in a while and have a chat with between stops.

Jesus also tells us to love one another as He has loved us. Good luck with that. To be honest, I don’t think I could love anyone as much as Jesus loves them or me. Has Jesus fastened us to perpetual failure?

If we look, as one commentator labels it, at the full formula in verse 12, Jesus is calling us to lay down our lives as he literally laid down His. WHOA. Are you ready for that? I’m not sure I am.

Craig Keener, in his amazing two-volume set on the Gospel of John, points out that in the ancient world, the subject of friendship was much debated in many essays. Greco-Roman and Jewish philosophers debated. The word signified a gambit of interpretation from a dependant to a political dependent of a royal patron to a high official in Hellenistic Syria to a friend of Caesar. Most commonly, in the ancient world, the word friendship meant alliances, cooperation, or nonaggression treaties among people. No matter what the exact definition is,

“Hellenistic ideals of friendship include a strong emphasis on loyalty.”

Keener p.1009

So what does this mean? Keener points out,

“John therefore portrays friendship with Jesus as an intimate relationship with God and his agent, one that John believed was continuing in his own community, and one that no doubt set them apart from the synagogue, which has a much more limited understanding in continuing pneumatic revelation.”

Keener p.1015

While we are called to love and be grace-filled in every interaction, we are not to give up our life for everyone. That would be physically impossible. After all, I am not Jesus, and neither are you. What is interesting is that if every follower of Jesus gave up themselves to their sphere of people, YOU or I wouldn’t have to give up ourselves for everyone because WE would give up our lives for everyone.

In chapter 14 Jesus is talking to the disciples (we) and says that the Holy Spirit will come upon them “and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). It is not Peter, John, Matthew, or Simon, who is going to do great things than Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It is the WE. It is you and I—all of us together.

The burden of doing greater things and the burden of laying our lives down for others isn’t a burden that lays upon one of us. It is a burden that, as my friends in the south would say, is for all y’all.

Don’t be anxious about all the burdens in your community. You or your church can’t do it all. What we are called to do is to give ourselves to our sphere of influence. We are to join with all followers of Jesus to meet the needs of the whole. The pressure is on, and the pressure is off.

Let’s carry the burden together.

Rejecting fear: Embracing others amid COVID-19

Toilet paper and bottled water are flying off the shelves as if it’s December 1999. As a parent of three asthmatic children and the spouse of someone who might be a verge hypochondriac, the threat is real. 

As Facebook fills with articles on the severity and memes that give perspective regarding other health issues, casual readers are left with conflicting voices that pendulum in our minds. When it comes to leaving our homes and going out in public, The Clashes famous lyric is flipped upon its head, if I stay there will be trouble, if I go there will be double.

Safety and hygiene are essential. However, I’m not qualified to comment on best practices or give health advice. My role is to remind us that there is a difference between fear and safety.

We have entered a time where sports teams have told players not to high-five fans and school boards are temporarily closing schools; it seems each decision is a roll of the dice in a true to life game of snakes and ladders. We either slide down the snake of fear or climb up the ladder of safety.

While safety is important, what I fear is that our fear drives us away from meaningful connections with others as we allow fear to drive us toward isolation and increased stereotypes.

Mitch Albom, in his book, The First Phone Call From Heaven gives an accurate commentary on fear when he writes,

Fear is how you lose your life…a little bit at a time…what we give to fear, we take away from…faith.

When we give in to fear piece by piece, we disappear. We become the opposite of who God created us to be. Fear causes us to become insular and reject love—both giving and receiving.

In 1 John 4:18 Jesus disciple John writes,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

What I fear is this,

I fear that we let fear control us. As media uses fear to drive us to our screens to see the latest updates, I can’t help but notice a society that is allowing Covid-19 to drive us away from loving each other. Have we rejected the orphan and widow? Do we no longer take in the strange? Is it no longer worth visiting the shut-in?

Like John states, fear has to do with punishment. We punish ourselves and others for what might—possibly,—maybe—happen if we reach or step out of our Lysol sanitized bubble.

Of course, we must be smart. Yes, precautions are probably wise. Saying this, the question we must ask ourselves is, are we not doing something right because we fear what might happen to our family or us. Smart, yes. Negligent, no! We must weigh the risks of our particular situation and make a smart decision that we weigh in love. 

While there are parallels to various situations, the Covid-19 situation seems to be putting people on edge. We must ask ourselves, how would Jesus show love in this situation? As Erwin McManus states,

“We are not free from the emotion of fear, but we are free from its control and paralyzing effect. Our course is guided by an internal compass of convictions fuelled by passions.”

God has not given you a spirit of fear. God has sown creativity, compassion, and intelligence in you. As we approach a possibly dangerous, contagious virus, let’s reject fear and use the gifts that God has given us to respond to both ours and others fear and show that love and connection can and will endure. It may not look the same, but we will not be siloed. We will not be prejudice, and we will not stop helping because love endures no matter what happens, God still reigns on the throne.

Check out the resources used in this post

Grace for days: The greatest love story ever told

When I think of my life, the moments of pain, stress, and disappointment, I wish I could say that I am quick to give grace to other people or even myself. Grace is a mystery. This is especially true when it comes to the grace of God.

I love how James Emery White defines it, 

“Grace, at its heart, is getting what you don’t deserve and not getting what you do.” 

The crux is this, we don’t deserve it, especially when it comes to God’s grace. This is why grace is part of the greatest love story. Understand, I don’t think that we don’t deserve (to use White’s words) because we are vile, or as one hymn states “wormwood and gall.” What makes us undeserving is, well… we do dumb stuff. We hurt people and ourselves and create destructive patterns and pass them on to our kids. We push God’s love away. 

Yet, God continually comes and gives us unbounded grace. My favourite verses on this are found in Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We were powerless when we received God’s grace. We are like Steve Rogers (before being transformed into Captain America) being beaten up in an ally having to be saved by our best friend, Bucky. We are not the heroes in the grace story. It is God. It will always be God. Why? Just as verse 7 points out, as a whole, us humans rarely would give up our lives for a completely innocent person. We maybe, might possibly, if we’re in a good mood, give up our life for someone who has done nice things for us (what “a good person” is insinuating).

As verse 8 points out, we were none of those. We are not innocent. We have not given anything “good” enough to deserve the unmerited grace we have received. Simply while we were still sinners—while we were still opposed to God—Christ died for us. Unrequited grace. We didn’t want it, even though we needed it.

It is because of this unrequited grace that I love the theologically contested song, “Reckless Love,” by Corey Asbury. For God to love the way God does, while we reject Him is reckless. If it were our child who was chasing after someone they loved and that person continually rejected them and pushed them away, we would say they are being reckless. We might even say the same thing to a parent who has experienced incredible hurt and brokenness from a child. We might say they are enabling them by giving unrequited love. When we anthropomorphize this divine love, it is reckless. 

Saying all that, a love that perseveres is the thing that the greatest stories on earth are written of. Knights and dragons, princesses and witches, sleepless nights in rainy cities—as compelling as authors and directors have made these fantastic stories— they still don’t compare to the love that bestows grace and sheds it abroad upon our hearts freely to us.

We must always remember that the prerequisite for grace is, and will always be love. Tina Turner may ask, “what’s love got to do with it?” but our answer was, is, and will always be everything.

As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his son.” It’s all for love and love for all. God’s love is bigger and grander, and because of grace. God would rather love us, give grace, and be hurt than to not have us a part of His family. Now that’s amazing grace.

Check out the resources used in this post

How to deal with that jerk in line!

Coupling.

Have you heard the term? The word has a lot of applications, but I am speaking about the coupling of experiences. I first heard it used this way while listening to the audiobook, Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell (maybe the most important book to come out in 2019).

The premise of Gladwell’s use of coupling dealt with how specific circumstances provide an opportunity for people’s actions. Though Gladwell is specifically speaking of suicide and how, say the Goldengate bridge doesn’t have a safety net to prevent people from killing themselves, provides an opportunity for people to jump when they may not have. Gladwell, of course, goes into more detail and addresses the topic to a deeper degree.

It made me think about what other situations have a coupling experience. I thought of the impatient person in a Walmart line or someone difficult at the customer service counter. Of course, there can be an infinite amount of scenarios. Could the aggravated, edgy, rude person be having a coupling experience? To be honest I am very judgemental toward people like that…but then I remember…

Though I work really hard to be super patient, gracious and kind to cashiers, customer service reps, and the like, there was one particular day I wasn’t…

My printer had been acting up so I took it into Staples where I had bought it 13 months earlier. When I told them it was broken they informed me that the warranty was only for 12 months. I sternly informed them I won’t be buying another printer from them again, dropped the printer on the desk and walked out. It was not my proudest moment.

Say I were observing someone else have this same interaction I would think, “What a jerk”. I would apologize to the customer service rep on behalf of the rude customer and cast judgement on the former. Instead of grace, what God has called me to express in all situations, I would offer condemnation. The thing is, this story is about me. I give myself grace because I know what was going on in my life. In fact, if it were not for the coupling of events in my life—a perfect storm if you will—I certainly wouldn’t have left my broken printer (with a thud) at Staples. I still would never buy a printer from them again, they just wouldn’t know why.

I can extend myself grace because I had shingles at the time, the church was going through a very hard season which caused me a lot of hurt, and I didn’t have the money for a new printer. Physical, emotional, and financial pain brewed together to make a bitter tea of discontent that anyone could have upset (although 12 months for a printer…really!).

I can extend grace to myself because I know the whole coupling story of my own life. I know what was going on inside me and all around me. We don’t, however, know what is going on with everyone else. Yes, there are some people who are entitled, angry, cotton-headed ninny muggins. Call me naive, but I don’t think everyone is like that. I do believe that life’s woes can have a coupling effect on people and bystanders end up carrying the brunt.

Instead of assuming the worst of others we need to try and deescalate, seek understanding, and be patient even in the midst of their impatience. I guess this could be part of loving our enemies and why it so important to treat people as we would want to be treated. It isn’t just about us not acting crazy. Sometimes it’s about not responding to other peoples’ craziness. Want to know how to deal with that jerk in line? Love, grace, and patience.

Before you spend the holidays with family

Family can be great.

Family can also be stressful.

The issue is that it’s easy to let our guard down when we’re with family. I believe that subconsciously we think that we can say and do whatever we want, and the people that are close to us will love us regardless.

And this is why Christmas can be stressful.

We’ve eaten excessive amounts of refined sugar, we’re secretly dreading the impending post-holiday bills, we’ve stayed up too late watching Boy Meets World on Disney +, the kids have been acting like wild orangutans, and you’re about to have to put on the fake faces of appreciation when you open that sweater.

As much as family can be great, they also can be overly honest (let’s call it what it is, opinionated). “Have you put on weight?” “Have you lost weight?” “Are you ever going to settle down?” “If that were my kid, I would give them a smack.”

As much as family can be great, they can also be stressful.

What we must remember is that we are to be like Jesus. We’re to love indiscriminately. Maybe your family aren’t your enemies, but if we’re supposed to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), then we need to love our family too.

Love is a nice sentiment, but what does it mean?

1 Corinthians 13 spells it out perfectly,

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

While this may be an ideal we may never live up to this entirely, this Christmas when we reflect on what it means that Jesus came to start a kingdom of love let’s keep 1 Corinthians in mind. It may be hard but, this is what love looks like.

When your mother asks you again when you’re going to give her a grandchild, remember, love is patient. When you have to drop the kids off at the ex’s, remember, love is kind. When your husband gives you a spatula for Christmas, remember, love keeps no record of wrongs. When everything is going wrong—things aren’t adding up—remember, love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

When we can remember that love is a choice—a choice that is sometimes hard with those close to us—it can revolutionize our relationships.

Maybe your parents, spouse, kids, aunt Ruth, or grandma give judgemental stares and weighted nuanced comments that drive you completely nuts! You just want to react. I know I’ve been there. I’ve even done it. But there is a better way.

That better way, is to choose love. We choose to be patient and kind. We choose to love because it is what God chose for us. Romans 5 says it,

“While we were still sinners, Christ gave up his life for us.”

In a small part, we are now to do the same. Essentially, while your mom still judges your life, love. When your grandma comments about your weight, love. When you Dad disapproves of your life choices, love. When your ex is being difficult about seeing the kids, love.

If God does it when we oppose him and gave up his life at that, we can at least try this holiday season to pass the gravy in peace, loving despite the family drama, and demonstrate why there is good news for all people.

Why Jesus is better than Santa

My kids are all in on Santa. When I was their age, I was all in too.

I’m not down with those curmudgeon Christians who feel the need to destroy the folklore of Santa and flying reindeer.

Saying this, I don’t want them to get lost when it comes to the meaning of Christmas. I love that my kids love Santa, but I want them to love Jesus more.

I wanted to explain this in a way that even my youngest (who is four) would understand. So, I began to think.

Santa comes once a year on magic reindeer, magically slides down your chimney and leaving presents—like actual tangible, ready to open and use gifts that fulfill a young child’s lusts. Plus, he does all of this while you sleep.

That is pretty hard to compete with when it comes to the mind of a young child.

I began to think a little more…

“You better watch out / you better not shout / you better not cry I’m telling you why?”

Basically, you better be on your best behaviour, or Santa will rescind your gifts! And that’s when I realized that Santa is the exact opposite of Jesus.

They both bring free gifts (unlike your inlaws). The difference lies here in the simple fact that Santa’s gifts are based upon your behaviour. Jesus comes to bring a costly gift that has nothing to do with my good behaviour. Instead, it has everything to do with whom I belong. Jesus took our place and took the eternal consequences of our misdeeds upon himself.

I like how the Apostle Paul put it in Romans 5:6-8

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

When we had no power to save ourselves, while still rejecting God, He gave his life for us. It is the often-overlooked verse 7 that really sets poor Santa up for the fall, though. This verse points out the harsh reality of sacrifice. You probably would never give up your life for another just because they are a really good person. However, you might if that person has been good to you.

Here is where Santa falls. Santa requires our belief. Santa requires us to be on our best behaviour before he brings us a gift.

BUT GOD.

That’s all that needs to be said. But God.

Here’s the thing. Santa is a lot like us. Do good, and you will receive good in return. Jesus gives good because it is outside his character not to be.

But God shows us that He loves by giving up His life in our place, not because we were right in our thoughts and deeds, not because we have done something for God.

No, while we rejected him, denied Him, were complicit or active in crimes against Him, He gave His life for us.

Do you know what I said to me kids, “Do you know why Jesus is way better than Santa? Because it doesn’t matter whether I’m on the good list or the naughty list, Jesus loves me and gives grace to me no matter what.”

Yeah, there is more to it. But that is what is most important. Though I deserve a big lump of coal in my eternal stocking, I’ve been given unbounded relentless love. As the Apostle Paul says later in Romans.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Sorry Santa, but it isn’t even close.

Eminem, Joseph, and the Christmas story

Why? I truly don’t know. Somehow I stumbled across a music video by Nick Cannon, where he was doing a dis-rap of Eminem. To be honest, it was kind of like a gruesome car crash. You know you should look away, you know that you will be offended if you look, but you cannot look away. That was this song. It was so bad I couldn’t turn my ears away.

Within the song, Cannon dissed Eminem because he’s raising someone else kid. I’m not entirely sure why that’s a dis. In fact, I think it is honourable.

It may be surprising, but this caused me to think about Joseph, Mary’s husband and the Eminem of the Christmas story (not because he can spit rhymes).

While the Magi, Shepherds, Angels, and Mary are important side characters in the story, we also must not forget about Joseph. Just like Eminem, he was raising someone else’s child.

Joseph, who is betrothed to Mary, discovered that she was pregnant. He knew the baby wasn’t his, but out of love for her, he decided to divorce her quietly. Luckily Joseph had a dream, and while he didn’t believe Mary when she said that this child was conceived of the Holy Spirit, he did believe the Angel that appeared to him. As he slept, the Angel said,

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21

While rumours flew in later years that Mary might have been impregnated by a Roman soldier or some random man, Jesus grew up with a swirl around his head. It wasn’t some cutesie story. In John 8:19, the religious leaders picked up on this when they said to Jesus,

“Where’s your father.”

While the story of Mary speaks to us about important issues like teen pregnancy or children born out of wedlock and how we are to think of them as Mary, the lesson from the choice that Joseph makes is essential also. In a world where boys and girls are growing up not knowing their fathers—where men run away from responsibility, are unable to cope, don’t even know they have a child, whose visitation rights are taken away and cannot be apart of their kids lives, or are in the picture but are despondent toward their offspring—we need men like Joseph… and perhaps Eminem… to step into kids lives and be a father to the fatherless.

Though this child was not his own, Joseph stepped up to the plate. When he did, he demonstrated what God is all about. in Psalm 68, it declares,

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

Psalm 68:5

Throughout the Scriptures God, the Prophets, Apostles and Christ himself implores us to care for one another and to be his Kingdom. I like how N.T. Wright puts it when he says we take on the vocation of the Kingdom. Christmas is about the beginning of a new kingdom. One where God is King. The message to us, live out this vocation by caring for one another.

love, joy, peace, hope; these things are celebrated themes at Christmas time. Why? Because it is what we see in the Christmas story—we see it in Joseph who didn’t abandon his wife to be when she was found to be scandalous. Instead of abandonment, Joseph exemplified the character of his Eternal Father and showed love, joy, peace, and hope.

Eminem, Joseph, and the Christmas story teach us something important.

We need men to step up, not just this Christmas season, but all year round and be fathers to those who have none.

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Do We Deserve God’s Love?

I want to pose a question, do we deserve God’s love? Depending on my mood that day, the answer may be different. There are days when I feel the hope of the hope around me, in me, and in the lives of others—I see the promise of humanity—and I say yes, we deserve God’s love. After all, we are His children.

There are other days when the darkness abounds. Hope seems but a paradise lost, and I can’t help but think or our unworthiness. After all, doesn’t the immense holiness of God cause him to be repelled by our misdeeds?

So what is it? Do I need to taper the hope with a reminder of my misdeeds? Or do I need to see my self as more than just actions but as an image-bearer of God?

Yes.

To what? Both.

Yes.

This question was posed to me, and others in a group that I am a part of that explores and asks some hard questions about our faith. As we gathered that Sunday night a few weeks ago, reflecting on that week’s chapter from Brian Zahnd’s book, Sinners in the Hands of a loving God. The room gathered different sexes, races, denominations, and upbringings. The room was divided but strangely united. Yes, people fell on either on one side or the other, but no one felt they could blatantly reject the other side.

To find the answer, we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:27 has become one of my most favourite verses.

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.

Three times, in a row I might add, God declares that he created us. Not only that, but God created us in his image. We are God’s children. After Genesis 3, however, the relationship changes. Suddenly, through the belief in a lie from the tempter, man and woman no longer believe that they were made in the image of God, but instead, think that they need something more—something other than God—to complete them. Thus they are marred with their misdeeds.

While one camp believes that this angered God so much that he wanted to destroy us (not sure what has taken him so long), the other, which I tend to find myself in, would say that God loves us despite our mistakes and longs for us to see who we truly are as His children. I believe the former idea has become so dominant in recent thought that it has marred the truth of the second claim.

So I believe we can move the question to, do children deserve their parent’s love? I think most people would say yes. Have they done anything to deserve it? No. Their existence qualifies them to be loved, not for what they have or have not done, but because of whose they are. Children are created in the image of their parents. 

But what if that child steps outside the purpose their parents willed for them? Is Mussolini less deserving of his mother’s love because he was a fascist dictator? Is Stalin disqualified from his Father’s love because of his cruel dictatorship? I might argue it is the lack of love that drives many children to hate, not unconditional love.

When describing how sin affects our made-in-Gods-image, one member of the group mentioned above stated, “It is like this indoor table I have on my back deck. It’s not meant to be outside, but it has been through all the elements. It wasn’t meant to be outside in the rain. It deserves to be inside.”

After all, it was made for the inside. The person who made the table made it for the inside. It deserves to be treated the way the initial builder intended. Did the table do anything to deserve to be inside? Of course not. It was meant to be.

So it is with us. We were meant to live and be in the love of God. We deserve God’s love because we were made in His image. We are his children. Though we find ourselves places we should not be, out in the rains of life—maybe rains of our own doing—we deserve more and better. It’s what we were created for. Instead, we accept a lesser fate believe what was meant to be inside should be outside. We think we can compensate for it. We reject the love of God, filling our lives with everything but what we deserve.

I write in my book Hidden Faces,

Just as God deals with Adam and Eve’s shame, so Jesus comes to deal with ours. Adam and Eve’s shame is represented in their nakedness, but with the skin of an animal (Gen 3:21), representing the replacement of the perishable (fig leaves) with the imperishable (animal hide), it thus shows us that it’s only God who can deal with our shame. 

Only God can deal with our hearts, bring the table in from the rain, and restore it to how it is supposed to be.

But table, don’t be fooled. You have done nothing to be brought in, just as my kids have done nothing to earn my love. We don’t earn God’s love. We receive love because we are the King’s kids. 

So, do you deserve God’s love? Of course, you do, for you are a child of God.

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A Response to John MacArthur

The Christian world either cheered or booed as the most recent words from John MacArthur, rang. It wasn’t that long ago that MacArthur was throwing those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement out of Christendom with his “Strange Fire” teachings.

Though the Pentecostal/Charismatic is a large contingent, it is nothing compared to the most recent victims of his vitriol. While aiming at Beth Moore, MacArthur spoke against all women who have some inkling to want a position that might have to do with teaching men, and further, wanting powerful positions.

MacArthur and I would fall on opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Though he may not consider me to be, I consider him a brother in Christ. We are both a part of the body.

And this is why I wanted to wait a few days after the uproar to respond to his comments. It is also why I will respond the way that I am. I feel that 99% of what I’ve seen in response is not Christ-like.

Name-calling has no place in the Kingdom of God. We must challenge and push each other–holding one another accountable, in love.

John MacArthur is Complementarian: This means that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. It is because of this view that MacArther, while asked to comment about Beth Moore, a popular writer and teacher in and outside the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Go home!” Both MacArthur and the other guest stated that she was arrogant, and MacArthur said something of the sort to her just “Hocking jewellery.”

Unlike MacArthur, I am on the other side of this view. To make a long story short, the prophet Joel in the Old Testament declared that when the Spirit of God dwells in God’s people, that it will equally be poured out on all.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
your old men will dream dreams, 
your young men will see visions. 
Even on my servants, both men and women, 
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28–29

Also, if Jesus’ death and resurrection have broken the curse of Genesis 3 (“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Ge 3:16), then why do we force women back under that curse?

Saying this, we are still brothers in Christ. Beth Moore is our sister.

Despite the deep chasm that lay between us theologically, I still love him (though he makes it really hard sometimes). I don’t want to get into a theological debate with him or anyone else over his comments. He is entitled to his interpretation. Though I think it is wrong, I do not believe that it is the main issue.

What troubles me the most is that MacArthur, a respected and important voice in some circles, was rude, dismissive, flippant, and frankly not in a tone, tenor, or word choice showed an ounce of love.

This is what disturbed me the most.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34–35

This is what I would to say to you, John MacArther…

John, if I may call you that, I was disturbed by your lack of love. I was disturbed that those who do not know Christ heard such wrath directed toward another child of God, furthermore, a person who is also a follower of Christ. This is not how you speak to anyone, let alone a woman who longs to see people encounter the risen Christ, as you do.

I hope I am assuming correctly, John, when I say that I believe that you want to follow God with all that you are. I hope that you want to see God reign in your heart as well as this world. It is because of this I want to remind you of love.

God is love, as Jesus disciple, John tells us. We are to be known by that love. We must remember that the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbour, is like the first, loving God. As we love God, we love our neighbour, and as we love our neighbour, we love God. There was no love in your words. What is most troubling to me is that this is not the first time. You have allowed vehement words of hate spew from your lips without consideration of the destructive and demeaning nature of them. To quote U2, “Love’s the greater law.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Co 13:1–3

We can disagree, but we are not to not love. Though there is disagreement in belief and function, we are to engage each other in love.

Love

Love

Love

Please, for the love of God, LOVE!

In the meantime, ladies, think, What Would Aimee Semple McPherson Do (minus the crazy stuff)?

How Donald Trump helped me become a better follower of Jesus

You may not believe it, but Donald Trump has made me a better follower of Jesus.

It is not because of his example. It’s not because of his integrity. Nor is it that he exemplifies leadership. That is not something I want to get into. I’m trying to be as apolitical as I can while still trying to make my point.

The reason he has made me a better Christian is that there are things that have been brought up during his Presidency. Things such as immigration, racism, and sexism.

Here’s the truth, I didn’t think in-depth about many of the dark things that have been stirred-up recently in peoples hearts.

I am a white middle-class male from Canada. This means I have seen and experienced the world in a particular way, a way that is not wrong. However, it is a way that is ignorant of the issues of others. Why? Because I’m a white, middle-class male from…Canada.

I need to be honest. I never thought about immigrants. I don’t mean this in a mean way. I didn’t think about issues of race. I’m not racist, thus I assumed neither were others. Unless I was confronted with it, I never thought about sexism. I presumed everyone thought the opposite sex was equal.

I guess I just figured that though they were issues at one time they weren’t now.

With every passing day of the last few years, I have been confronted with my ignorance. It has caused me to think deeply about the heart of Jesus.

The hatred some have propelled upon immigrants has caused me to think about how I would feel if I were desperate for a better life for my family. I think of Mary and Joseph, Jesus parents, who fled to Egypt to escape persecution (and it wasn’t because he was white…. because he wasn’t).

The racism thrust violently upon those who don’t look like me has caused me to open my eyes. I hadn’t seen it before. I naturally didn’t experience it. If my friends had, they hadn’t told me, and I hadn’t been aware of it while around them. How would I feel if I were maligned, targeted, and attacked? I would probably want to stand up for my freedom. I would probably be sick and tired of being disrespected.

The vulgar words people have directed toward the opposite sex have made think about my wife and daughter and mother. Would I want someone to speak in such ways to them?

It is easy to be ignorant of things you have never experienced. How could you not be? But if it flies in your face and you still choose to ignore the issues, then it is just as bad as being the one to disperse the hate.

God told the Israelites as they were about to enter the land he had promised them, the land where they were to exemplify what it means to live a God honouring life, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”

We love our neighbour because we are our neighbour. You are not better than them. Nor are you worse. We are equal. We are not to hold cold war grudges, or cast stereotypes upon others. We are to love. Jesus takes it even further when he declared for us to love our enemies and bless those who persecute you.

There is no place for xenophobia in God’s Kingdom.

There is no place for racism in God’s Kingdom.

There is no place for sexism in God’s Kingdom.

If right now, this is causing you to say, “Yes, they do need to treat me equal, they do need to treat me as a neighbour.” You’re missing the point.

You can’t control anyone, but yourself.

What is your role?

Who do you not treat as equal?

What issue have we ignored?

When we can begin to address these issues in our own heart, that is when we will start to see the world as God sees it. A world in which immigrants are welcomed and defended, a world in which we celebrate diversity but know we are all the same, a world where men and women see, work, and learn next to each other with full respect for one another.

Thank you, Donald Trump, you have made me aware of these vast issues that are still a very present reality. It has caused me to look at my self and the parts of the world I influence and decide to be a better follower of Jesus.