A Sickness & A Cure: A Response to the Events of Jan. 6

By Pastor Nathaniel

You (like me) watched with horror what happened on January 6, 2021. While peaceful protest is a hallmark of our democracy, what happened at the US Capitol was tragic and grievous. It was a dark day in American history.

I’ve wrestled with what to say in this moment. Here are some prayerful thoughts.

A Sickness

What we saw Wednesday was merely a symptom of a deep-rooted sickness that has gripped our nation. It’s a sickness of idolatry, of violence, of only listening to facts we agree with, of pursuing worldly means of achieving power. It’s a sickness of sin.

Sadly, this is not just a sickness in the world “out there.” It has crept into the church, infecting self-proclaimed followers of Jesus.

This is our problem.

If we want a cure to the disease, here are a some biblical truths we must cling to:

1. We serve no ordinary king. Our ultimate king is Christ — and Christ alone. He is the only one who deserves our undivided allegiance.

“He… is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:15)

2. We pledge allegiance to no ordinary kingdom. Our ultimate Kingdom is not the United States, but the kingdom of God. Our love and devotion to this temporary nation must never exceed our love and devotion for the never-ending kingdom of God.

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” (Psalm 145:13)

3. We do not fight in ordinary ways. There are situations in which it is biblically permissible to use force — such as serving in the armed forces or in self-defense. But as Christians, our primary weapons of war aren’t clubs and violence, but prayer and intercession.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

4. We do not have an ordinary mission. We are called to be agents of reconciliation in the world, pointing broken people to their loving God. We are not — in any situation — called to be agents of chaos.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

A Better Cause

I’m not naïve. I’m sure some of you may find yourselves strangely sympathetic to the rioters’ cause. Maybe you feel a strong sense of injustice, and you want to be a part of some great movement.

Let me speak directly to you for a moment: Your ache at the realities of injustice is good; we do live in a fallen, broken world. Your desire to join in a great cause is admirable; we all want to be a part of something great.

But this is not the way.

There is injustice in the world, but this isn’t the way to fight it. We should be a part of greater causes, but we deserve something better than a violent mob.

The truth is that God already has a plan to effect change in the world — to fight injustice and give you a chance to join in something great. But this plan doesn’t involve clubs and riots. It involves everyday people of God joining together to love their neighbors and proclaim the gospel to them. If you want to change the world, join the church.

We aren’t called to fight our enemies, but to love them.

Look to Jesus

Jesus lived during a tense political time, too. The whole world was walking on egg shells; at any moment, violence could break out. The people expected the Messiah would join them in their fight — overthrowing the wicked empire they so despised.

But did Jesus do that? No. When Jesus came, he didn’t conquer his enemies, he laid down his life for them. He didn’t satisfy the crowds’ yearning for violence, he renounced those desires. When Peter drew the sword to cut off the ear of one of Jesus’ captors, Jesus reprimanded him for it.

See, their hopes were far too small. Jesus had bigger plans — plans not just for a temporary kingdom, but for a cosmic redemption of all parts of mankind.

Today, don’t let your hopes be too small. Join in with God’s bigger plans — for your life, and for the world.

As we conclude, please join me in praying for our nation — and for us. The change we want to see in the world must start in our own lives.

This post originally published at CedarRockBaptist.com.

When Fear Gets in the Way of Sharing the Gospel

I know I’m supposed to share the gospel. But fear always seems to get in the way.

To wit: I once had a conversation with a staunchly liberal (and probably unsaved) lady in my town. I invited her to my church and mentioned how faith inspires us to love the least of these. As I walked away, though, I realized I had only wanted to talk about topics she wanted to hear. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with her worldview — namely, that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

On another occasion, I discussed faith with a deeply conservative (and probably unsaved) man. After I explained my interest in international missions, he said, “I hope you don’t leave the country. I hate any country that’s not America.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with his worldview — namely, the parts about Jesus saving us to share his good news to the ends of the earth.

In both instances, fear prohibited me from sharing parts of the gospel my listeners didn’t want to hear. So I stayed away from controversial topics. And both of them heard something less than the full gospel message.

Continue reading

A Savior Greater Than Our Divisions

They were unlikely friends.

One man had betrayed his family and culture to work for the corrupt, overbearing government they despised. His old friends now counted him among the thieves and murderers. They even refused to worship with him.

His associate was part of an anti-government movement. This occasionally militant group aspired to wage war against the government and return to the glory days when their culture and religion ruled.

These men had little in common, and they should have been enemies. But they decided to lay aside their past and their politics to work together for the common good.

This story sounds naïve and unrealistic. In today’s divisive world, everything is divided into camps of red and blue, black and white. We can’t even imagine a scenario in which two people this different could find a way to work together.

But this is no made up story. This is the true story of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot, two of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Continue reading

Fools-Golden Rules: The Golden Rule’s Cheap Substitutes

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

We all know the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s practically hard-wired into our brains.

Yet even though we know the golden rule so well, we often have a harder time putting it into practice. Too often, we prefer one of the golden rule’s cheap substitutes, such as… Continue reading

A Homeless Gospel in a Partisan World

I’m accustomed to seeing Donald Trump Twitter tirades. I’m not, however, accustomed to seeing Southern Baptist theologians as the object of those tirades. Yet, yesterday morning, I woke up to this:

Opinions of Donald Trump aside, when was the last time a Republican Presidential nominee publically went after an influential Evangelical leader? I can’t think of an example. Republicans used to actively court Evangelicals, not crucify them.

And the cordial feelings tended to be mutual. Though the Republican Party has never aligned perfectly with Christian teaching, conservative Evangelicals could generally rely on the party to produce candidates who valued life, character, and religious freedom.

Yet that assumption has been slowly eroding, and Trump’s tweet seems to be the nail in the coffin. The gospel no longer fits neatly into a political party (if it ever did at all). Continue reading

The Ashley Madison in All of Us

He knew what he was doing was wrong. God had clearly told him not to. But he saw it. His eyes lingered over it, and he began to crave it. Finally, he went against his better judgment and took it. He knew the potential consequences — that it could destroy his family and community. He hid it, convinced that no one would ever know.

Yet one fateful day, his secret was exposed. All the gory details were out in the open. And he and his family suffered the consequences.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But I’m not talking about Josh Duggar and his Ashley Madison account. I’m talking about a man named Achan. Continue reading

When People Love You (or Hate You) for Your Faith

Have you ever had a good day turn bad? Elon Musk can empathize. Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX, celebrated his 44th birthday on June 28. The day started off great, I’m sure. Who doesn’t like birthdays? Yet that morning one of his SpaceX rockets, destined for the International Space Station, exploded after launch. What started as a great day quickly turned sour.

Paul and Barnabas had one of those days, too. Luke tells us the story in Acts 14:8-23. Continue reading