Author: Allan (Page 1 of 447)

Devotion

Here is the second core principle from Josh Ross’s  book Coreology: Six Principles for Navigating an Election Season without Losing Our Witness.

#2 – I will create and honor regular spiritual practices that remind me of my devotion to Jesus

As preachers, pastors, and church leaders, a common observation is that increasingly more Christians are only spending time with God in Word and prayer when they’re at the church building a couple of times a month. Instead of a vital component to a vigorous life in Christ, daily devotions seem to be a thing of the quaint past. Regular, daily Christian practices or spiritual disciplines are engaged by fewer and fewer of us. At the same time, all of us are spending more and more hours every day in front of our screens–news, movies, sports, streaming, work emails, family Facebook, binging, whatever. We are being formed less and less by intentionally dwelling in the teachings and the presence of our Lord and more and more by algorithm-inspired propaganda, news, and on-demand entertainment.

To set up his second principle, Josh points to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6 to seek his Kingdom first. In order to guard our hearts from getting lost in the culture wars or the election seasons, we must create and honor these regular times with God in Word and prayer. It must be intentional and it must be more than a quick checklist endeavor:

“You can’t give God a three-minute devotional time in the morning, yet soak in cable news and podcasts for hours a day and think you can live a life devoted to Christ… Devotion to Jesus takes practices that keep us rooted, grounded, and growing. Without such practices, we will drift from our center. We will fail to strengthen our core.”

A lot of the fear, worry, and anger that people experience in the world today is induced by cable news and social media. The more time a person spends with that, the more likely that person is to equate the ways and means of the culture with the ends and goals of God’s Kingdom. Especially when that person is not spending at least as much time with God in Word and prayer, to keep the story straight, to keep the Kingdom goals and the Jesus ways straight. It begins to seem like the only way to accomplish change in the world–in my world–is to holler and yell and insult and threaten. Well, now you’re working in decidedly un-Christian ways toward highly questionable goals. And you start to believe that the Kingdom of God is something for later, after you die, instead of for living and bringing to God’s world right now today.

“In his world, ‘Kingdom’ language was political. Jesus’ hearers knew about other kingdoms–the kingdom of Herod and the kingdom of Rome. The Kingdom of God had to be something different from those kingdoms. The Kingdom of God is for the earth. The Lord’s Prayer speaks of God’s Kingdom coming on earth, even as it already exists in heaven. It is about the transformation of this world–what life would be on earth if God were ruler and the lords of the domination systems were not.” ~Marcus Borg, Jesus and Politics, 2019

I love this paragraph as Josh concludes this chapter on devotion:

“Jesus intends for his followers to live by a different set of rules than any earthly kingdom sets in place. Our King is in place. His Kingdom has been set in motion. Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we have citizenship in this Kingdom. We have values, principles, and commands. We have a mission to build bridges in order to invite others, instead of building walls to keep others out. This is what the church–Jesus’ church–has been tasked to pray for and live into.”

Renouncing the kingdoms and the ways of the world and embracing Christ’s Kingdom and the ways of Jesus requires spiritual discipline. Especially now, we should all be doubling down on our spiritual practices. Pick one day a week and read one of the Gospels out loud all the way through so you can read all four every month. That will get you into the Word and get the Word into you. Pray several times during the day. Practice personal examination at lunch, at the end of your work day, and as you get ready for bed: how have I behaved in the past four to five hours? Did I think and talk and act like Jesus? Do I need to apologize to anybody? Volunteer at a non-profit in a different part of town. There are lots of ways to stay locked in to your commitments to Jesus and his Kingdom. But they don’t happen by default. It’s got to be intentional.

Peace,

Allan

Confession

On this Juneteenth holiday, I would humbly invite you to join me in prayer to our God for three things: 1) lament to our Lord the atrocities of slavery and acknowledge to him this country’s sins of racism and segregation; 2) thank God for the progress we’ve made and that we are not where we once were, as individuals and in this country; and 3) personally resolve before God to continue fighting racism and segregation in all its forms in our communities, our families, and our churches.

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Today we look at the first of Josh Ross’s six principles for navigating an election season without losing our witness. These come from Josh’s new book, Coreology, written to Christians as a call to be intentionally thoughtful, careful, and prayerful with our words and actions, particularly as they relate to this country’s national politics. These are core practices that will remind us daily of who we are and to whom we belong. These core Christian disciplines will help keep us from confusing the kingdoms of this world and their ways and means with the eternal Kingdom of our God and his very different politics.

#1 – I will daily confess that Jesus is the Lord of my life and nothing else is.

In the New Testament, confession almost always refers to pledging allegiance to Jesus as Lord and to his ways. In 22 of the 26 times the word “confess” is used in the New Testament, it’s about renouncing the ways of the world and proclaiming loyalty to Jesus as Lord. Our concern, as expressed by Josh, is that many Christians are allowing the social, political, and cultural issues of our day inform how we think about Jesus, instead of letting Jesus inform how we think about and respond to the issues. If Jesus is Lord and nothing and nobody else is, then we must interpret the issues through his clear teachings and actions, instead of letting my political party or my favorite candidate or my preferred news outlet tell me how to think and respond to the issues and then read and interpret Jesus through that. Jesus is Lord. Everything runs through him first.

Josh points to the apostle Paul’s metaphor at the end of Ephesians of dressing oneself in the armor of God. Paul does not encourage the Christians there to leave the city of Ephesus because of the evil culture. He doesn’t argue for a Christian colony, for cancel culture, or to run for your lives. He argues for cultural engagement through a faithful Christian witness grounded in the lordship of Christ.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. People and people-groups are not our enemies. Jesus is our Lord and he directs us to love and forgive, to sacrifice and serve, for the sake of all the divine image-bearers among us. We are not called to fight anything. Or anyone. As Josh writes:

“It is not for the preservation of the Roman Empire, a nation, or even for the eternal Kingdom of God. In a city full of theaters, halls for every form of philosophy, and pagan temples, Paul paints a picture of how we engage culture without getting lost in culture wars. His message wasn’t to protest keg fests and to cancel marketplaces and to boycott parts of town, but to dress yourselves as people of the Kingdom and to live in a way that makes a difference in the world.”

Cancel culture is not good for the Church. Culture wars do not advance the Kingdom of God. Josh reminds us that we get lost during election seasons when we choose sides and give in to the fear tactics and create enemies who are not enemies of God. That greatly hinders our motivation and determination to passionately engage people. It is difficult to win to Christ those your media outlets call your enemies.

It is possible to confess Jesus with your lips, yet give your allegiance to the kingdoms of this world. It is possible to confess Jesus as your Savior, yet never confess him as your Lord.

As vital as conversion is to the Christian faith, Josh says, confession is vital to conversion.

“Our confession is meant to center us, transform us, and redirect us. Confession sets us on a trajectory to live with one ultimate allegiance, not dozens of them. Jesus is Lord. Nothing else is.”

If your regional or national politics clash with the clear politics of our Lord, you have to make a choice. If the goals of your candidate are different from Jesus’ stated goals, you have to decide. If your party’s ways and means of getting things accomplished are the opposite of Jesus’ love and sacrifice and mercy and service, you have to pick. You can’t do both. You can’t be devoted to two kingdoms. No one can serve two masters.

A daily confession of the lordship of Jesus will help us keep our story straight. And our Christian lives. Let us hold fast to our confession.

Peace,

Allan

Coreology

The Mavericks’ incredible playoff run came to a brutal close in Boston last night, but it doesn’t take away from what was one of the top three or four seasons in Dallas basketball history. Getting to the NBA Finals as a #5 seed is accomplishment enough. Watching the Mavs breeze through the first three rounds of the playoffs reminded me of the 1987-88 team that came out of nowhere to take the Showtime Lakers of Kareem and Magic to a seventh game in the Western Conference Finals. That’s how much fun this was. The whole thing was delightfully shocking. It ended last night against an historically dominant Celtics team but, while it stings today, it doesn’t diminish what the Mavs did, where they are, and where they’re going.

The Mavericks have the plan and they have most of the pieces. They have arguably the best player on the planet, who is only 25 and determined to do whatever it takes to win a title. Like Dirk before him, Luka’s defense and details will only get better. They have the twin towers of Lively and Gafford flying all over both rims. They have a surprisingly mature Kyrie Irving who, most nights, can create and finish like nobody else and is becoming a legitimate leader in the locker room. They have a true scoring forward in P.J. Washington. They have hustling role players like Jones and Green and Maxi. They need a little more time together and a little more experience. Maybe one more lock-down defensive forward and one more true threat from three. The Mavs will be the favorites to come out of the West again next year, along with Denver and OKC.

You don’t just come out of nowhere and win a championship. What the Texas Rangers did last year almost never happens. The Mavs are in the middle of the journey. And it’s heading in a really fun direction.

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“We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church does not believe what the church teaches.” ~Russell Moore, Why the Church is Losing the Next Generation, 2021

My friend Josh Ross, the Lead Minister at the Sycamore View Church in Memphis, has published a little book on how to navigate an election season without losing our Christian witness. The book is titled Coreology and outlines six core principles to keep followers of our Lord Jesus from blowing our credibility with a watching world. As Josh writes in the introduction, “Much of life is how we react to people, situations, and circumstances; but if one’s faith is only a reactionary faith, maturity and growth can only go so far. A vibrant faith is a faith that prepares through practices, disciplines, intentionality, and strategic action.”

Josh believes it is “extremely difficult, if not impossible, to shine the light of Christ in places we have cancelled, neglected, or view as the enemy.” In other words, as I stated in a recent sermon, “If we hate them, we’ll never save them.” Josh’s motivation for writing Coreology are similar to mine for reading it and sharing it with you here. As he outlines near the end of his introduction:

~ I don’t want us to confuse where our overall allegiance lies
~ I don’t want us to spend valuable energy fighting the wrong fights
~ I don’t want us to create enemies with people who are not enemies of God
~ I don’t want us to lose–or blow–our witness
~ I don’t want our hearts to become hard or our love to grow cold

Josh’s plea is that we “root our motives, intentions, passions, and desires in what it means to be Kingdom people above all things.”

Some of us have swallowed a horrific lie that the salvation of the United States somehow depends on electing the right politicians. We’re following, supporting, and defending government officials and candidates who are telling us the preservation of the Church depends on the platform of a certain party. Many of us are campaigning and picketing, screaming and yelling, insulting and fighting right alongside everyone else for a particular party or candidate, all of which is decidedly un-Christian behavior.

We are a Kingdom people. We have a King, one King, and we don’t divide our loyalties with any other. We have a polis, a community, brought together across all national boundaries and language barriers and culture differences as one Body of Christ. We are guided by the Kingdom’s politics, the rules our King sets forth to govern how we get along with one another, how we treat others, and how we accomplish his will for the world he loves. Those politics are not based on power, control, wealth, division, and violence; they are eternally grounded in love and grace, sacrifice and service, unity and submission and mercy. The kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of our Lord are two completely different things and their politics are totally incompatible.

That brings us back to Josh’s book.

We’re going to use this space over the next several days to explore all six of Josh’s principles:

~ I will daily confess that Jesus is the Lord of my life and nothing else is
~ I will create and honor regular spiritual practices that remind me of my devotion to Jesus
~ I will resist allowing any media outlet to become the primary way I think about culture and the world
~ I will strive to become a peacemaker
~ I will practice hospitality as a way to learn, grow, and invest in other people
~ I will choose to regularly serve others

We’ll carefully summarize Josh’s thoughts as outlined in his book and then share some of our own.

Until then, this quote from the book’s introduction which I, too, have used in several places since it was first written in 2020:

“When Christians–regardless of political leanings–behave like jerks and justify our behavior at all costs because of our ideological convictions, we bear false witness to Jesus Christ.” ~ Eugene Cho, Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk, 2020

Peace,

Allan

Bad Day to Be a Tree

I was sitting at their kitchen table early Saturday morning, drinking my Diet Dr Pepper and reading about the Mavericks’ Game Four blowout, when my son-in-law Collin came around the corner and proclaimed, “It’s a bad day to be a tree!”

Carrie-Anne and I were visiting Carley and Collin at their home in Flower Mound as part of a longer trip to see my parents in East Texas. My three siblings and our spouses all met up in Liberty City Friday to surprise our folks with a barbecue lunch to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. The mini-vacation turned into a work trip when, three weeks ago, the incessant rains and windstorms in DFW took out a massive tree cluster in Carley and Collin’s back yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were five trees growing out of one massive stump in the corner of their yard where their property meets their neighbors’. Each of the trees had been growing since the early ’80s and were between 30-40 feet tall. The saturated ground finally turned them loose, destroying three fence posts and two sections of fence panel and ripping out a main sprinkler system line. One of the trees landed in the neighbors yard, one took out another fence post and two more panels, two fell into their massive Magnolia tree, and one rested against the corner of their house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collin and I took it all down and out on Saturday with a 14-inch chainsaw and a machete. We only suffered two “mishaps” and one near-death experience. The scariest part was getting on and off their roof with only a six-foot step ladder. The fun part was bonding together over our shared tree-annihilating prowess. The longest part was the clean-up. Carrie-Anne and Carley joined us to haul every bit of it to the front curb where the City of Flower Mound assures us it’ll be picked up soon.

Following a brief recovery and some cold showers, we ate a wonderful dinner together at Mi Cocina at The Star in Frisco and then took in the RoughRiders game at the Frisco ballpark. The RoughRiders were hosting the Amarillo Sod Poodles, so C-A and I embraced our mixed loyalties and enjoyed the whole experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were especially blessed to worship with Collin and Carley at their church in Flower Mound Sunday morning before they treated me to my favorite Father’s Day lunch: the Buffalo chicken tenders at Cheddar’s.

It was a beautiful weekend all the way around. Fabulous. For everybody except that tree.

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If I were still making predictions about the NBA Finals, I’d say something about how the Celtics don’t have any pressure on them tonight in Game Five. Sure, the Mavs exploded Friday and destroyed Boston in Dallas, finally looking like the team that breezed through the first three rounds. Yes, Luka set the tone by refusing to complain to the refs and by embracing his defensive responsibilities and the rest of the team followed. Absolutely, it looks like the Mavs have finally figured it out. But it’s too late. Dallas can’t win four straight. Jayson Tatum admitted as much yesterday, saying something like, “It would be nice to close this out at home, but we don’t have to win Monday. Monday is not a must win. We only have to win one of the next three. There’s no pressure on us.”

Okay. There’s no pressure on either team tonight. Boston is expected to win to complete the “Gentlemen’s Sweep,” and Dallas is expected to lose the series, if not tonight, then certainly on Thursday.

But what if the Mavericks win a close one tonight? It’s possible, especially if Porzingas is not out there for the Celtics. Everything is clicking now for Dallas in their last five quarters. Kyrie has found his shot. Gafford and Lively have found the rim. Luka is not messing around. There’s an energy now they were really lacking in the first two-and-a-half games. What if they win tonight?

Now, it’s 3-2 and the series shifts back to Dallas and ALL the pressure is on Boston. The Celtics CAN’T lose Game Six because that would force a Game Seven and NOBODY wants a Game Seven because anything can happen in a Game Seven. If this thing comes back to Dallas, who is the pressure on? Not Dallas!

If I were still making predictions, I’d pick the Celtics in a tight one tonight to win their record 18th NBA championship. But if Dallas wins tonight, nobody’s trusting anybody’s predictions anymore.

Go Mavs.

Allan

We’re Number Two!

According to the latest numbers from Beverage Digest, Dr Pepper is now fractionally ahead of Pepsi at 8.3% of the U.S. soda market share, making the national soda of Texas the number two most popular soda in the country. First time ever.

To celebrate, I suggest a Creamy Coconut Dr Pepper at 10, a Whataburger Dr Pepper Shake at 2, and an ice-cold original Dr Pepper at 4.

Peace,

Allan

Faith as Politics

I want to draw your attention to an editorial piece in the current issue of The Christian Chronicle. The editorial is written by Jeremie Beller, the opinions editor for the Church of Christ publication and the preacher at Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. I’m pleasantly surprised by the editorial and I urge you to read it. Unlike most Christian Chronicle editions which attempt to present both sides of an issue without taking a stand, this short editorial draws a strong distinction between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and cautions all Christians against mistaking one for the other.

The overall tenor of the article is established right out of the gate when Beller contrasts the kingdoms of power, violence, and control with the Kingdom of justice, love, and mercy. He writes, “We have allowed our politics to shape our faith, rather than letting our faith shape our political engagement.” That’s true. Mostly. My problem with statements like this is that they fall short in, at worst, pitting faith against politics or, at best, presenting faith and politics as two separate things.

Until we see faith as politics, we’ll keep getting this wrong.

Beller takes a step in the right direction when he writes, “The Gospel is political by nature.” He’s right. Faith in Christ Jesus is political from start to finish. So it’s not seeing our politics through the lens of our faith, it should be seeing our faith as our politics.

With that quibble aside, it’s an excellent piece worthy of your time and careful consideration. Here it is. I recommend it to you highly.

Peace,

Allan

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