But, We Are Supposed to CONFRONT People

This is really more of a preemptive post.  You see, the voices in my head, they argue with me.  Sometimes when I hear them aruge, I think, “I’ll be some other people think that.”  (”Other people?  You are talking about voices in your head.  You’re nuts.”  Well, you’re reading it.  What does that make you?)

On Sunday, I talked about Jesus’s attitude toward the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).  He (his words) did not condemn her.  He did encourage her to leave her life of sin, but all considered, Jesus’s response to her was very soft.  There was barely a rebuke, and no harsh words, just simply “I don’t condemn you and stop.”

My suggestion is that this should be our attitude in the face of other people’s sin, especially those who are not believers.  Holding non-Christians to Christian standards seems a little ridiculous.  I would go so far as to say, that Jesus’s attitude of grace should be carried over into all of our relationships.

This is where the voices kick in.  “God has called us to confront people’s sin.  We don’t coddle people.  Sometimes, folks need a rebuke.”  Can I agree with that and still say that Jesus is the model?  He rebuked her.  He said that she was living a life of sin.  He didn’t say that she had made a simple mistake.  He also told her to stop.  What more is needed?

The problem for us comes a couple of different ways.  First, are we holding ourselves to the same standards that we are enforcing on the rebukee?  Second, are we determining their sin to be worse by some arbitrary rankings of sin?

Most importantly for me, is why are you doing this?  Why do you want to do this? Are you angry? Are you thinking about you or them? Are you more interested in them hearing your angry words or do you want them to turn away from sin because you love them?  Too often we think we are on the side of justice.  We believe we are God’s delegates to let everyone else know where they are wrong.  If other people’s sin is making you angry instead of breaking your heart, then you should reevaluate and come back later.  Love has to be the motivation.

“If you really want to show someone love, you’ll tell them the truth.”  Maybe.  How about this: “If you really want to show someone love, you will offer to do whatever you can to help them.  You will share the sins you struggle with as well and offer to meet with them on a regular basis for prayer and accountability.”

Loftenism: Just because something is true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said.

Furthermore, if it does need to be said, where does it need to be said?  How does it need to be said?  By whom? Why you? Why now?

Confronting people is about, (wait for it) people.  Showing love to people, helping people.  Turn off the so-called “righteous indignation” and turn on some good old-fashioned compassion.

1 Corinthians 13

1 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. 2 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. 3 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.

If I rebuke people, confront people, and/or call out sin and do not have love, I’m just mean.

My Favorite Metaphor: 2 Yr Old Lauren in the Parking Lot (Colossians Review)

May 23, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

One of the prevailing jokes in our home is that Lauren never learned to walk.  She went straight from crawling to running.  She would put her arms in the air, as if to indicate that someone had scored a touchdown.  Then she would run full force until a footstool, chair, and often a wall would get in her way.  She would fall, shake it off and do it again.  This process would repeat indefinitely.

The scariness of her in open spaces should be evident.  The worst case scenario inside our home would be hitting a wall.  What if there were no walls to contain her? What if it were just the open road?  Parking lots seemed (Did I say seemed? I mean continue to be.  10 yr old Lauren is still living the dream) to bring this out the most.  Just like Wal-Mart makes toddlers throw fits, malls make men cry and sports on TV make wives “want to talk,” 2 yr old Lauren viewed parking lots like an amusement park.

When getting her out of her car seat, you had to be completely ready to go. You got everything else out first and you kept a hand on her at all times.  Also, inside the store, you’d better get your hand on her before you hit the door. (Wow! I’ve burned over 200 words and have yet to get to anything close to resembling a point.  I really do like talking about this.)

Turning 2 yr old Lauren loose in a parking lot to find the car is both dangerous and futile.  She certainly would run with enthusiasm.  She would be going somewhere, going somewhere with zeal.  She would make progress by some limited definitions of progress. However, danger and futility are most likely to be the results rather than success.

We all desire to live lives worthy of the God that loves us so much.  Often we just jump out into life thinking, “I’m going to do something.”  With reckless (The use of that word diverted me to an online dictionary.  Yes, reck is a word and it does mean caution.  Who knew?  You did?  No you didn’t) abandon we take off into the parking lot wanting to make a difference, to be spiritual, etc.

This can unfortunately lead us to exhaustion and disillusionment when it doesn’t go the way we wish (getting lost in the parking lot) or doing wrong things with right motives and hurting ourselves (running into a car).

The Colossians were being influenced by some false teachers that were telling them to not emphasize Jesus quite so much and instead focus on following certain religious regulations.  Paul is less concerned about telling them to stop that and start doing other things (at least at first, we are not even 1/4 way through the book).  He is more concerned about telling them where to focus.  Our focus (where the car is) is the gospel.  When we set our minds on the gospel, we are overwhelmed with gratitude and will be headed in the right direction.  Furthermore, we need to put on our total trust in Jesus, who Paul describes as the creator and head of all things.  When we depend on him (hold his hand in the parking lot), he can safely navigate us through the trials and difficulties of life.

Lauren’s problem never was, is, will be zeal.  It is focus.  We are not altogether much different.

Beautiful Exchange (Getting Ready for Easter)

April 11, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We started a sermon series leading up to Easter called Beautiful Exchange.  Why is it called that, you may ask?  Because there is an incredible song out right now by Hillsong with that name that captures the message that we want to get across this Easter.  Here are lyrics to said song:

Beautiful Exchange

You were near, Though I was distant
Disillusioned I was lost and insecure

Still mercy fought, For my attention
You were waiting at the door, Then I let You in

Trading Your life, For my offenses
For my redemption, You carried all the blame

Breaking the curse, Of our condition
Perfection took our place

When only love
Could make a way
You gave Your life
In a beautiful exchange

My burden erase, my life forgiven
There is nothing, that could take this love away

My only desire, and sole ambition
Is to love You just the same

Holy are You God
Holy is Your name
With everything I’ve got
My heart will sing how I love You

Part of me feels like that anything that I would add to those lyrics would be pointless ramblings. (But that’s what you do best!  Hmm, if you think that then you have never seen me balance books on my head.)  These are powerful lyrics that describe quite well why we celebrate Easter.  Our sin has left has helpless and hopeless and dead, and then in a “beautiful exchange” we trade our death for Jesus’ death and his life for our life.

I really enjoyed our 1st week in the series yesterday (listen here) where we looked at a pivotal moment in the Gospel of Luke (read here) where Jesus shares with his disciples that he is going to be arrested and killed and then the Gospel says that “he resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51)”  He voluntarily and purposefully set out to die for us so that we may have life, demonstrating a deep and powerful love for us.

My favorite part of the day was that there was at least one person at the Grove Church yesterday that accepted that beautiful exchange yesterday and chose to give her life to Christ. Incredibly excited about her. My guess is that there were more than that.  Here also is what I believe, there are more to come.  There are people out there who are from God who desperately need Him.  They need to hear and believe.  You know what else? You know these people and they will come with you one of the next couple of weeks.  You just need to invite them.  We are going to provide an opportunity each week for everyone to hear the gospel and respond.

People want to come to church on Easter.  They want you to ask them, and come with them.  You want them to know Jesus, to make that exchange.  We have an incredible opportunity.  I’m glad that you are a part.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #7

February 21, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So you have a franchise that is doing OK, you’ve cranked out a few in the series, it’s losing it’s luster a little, so you decide to retool.  It’s been done before to varying degrees of success.  You can change the actor playing the main character–James Bond, multiple times to varying degrees of success.  You can just wait a long time, change very little and hope that bringing the characters back is enough–Superman Returns, not very successful.  You can do it on the 2nd movie where you essentially remake the first one with minimal changes and leave everyone going “What?”–The Hulk.

But the way it has been done the best in recent years is with the Batman franchise.  They made it a little darker, more serious, more action drama, less comic book campy.  It was risky, but it worked well.  They pushed it further with Dark Knight and it worked.  Where does it go from here?  We’ll see.

Here in this series, let’s keep pushing until someone cries uncle.

Set-up:  You are in a political discussion/debate/argument and you are looking to close the deal on your inevitable victory.  Someone challenges you.

Response:  Jesus was/is a ________ (Insert your political position here)

Boom!  Game over!  You are the winner.  You played the Jesus card and, of course, Jesus agrees with you (why wouldn’t he?) and you win.  All of the complexities of political arguments and issues have been annihilated by claiming that Jesus would and does agree with you.

You will notice that I have not accused one political party or philosophy over another.  That is because Christians of all political stripes do this.  The question of why people do this is pretty evident.  It bolsters their argument.  The question of how they do it is actually a little troubling.  We go to the Bible with our pre-determined political ideas and preconceived notions and find something that we like and declare victory. 

We find a verse that says “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” (2 Thess3:10) Or conversely, we find, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30)  Then through whichever one of those verses we like, we construct “Biblically centered” political policy.  I’m sorry, but that is intellectually dishonest and lazy.

We reduce Jesus, who was the Son of God, into a caricature of our favorite political statesman.  I’m sorry, but the totality of Jesus’s political statements may simply be “pay your taxes.”  I know that you might feel like there are more and I may back down a little if you show them to me.  However, Jesus lived in an oppressive dictatorship and didn’t speak out against the government of his day.  His followers, with their conception of what the Messiah was, expected him to be a leader to overthrow the government and he still chose not to speak out.

He was such a political revolutionary that the Roman governor had no idea who he was.  Jesus spoke to the religious establishment of his day and to individual people.  He was a threat to the religious leaders of his day and individuals that would listen to his message.  The same is true today.  If we are followers of Christ, his words challenge us and need to shape our character.  If we are not, we need to listen to what he says and find life with God through him.

As far as how this shapes our politics, let’s go this way.  Let’s read the Bible, let’s pray.  Let’s be consistently asking God what he values and what he cares about.  Let’s ask him how and when and to what extent we should get involved.  Let God shape us, instead of taking what we want and believe and then cramming God’s Word and Jesus himself into a premade box of 21st century political philosophies and political parties.

His values drive our values, not the other way around.  Or do you somehow think that tops on God’s priority list is whether or not the freedom of speech granted in the Bill of Rights extends to corporations and their ability to influence political campaigns with money?