Category Archives: Daily living and character

An Open Letter to Jesus Followers: Criterion to Consider When Attaching Scripture to Op-Eds.

We sometimes willfully and recklessly either insert religion into politics and/or politics into religion,  whenever it suits our purpose and often without fully engaging our spiritual wisdom. Thin line between the two? Politics and religion? Maybe. But you can be sure we use that thin line to our advantage anytime we need our personal opinions or narrative bolstered.

How easy is that?

For instance, I can go straight to Scripture and find support for my opinion about COVID-19, in whichever camp I’ve pitched my tent. All I have to do is take any scripture I fancy out of context, and cut and paste it to my narrative. For all of us, (regardless of where our allegiance lies with current events,) remember this scripture: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.”  2 Timothy 4:3  

Many a scripture have been indiscriminately attached to opinions on social media. The scripture itself may tremulously prop up the opinion. Sound bites that align themselves to what “their itching ears want to hear.” Nevertheless it has an immediate effect on people, (one way or another). Truthfully, when we do this without first considering the ramifications (of using sacred words to shore up our own disposition,) then we are just shooting arrows with no real idea of where they are landing or who we are wounding.

Absolutely love scripture enough to share scripture. Send it out to others in copious amounts. Make personal application with transparency, so that you can encourage, admonish, and hold each other accountable. (Hebrews 10:23-25) Remind those who need a Savior. (John 3-16-17) Comfort and hope in the fight. (Psalm 23) Lean into it when you or someone you know needs insight, clarity, and reframing. (Philippians 1:9-11) Shine like stars in the universe as you hold firmly to it. (Philippians 2:15-16) But never ever exploit it for personal gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

So the next time you are inclined to back up your personal position with the use of scripture, apply a few measuring sticks first. Simple, but worthy criterion. It’s the least we can do.

1 Who am I trying to impress?

2 What is my end goal?

3 Is the narrative I am relating, replicating, repeating, or regurgitating, one where I should be name dropping Jesus? 

4 If this post or statement is an opinion piece, that’s okay, but if that’s the case, and it is an opinion, then should I really get Jesus mixed up in that? (If you say yes, then you need to be prepared to move out from behind your screen and meet up for coffee to discuss.) 

5 Is my post or statement more likely to point people (including my children) toward Jesus or away? 

6 What do I want my own children to learn from my actions?

Clearly this open letter is drafted for Christians, Jesus followers. Because we don’t expect those who do not proclaim Jesus, to act as if they do. Yay if that happens. But bottom line: as Jesus followers, we have a higher level of accountability. Also this letter offers guidelines for Op-Eds that specifically include scripture or references to Jesus. But that is not to say that as Jesus followers we get a free pass when stating or posting our opinions without attaching scripture to it. Not at all. We are Jesus followers 24/7 right? We should always inject our interactions and all manner of dialogue with grace and integrity. (Colossians 4:4-6) People are watching us. If we look the same as the world around us, then why would the world around us be interested in Jesus?

Maybe as Jesus followers, our time is better spent meeting people on both sides of the issue right where they are – with empathy and respect – than it is using scripture as a bumper sticker to shame them into submission.  And unwittingly perhaps, that is often the case when we state an opinion and attach scripture to it. We are using scripture to vouch for us (not Jesus) and to vouch for our opinions (not doctrine). And we do this with harsh authoritarian language.  

I can’t imagine a single believer who would not agree that how we use the Word of God is not something to be taken lightly.

In Mark 2:27 Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”  Jesus was referring to the Pharisees who had attached many of their own rules as to how Sabbath should be observed. But they missed the point. God said He made sabbath for man, not the other way around. Man doesn’t get to dictate the “rules” for Sabbath. Sometimes I believe we use scripture like that. Scripture, the Word, Jesus, all one and the same (John 1:1) was made for us, sent to us. (John 17:17-18) How so? Scripture “teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It’s not the other way around. We don’t call the shots, or arbitrarily decide its value, or get to use it as a weapon, or simply to amplify our personal position when it’s convenient. It is “God breathed,” not man breathed.  2 Timothy 3:16-17  

We should remember how sacred scripture is every single time we say it, send it, give it, post it, or attach it. 

It’s the least we can do. 

Fixing your thought life on Jesus, not the other stuff: Lessons learned from Hebrews Chapter 3

Always Choose The Path That Points You Toward Jesus, Not Away.

Those of us “who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”  I’m barely into this first verse of Hebrews Chapter 3 and I find myself immediately in need of God’s divine intervention in my life. If indeed we share in the heavenly calling, meaning if we are truly Jesus followers, then we ought not to fix our thoughts on Corona, our checkbook, our spouses, our children, our jobs, our successes or our failures. No, we are to fix our thoughts on Jesus.

That’s no small task right now either. Am I right?

Recently, I have been going to bed and waking up with my eyes fixed on everything it seems, except the holy name of Jesus. Thankfully, I have those faithful “encouragers” in my life (mentioned here in Hebrews 3:13) – mentors, my community group, and my group of sweet prayer warrior friends – who are constantly holding me accountable and catching me when I fall. But seriously, it has been a struggle for me, and frankly, way too easy for my thoughts to once again get averted during this season of difficulty.

I am naturally drawn to work. Blame it on my maternal grandma who raised me. God rest her soul. You might say she vexed me with that old protestant work ethic, but something even more dangerous than that. Along with impressing upon me the paramount importance of work work work, was the just as important necessity of relying on oneself. Alas, that kind of do or die attitude came natural to a woman who grew up in poverty, survived world wars and the great depression, and had to make something out of nothing to feed her family. My grandma was a faithful believer, but she was also old school you might say. And because of that, I grew up thinking I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. Sort of my own real-life version of The Little Engine That Could.

The other thing to which I am naturally drawn in difficult times is what I call “My Island.” I enjoy the solitude that accompanies my retreat from people. I want to do the work; solve whatever is the problem of the day; and I want people to leave me alone in the process.

Yeah, right about now you’re shaking your head. Well, you should be.

The author of Hebrews goes on to give a sharp reprimand to the likes of me in verses 7-11 of chapter 3, saying “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion….”  New Covenant Christians in the book of Hebrews were being warned not to fall into the same old trap as their Israelite ancestors, the trap of self-reliance and hard work. The trap of stubbornness and arrogance. The trap of self-deceit. The trap of sin.

All of us have a snare that entangles us, and so, hardens our hearts. What is yours?

We need to understand this passage details God’s dissatisfaction and righteous anger with the ancient Israelites who did not heed his calling or listen to his voice and act accordingly. Clearly, this scripture illustrates God’s disapproval of those whose self-reliance was esteemed more highly than dependence on their Creator.

The truth of the matter is as plain as the nose on my face. Every time I fix my thoughts on work work work, and self-reliance, the harder my heart becomes. The writer of Hebrews is warning us not to go down that road. It is surely the path that leads away from God, not toward him. In fact, if we rely on anything besides Jesus to deliver us from our trials, scripture says that is “disobedience.”

Finally, And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So, we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” 

It’s pretty sobering to think that when I am struggling to enter into spiritual rest and spiritual peace, it might well be my own hard heart, my own self-deceived nature which has put a huge wedge between me, and the peaceful rest God has for me.

So, what can we do practically, every day, to both hear and believe God’s voice?

  1. Be a part of ongoing mentoring relationships with other Jesus followers. Make certain they are holding you accountable and not just agreeing with everything you say. Jesus love is full of both compassion and truth.
  2. Make a point to offer the first 5 minutes (or more) of you day to Jesus. Quiet prayer is great. Doing nothing else but meditating on Jesus. This is hard with littles at home. Try to start your day before they start theirs with this morning boost. It’s a spiritual daily vitamin.
  3. You cannot fully know and digest the truths of God if you are not seeking answers to your everyday problems and challenges in scripture. The bible is alive, and scripture is relevant. (Matthew 4:4 and Hebrews 4:12) If your child is disrespectful, there’s a scripture about that. If you feel lonely and brokenhearted, there is a scripture about that. Make a daily point of seeking out scripture that applies directly to your situations, joyful or sad. Then meditate on what action it might be calling you to.
  4. Just shut up. Sometimes we talk too much, and don’t listen nearly enough. Start listening more to others, seeking first to understand then to be understood. When you practice this in your relationships, you might be shocked how immensely this impacts your ability to hear and understand God’s voice in your life.
  5. Recognizing that Jesus is the great High Priest in the line of Melchizedek, (not only in the line of Aaron.) Infinite, not finite. Without beginning or end, not dead in a grave. Melchizedek, who according to Hebrew 7, was “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life…” This is the High Priest on whom we lay down our burdens. Think about that and the power that lies behind it. Let it roll over you. Then, once again, back to where we started: “fix your thoughts on Jesus whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Hebrews 3:6 NIV