The Great American Love Affair: Part 2

This post is appearing on “the green room” which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. The hope is that if there is disagreement, that we could do what Christians ought to do and dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner. 

This series, The Great American Love Affair comes from a current Eternity student, Stephen McMahon.


In my last post, I talked a little bit about my background with American Nationalism and how the Gospel confronts these issues. Today I want to dive a little more into what a Gospel-centered perspective is on some of the issues I previously introduced…

Christian living 

The process of refinement is necessary for all Christians on a daily basis. Addressing generally long accepted issues like Nationalism, racism, consumerism, and oppression that clash with the Gospel can be awkward and painful, but is very much needed to grow in Christ-likeness. When confronting a problem, a better solution must be given.

Luckily, we don’t have to speculate on what Jesus would want. Our literal, political King shows us exactly how to live this out, and is demonstrated by His life as described in the Gospels. Jesus had many followers in his life but the closest to Him were His 12 disciples. One of these men was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, Jesus knew would deliver Him to His death at the hands of the Romans. Jesus himself submitted to His betrayer and His captors all the way to death. One of the 12 at the time of the betrayal reacted just as most of us would. Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus, (and probably himself) from harm and cut off a guard’s ear. Jesus’ response in Matthew 26: 52-54 is the evidence that the kingdom He is the King of is not defined by the sword, but by submission. In the text, Jesus says if the sword were the way of His kingdom, he would have called down legions of angels to save Him and destroy His oppressors instantly.

Concerning the oppressed, Jesus also shows us the way of the kingdom in His life. Jesus’ interactions with the poor, diseased, and outcasts were always defined with love and care. He healed the sick and fed the hungry and calls all those who choose to follow Him to do the same. Jesus was constantly being mocked and challenged because of the company He kept. As previously stated in part 1, many people do help the poor and the sick but the difference is in His complete devotion to these people. Looking at Nationalistic American churches, it is hard to see the same commitment as we see in Jesus. Our individualistic society condemns those who won’t help themselves, and we subscribe to our humanistic, individualistic culture in the way we diagnose and look for the quick fix solution to these issues. If you’re sick, we have a pill for that. If you’re poor, get a job. If you’re an addict, there’s a program for you. Jesus’ prescription is holistic and calls for the church to step in and sacrifice our comforts and desires and to surround, support and help those in need. Was there any agenda more important to Jesus than loving people?

The ultimate temptress, money. 

It’s pretty clear that Americans have a love affair with material things and it is these love affairs that end up dropping us into a selfish, individualistic, material-chasing mindset. Materialism/money is one of the biggest detriments to a Christian life. The pursuit of it will literally determine the path of one’s life and the choices they make. The idea of security or pleasure through money, or what it can buy, drives people to ignore all else and pursue a life of faith in their own work. We all “need” money to survive, to function on a basic level. What we do to attain it, or when we go beyond “need” to “want” and sustenance to gross decadence is when it becomes the idol and guide of our lives. The spread of the Gospel should be the most important thing in a believer’s life, and money is not evil, but when the acquisition of wealth derails or distracts one from the pursuit of the Gospel, and our focus is turned inward, it becomes a major problem. When we choose to build our kingdom, we become self-focused.

Jesus’ Kingdom, not America’s

Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of justice; justice that is redemptive, not retributive. It is a holistic healing that meets people where they are, in their mess and brokenness, regardless of their situation. Jesus calls for His followers to care for the hurting, broken, lowliest members of our society: the outcasts. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Jesus’ plan for the broken can be seen in His life and how he treated them. He was constantly feeding the hungry, welcoming the children, and healing the sick. Even though we don’t see these miracles in the same dramatic fashion today, the command to care for the broken is still the same. The church in America spends an excess amount on buildings and programming and coffee. What if this money was used to buy food to feed the poor or medical care to help heal the sick? What if children’s ministry actually meant ministering to the broken children of the world by selling our stuff that we don’t need in order to start a massive adoption movement?

Consider this: “1.5 billion followers of Christ own two-thirds of the world’s resources and have an average yearly income more than three times that of non-Christians. Not all Christians, however, are materially wealthy. Almost 200 million live in absolute poverty, while 750 million of their fellow Christians live in affluence. Although most well-off Christians support relief, on average they give less than 3 percent of their income to Christian ministries. If they were to give even a tithe, Barrett concludes that “to a large extent, the global sharing by Christians of money, wealth, property, and goods could solve most of the problems of famine, poverty, disease, unemployment, dangerous water supply and so on”. (Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, 292)

Gospel allegiance means allegiance to Jesus alone 

The Gospel is the good news. It is the way to true fulfilling life. The Gospel offers freedom from worries and cares of this world, healing the sick, salvation for the oppressed and vindication for the guilty. When individual Christians and the church preach a message of salvation and freedom without practicing the realities that Jesus calls His followers to, this message is dulled and does not translate to the hearer. Faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 shows how intimately tied together works and faith are. These are not works to earn salvation but they are works that show the reality of our faith and how the Gospel is lived.

When the church gives its full allegiance to Christ the King, priorities will change. When our securities are founded in Christ, we are free to love our enemies in an extreme way. The love and pursuit of money turn us into self-focused consumerists and Jesus asks us to give up our desires, plans, and use our money for the good of others. We can’t serve God and money. It is up to us as Christians to choose this day whom we will serve.

 

 

Benching Jesus

For many of us seasons of soul care are on a pendulum. If we are honest, there are times when we bench Jesus due to the issues of our humanity. Apathy, discontentment, distraction and procrastination can be a part of us just as much as our limbs are. We are silly and fickle trading Jesus to the alternate team when we force our efforts and attentions elsewhere. The reality is Jesus is the source of life to the degree of Abundant. And he can breathe such life into every nook, cranny and category of our lives; And every fiber of our being.

14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:14-15

Did you know that to any priest, prophet or really to any person that understood Israelite heritage at this time, what Jesus engaged in was considered ceremonially unclean? This is how counter-cultural Jesus was. With relentless care for a woman and her dead son, Jesus enters a taboo situation as he lays a finger on the bier that the boy rest on. A bier would have been like a bench, or an open coffin, that they rest the boy’s lifeless body on for carrying. To any witness, they must have been thinking “That isn’t allowed, right?!” This is “dirty” and honestly disrespectful in the culture. But the boy is yanked out of death and back to life. Jesus is never concerned with how we view him, he offers life anyway.

When we bench Jesus, we only seek to ignore the One who can touch the bench of a young man without a pulse and restore cadence to his beating heart. Today, stop the pendulum swinging. Stop everything you are doing for a moment and invite Jesus into every department of your life. For he can revitalize every “dirty” situation.

The Great American Love Affair: Part 1

This post is appearing on “the green room” which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. The hope is that if there is disagreement, that we could do what Christians ought to do and dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner. 

This series, The Great American Love Affair comes from a current Eternity student, Stephen McMahon.


Jesus is our King, our Lord and he demands complete allegiance from every part of our lives. Daily refinement is necessary to grow in His image. We all need to take a step back to consider where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Even though we have been extremely blessed, the American Church is no different.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Continue reading

The New Year Jitters

It’s the time of the year when we embark on a cerebral journey into our previous 365 days. Thoughts ensue like “What did I accomplish last year?” and “Am I happy with what I’m doing in life?” This process has the ability to motivate us toward the reset button annually. We itch for something new and exciting. Set exorbitantly lofty goals. And of course, scroll our Instagram page to see if our life looks successful.

As we approach the new year we need to keep 3 points in our back pocket.

1. Don’t be anxious

As we analyze ourselves and wonder what we’re missing, we scramble to find new classes, adventures, flight tickets, hobbies, gear, etc. that we believe will add interest to our lives. We become anxious in taking urgent steps to validate our lives as what they are “supposed” to look like. But is that true at all?

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25

From the perspective of the Giver of true, abundant life – the ideal life is not found in those additions that we stress over desperately needing. Additions are not harmful or pointless to your life but when we are anxious for them to fulfill our lives then we are trading the truth of the abundant life for a lie in things, wanderlust, trends, fads and stuff. The truth is –

seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

2. Do be content

Along with the hustle and bustle of being anxious for new desires and ideas to fill our flaws, discontentment arrives. With the year’s expiration date rapidly approaching, we assume that we must launch into more important things so that we may be more significant. This may not be true of all people, but for many of us it really is. We become urgent in seeking treasure and purpose in our lives when seeking the kingdom first leads to those very outcomes. The Apostle Paul, a man who experienced the spectrum from living in blistering cold to bountiful comfort pens his perspective on contentment this way: 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Perhaps this year we must discover what it means to live in a new definition of contentment. For we could be exactly where we need to be for now.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Acts 17:26-27

3. Initiate

It all funnels into this: if we are seeking the kingdom first while pleased with our current circumstance then there is an opportunity to bloom where we have been planted. We ought to initiate bringing fruit to our situation in every way – benevolence, generosity, hospitality, community, marriage, friendships, ministries, day job, career, education. All of it.

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23

If we are to live this out, there is no time for stressing over what could be or where we could be. There is here and now and there is diligent work to be carried out for the kingdom. Opportunities can and will follow. But why not cause action to begin by initiating in the areas you have available.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

As we turn the page to 2017, do not be crippled by anxiety or paralyzed by discontentment. Manifest the love, care and compassion that pursued you where you are now.

Christian Voting Part 5: Trump won. I’m White. Now what?

About a month ago I wrote a 4-part series on Christian voting. Although I never intended to write a “part 5” after the election (no matter who won), some friends have asked for my thoughts so I will give them here. As with all my blogs, my content is directed towards Christians. My “calls to action” don’t really have a particular political agenda, they have a Kingdom agenda. Many Christians have already written about our need to submit to the governing authorities. I will post some helpful links at the end but in this blog; I hope to address something I don’t see many folks talking about.

As I stated before, this post is appearing on “the green room” which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. My hope is that if students, staff or alumni disagree with me, we could do what Christians ought to do, to dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner. Continue reading

Hacksaw Ridge: An Introduction Without a Finale

As someone with a rich Anabaptist heritage, the story behind director Mel Gibson’s recent film, Hacksaw Ridge, greatly intrigued me. Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss, a WWII veteran that participated in the action in Okinawa in the Pacific theater of war, 1945. What set Doss apart was his unbreakable affinity to nonviolence as a Seventh-Day Adventist. The film portrays Doss’ participation as a combat medic at Okinawa which earned him the first Medal of Honor award ever given to a conscientious objector.

For all his concentration on nonviolence, something which I believe is wholly biblical, Gibson spends an incredible amount of time crafting nauseatingly pornographic scenes of violence. In effect, he ennobles what he seeks to protest. But perhaps this was Gibson’s point. It’s only in the truly macabre display of bloodshed that Doss’ nonviolence is given a piercing contrast.

While there’s much good to affirm in Gibson’s portrayal of Doss’ Christian beliefs, the final result falls short of a truly nonviolent message. Doss’ convictions stem from a fascination with the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13), a passage only understood in the context of Gen. 1:26-27. At one point, Doss does allude to Matt. 5:21-26, implying a rudimentary understanding of the New Covenant. But unfortunately, Jesus as the slain Lamb of God who conquered by being conquered is seemingly absent from Doss’ worldview, leaving Gibson’s message caged in the Old Testament devoid of the power of the resurrection—victory in defeat. Gibson’s film, while poignant, is grossly incomplete.