Category: Christ & Culture (page 3 of 34)

What Will Happen

The middle of Romans 8 tells us where we are right now: the world is in pain. All of creation is groaning right up to the present time. Because of sin. Because of fallen human nature and the broken world.

This passage also tells us what we’re called to do: the Church shares the world’s pain. We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly. We know how things are supposed to be and they’re not. Not yet. So we share the pain of the people around us.

And this important passage tells us very clearly what will happen when God’s people get involved and share the pain of his world: God’s Spirit works through that pain to glory.

“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us… The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… Those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  ~Romans 8:18-30

All of creation is groaning. We ourselves are groaning. And God’s Holy Spirit — seeing all this, watching all this, experiencing all this with his creation and with his people — is groaning with groans that words cannot express. God’s Spirit lives and works in the pain.

He who searches our hearts — that’s God. He knows what’s inside our hearts. And I know God comes across things in our hearts we’d like to stay hidden. But God’s looking for the sound of his Spirit’s groaning. When we are sharing the world’s pain, when we’ve decided to embrace the world’s pain, and sit with it, live with it, groan with it, we realize we don’t have any answers. We don’t know what to do. We don’t even know what to pray for. And that’s when God’s Spirit is most obviously at work.

God the Creator, our Father, is always in constant communication with his Spirit who lives in the hearts of his people. God totally understands what the Spirit inside us is saying, even when we don’t. Our God hears and answers the prayers of our hearts, even when they don’t feel like prayers. Even when it just feels like heartache or hopelessness or inadequacy. When the pains and groanings of the world weigh heavy on your heart, you become one with the loving, groaning, and redeeming working relationship and conversation between the Father and the Holy Spirit.

It’s a mystery, for sure. I don’t understand it. But the Bible says God works through that for glory. For our glory. And ultimately for his.

The apostle Paul can’t find the words. He can’t describe the difference between where we are right now and the glory that’s coming. Everything he might say falls short, so he doesn’t even try. It’s not worth comparing! He has called us  and justified us and glorified us! We know that in all things — even in the sharing of pain, maybe especially in the sharing of pain! — God works for our good! For ultimate glory!

“We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory!” ~Romans 8:17

The devil means this mess we’re in right now for evil; God our Father is working in it and through it for glory! By the death and resurrection of his Son and by the power of his Holy Spirit, it’s going to be so good! As Christians, we don’t shake our heads and wring our hands and say, “Look what’s happening in the world.” We say, “Look who came into the world!”

All of God’s plans for the restoration of the world, all of God’s promises for glory for us and all of creation, all of what God wants to bring about for our good, is all “yes” in Christ Jesus. It’s not sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no”…

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:20-22

Sin’s dominion is being broken. Our bondage to corruption and decay is coming to an end. And the Church speaks the “Amen!” We say it. We believe it. And we live it. The Holy Spirit guarantees the glory that’s coming because of Jesus. So, when the politicians say “No,” God says “Yes” in Christ. When the culture says “No,” God says “Yes” in Christ. When your friends say “No,” when the peer pressure says “No,” when your favorite website says “No,” when your family says “No,” God says “Yes” in Christ. When your gut says “No,” when all the experts say “No,” when your own brothers and sisters in Christ say “No,” God says “Yes” in Christ every time. Every time.

Maybe someday we’ll have a vaccine for the coronavirus. Maybe. But not for the sin that has plunged God’s world into so much pain. Sin is not new. It’s not novel. There’s no shot, there’s no pill, there’s no medicine for this pain that has us and all creation groaning. The only prescription for the pain is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the only cure.

Everything we do and say, everything people do and say about us or to us, every experience we will ever have, is all lovingly used by our God for our good. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always enjoy it. But we know our groanings are not in vain. They serve an eternal purpose that’s being worked out by the Creator of Heaven and Earth who groans right along with us to make it happen.

The pain and the groaning are real. But so is the glory. We’re not finished yet. God’s not done. He has a plan for us and for the whole world and it is glorious. He has established his risen Son on his eternal throne and the whole world which is groaning under the weight of our sin is going to be redeemed. This is our Father’s world and he will do whatever he sees fit. And he sees fit to appoint it and us to glory.

Peace,

Allan

What We Do

I believe Romans 8:18-30 tells us Christians exactly where we are right now, what we are called to do, and what’s going to happen. In a time when confusion reigns and the future is no less clear than the present, we need a Word from God to provide clarity and assurance. And I’m convinced that this middle part of this critical chapter is that Word.

Yesterday we looked at where we are. The world is in pain. All of creation is groaning, right up to the present time. The whole world is in pain because of sin. That’s where we are. That’s what’s happening right now.

And the Church shares the world’s pain. That’s what we’re called to do.

“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our bodies.” ~Romans 8:23

We join the world’s pain. We bear the world’s pain. We don’t ignore it. We don’t isolate ourselves from it or look the other way and pretend it’s not happening. The Church is called to share the world’s pain.

Wait. Why us? Because we know. We know things are not the way they are supposed to be. We have the firstfruits. We’ve seen glimpses of the eternal glory. We’ve tasted the way things are supposed to be. We’ve experienced a little bit of what God is doing. When we come together around the table and share the communion meal, we are one with God in Christ and we are one with each other. Perfect fellowship. Perfect unity. Perfect acceptance and forgiveness and love and peace. And that’s not ordinary. It’s Christian.

Baby blessings and baptisms, missions work and Loaves and Fishes, small groups and 4Amarillo — we experience up close and personal these firstfruits of the Spirit. We see and hear and taste and touch God’s healing and cleansing, his joy and forgiveness, his power and reconciliation and compassion and love. And it’s not what you find in the ways of this broken world. It’s uniquely Gospel.

To accomplish what’s coming for us, our Lord Jesus had to get out of his comfort zone and put on our pain. That’s the Gospel truth. Christ Jesus left his home in glory, he sacrificed his position and power, he gave up his status and wealth, and he joined us in our pain. He came to where we are, he put on our flesh and blood, he clothed himself in our skin, and he suffered in the dirt with us. He became familiar with our sufferings. He carried our burdens. He healed our disease. He became our sin for us, to rescue us from the corruption and decay.

We all share the common human predicament of pain. Of groaning. So, like our Lord Jesus, we intentionally seek out the pain in others. Where is that pain? You look for it. And you don’t have to look hard because we’re surrounded by it. And we join the pain. We embrace the pain. We live it. We share it. We stand with and for those who are in pain. We speak for and with those who are suffering. The Church is called to share the world’s pain. Who else is going to? And if the Church doesn’t do it now, when will we?

Some of you, I know, the pain is too far away. The problems are just on TV. You’ve never been shot by a police officer, you’ve never been pulled over for no reason, you’ve never been discriminated against at school or work, you’ve not had opportunities taken from you because of your skin color. And maybe you don’t know anybody who has. It’s not something you think about or talk about unless it’s on TV.

For some of you, though, the pain is very close. You do know someone. You’ve experienced it yourself. You’ve spent hours crying in front of the TV the past three weeks. You think about it and talk about it all the time.

And, yeah, there’s no doubt we’re all over the map in our churches. We have lots of different viewpoints and opinions. We probably disagree about what should be done and what ought to work and the steps that need to be taken. We’re not going to be on the same page.

But here’s what the Bible tells us. The world is in pain. The whole world is broken because of sin. And it’s groaning. And, like our Lord Jesus, his Church is called to share the world’s pain.

And you might say, “I don’t know anything about racism. I don’t know how to fix it.” And all the other problems in the world — not just racism. You don’t know anything about drugs or homelessness or divorce. You can’t relate to CPS cases or losing your job.

Well, you do know how to love people. You do know how to sacrifice and serve people. You know how to just sit with people, to just be present with people. If it were your daughter, you’d do it. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen you move heaven and earth, I’ve seen you sacrifice and suffer for the sake of being with your son or daughter. I’ve seen you struggle to build bridges and reconcile relationships with the people you love. I’ve seen you work so hard and give up so much to heal and restore what’s broken in your own families.

The world is in pain right now. That’s where we are. The Church shares the world’s pain. That’s what we’re called to do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had the great pleasure of sharing lunch with two African American brothers today and then recording a podcast together about the upcoming “Uniting as One” city-wide worship service on June 28. Isaac Butler, the associate pastor at St. John Baptist, and Chris Brown, a minister at Temple of Praise Church, honored me with their company and their passion to see all of God’s people come together as one Body in Christ Jesus. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here. I’ll be sharing more about the worship gathering in this space later this week.

Peace,

Allan

Where We Are

There’s one passage in the Bible that tells us where we are right now, what exactly we are called to do, and what is going to happen as a result. Seriously. Thirteen verses that tell us what’s happening right now, what we’re called to do about it and in it and through it, and what’s going to happen because of it.

Today, you might not know any of these things for sure. You might be confused or uncertain about one or two or all three of these things.

Where are we? You tell me! We’re in the middle of a global pandemic that reminds us of the disease and death of 1918. We’re on the front edges of an economic depression that will feel like the 1930s. The racial injustice and violence and demonstrations feel like the 1960s. And the extreme reactions to all of it — the judging, labeling, choosing up sides, hate — feels like we’re headed for a civil war like the 1860s. I don’t know what’s happening. It feels like chaos and like everybody’s lost their ever-lovin’ minds.

And what are we supposed to do? I have no idea! Am I supposed to post on Facebook or Instagram? Or retweet something? No way! Are you crazy? You’re taking your life in your own hands if you try to say or do anything. Whatever I do won’t be enough, it won’t be woke enough, it’ll be misunderstood  or taken out of context. I don’t need that. Somebody needs to do something, but I don’t know who and I don’t know what.

And what’s going to happen? Nobody knows. You’ve probably noticed, the experts change their minds every twelve minutes. They can’t agree on anything. All of it seems so arbitrary. Like it’s not based on facts or truth or science — it’s all on gut. It’s all emotional. So there’s no predicting any of it.

We need a Word from God. We desperately need the truth of God’s Word to tell us where we are, what we’re called to do, and what’s going to happen. We need that clarity and confidence. And I feel very strongly that the middle of Romans 8 gives us that Word. I believe these thirteen verses — Romans 8:18-30 — is God’s Word to us today regarding our current situation.

“The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” ~Romans 8:20-22

The world is in pain. That’s where we are. That’s what’s happening. Creation is groaning out of frustration. The rocks and trees, the animals and birds, the rivers, the people — it’s all subjected to frustration. All of creation is a slave to decay. The whole world is in bondage to corruption. And it’s groaning. Right up to the present time. Right now.

And it’s groaning because of sin. Everything got messed up when we decided we know better than God. We know what’s best for us, better than the One who made us. So when that one man, Adam, went against the will of the Creator, all of creation was infected with his sin. Everything that exists is somehow corrupted by sin.

This goes back to Genesis 3: the groans and the pains of childbirth, the hard work and sweat and frustration, women and men struggling against each other for power and control. And when sin entered the picture, so did death. Everything decays. Nothing is permanent. Every thing that’s living dies. Everything you know, everything you experience, even the really good things — all of it is distorted and twisted. Relationships, work, our bodies, our marriages, the people and things we love — it’s all corrupted by sin and death. Right up to the present time. This is what’s happening right now. This is where we are.

What’s front and center for us right now is the racism in the United States. The discrimination and injustice against minority peoples that’s built into our fallen nature and built right into the systems and structures of this country. It’s breaking news right now. But we know racism is not new. It’s not novel. It’s always been there and it’s never going away.

And violence. Poverty. Selfishness. Greed. Lust. Power. Control. The sins of our society and our own individual sins. They separate us from our God, they divide us against each other, and they devour our bodies and souls.

So people are hurting. People are dying. People are crying out in pain. That’s where we are. The world is in pain.

Peace,

Allan

Wake Us Up, Lord

There are dark places in this country, Lord. Please open our eyes to see. And give us courage to act so that we may shine the light of your goodness and mercy into those spaces.

There are hurting people in this nation, Lord. Please open our hearts to feel. And give us the vision and the initiative to provide comfort and healing and peace.

There are divisions in this country, Lord. Please unite your Church. And bring us together in worship and service so the people of this land will know that you are God.

There is sin in the United States, Lord. Please open our souls to live and work together as your people in this nation. Compel us by your Spirit to forgive others, to love our enemies, to sacrifice and suffer in putting the needs of others ahead of our own, to point our neighbors to the glory of your great Name and to the free gift of salvation in your Son by the ways we truly care.

Wake us up, Lord. Give us a renewed awareness of the pain and the problems around us. We pray for healing, Father, for our families, for our churches, for our country. Send your Holy Spirit, God, to work in us and through us for the sake of this nation. And may your holy will be done in and through your Church in the United States — through your children here, through those of us who call your Son our only Lord — just as it is in heaven.

In the name of our risen and coming Lord Jesus.

Amen.

The Answer, My Friend

How many roads must a man walk down
before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannon balls fly
before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
before it before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist
before they’re allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head
and pretend that he just doesn’ see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
before he can really see the sky?
How many ears must one man have
before he can hear people cry
How many deaths will it take ’til he knows
that too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

~ Bob Dylan

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