8.27.2014

Discipleship: The World Is Watching

Who is my neighbor?

That is the most dangerous question anybody ever asked Jesus. And the answer changed the world.

8.26.2014

The Day Christians Were Silent

I checked my social media feeds like a teenage girl on Sunday night and Monday. What would people be saying about Miley Cyrus this year? She did something crazy, something out of the box, something I've never seen before.

But the internet was silent. And Christians were silent.

What did she do? Check it out for yourself:



That's right. Miley won the big award - Video of the Year - and had a homeless teenager named Jesse accept the award on her behalf. His speech was an eye-opening look at the plight of thousands and thousands of runaway and homeless youth across the country and in LA specifically.

Thousands of teenagers are living on the streets for various reasons. Some were kicked out of their homes, some lost their homes, some ran away from home. Whatever the reason, these kids are not going to go anywhere or make anything of their lives without someone to give them a hand up.

There are groups across the country trying to reach and help this particular demographic. Companies like Dry Bones Denver are making a big impact in the lives of street kids and homeless youth. But still thousands of teenagers packed with potential are slipping through the cracks.

Last year at this time the world was talking about Miley Cyrus. The Christian blogosphere nearly broke the internet. I wrote my own post about her infamous duet with Robin Thicke. We were quickly and passionately spouting out judgment and condemnation on Miley and all of youth culture.

This year, the world is silent. And Christians are silent. I have only seen one article shared concerning Miley's acceptance speech. One. That's not to say that more have not been written, but Matt Walsh certainly has not touched on it. I've not seen a Christianity Today blog about it; nor a Relevant Magazine insiders look into the speech.

The Church is silent, and that silence screams volumes to the world.
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Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

What the world sees is a Church that is quick to judge, quick to condemn, and slow to affirm. Miley did something outrageously immoral last year and we spent weeks blasting her and getting into comment-battles on Facebook. We are incredibly quick to point out the faults, sins, and specks in the eyes of the world. How would you like it if you had a "friend" who only ever pointed out your faults and never complimented you or encouraged you when you did something good? But that's the measure we are using to judge the world.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:12)

If we were more concerned about eradicating sin from within the church than we seem to be with the sin of outsiders, then we would have firm ground to stand on. Only then could we be the prophetic voice the world needs to hear - not just about judgment but about hope and salvation. We yell and scream and type passionately in ALL CAPS when a celebrity does some twerking on stage. And we bury our heads in the sand when that same celebrity does something we could actually affirm.

I am in no way trying to put Miley Cyrus on a pedestal. Nor am I pointing to her as a role model for our young girls. I'm simply reminded of what Paul says:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

So I'm asking you: What does it tell the world when we yell about something sinful but are silent about something good?

8.21.2014

Must Love Others

There's a song we sing in church sometimes, an old hymn called "Oh How I Love Jesus." I grew up singing that song. It has a very simple tune and a very repetitive chorus - easy for a young boy to pick up on.

As I mature, both in years and in my understanding of faith, songs like this begin to bug me. Just take a look at the lyrics:
There is a name I love to hear; I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in my ear; the sweetest name on earth

It tells me of a Savior's love who died to set me free
It tells me of his precious blood - the sinner's perfect plea

It tells of One whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe
Who in each sorrow bears a part that none can bear below

Chorus: Oh, how I love Jesus; Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus because he first loved me

Here's the problem I am beginning to have with this song and others like it. It makes us feel good, but it doesn't encourage us to do good. There is nothing in this song that would spur me on towards "love and good deeds." Yes, Jesus came to save you, but he didn't come to save only you. And he didn't save you so that you could "go to heaven" some day. He saved you from this corrupt generation so that you could bring heaven here this day.

Yes, we should sing the praises of God our Father, Christ our Savior, and the Spirit our guide. By all means, our God should be glorified in song and praised through music. But as we do this we should also keep in mind these two things: 1) Our singing is to have a horizontal dimension as well as a vertical. In other words we are to "speak to one another" through our songs. We are to "teach and admonish one another" in our music. 2) God is glorified more greatly by a life well lived in service to Him. Our lives should reflect his glory. Others (read: non-believers) are supposed to be so taken aback by how we live that they have no choice but to "glorify [our] Father in heaven."

I've often heard people complain that many modern worship songs sound more like sappy love rock ballads. And I grant you that many contemporary Christian songs played on the radio do have a certain "Jesus is my boyfriend" feel to them. But this is not new to the Christian music scene. "Oh How I Love Jesus" was written in the mid-1800s.

I'm not trying to totally dismiss our beloved hymns, either. I think that some of them simply need a fresh update with more theologically sound lyrics. What if the song went something like this:

There is a name I love to share
With those in deepest need
A name to lift them from despair
And show them grace indeed.

Oh, how I love others
Oh, how I love others
Oh, how I love others
Because Jesus first loved me

We love because He first loved us... And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19 & 21)