The freedom found in Christ

“The fact that those freed by the divine action still live in the world does not mean that they belong to the world, as though possessed by the world and incorporated into its structure. They are indeed in themselves finite individuals, but are no longer in slavery for — through the process of dying and rising with Christ — they have broken through into the infinity and freedom of God himself.” — Hans Urs von Balthasar, Engagement with God


Paying attention to the margins

Who does God receive? The ones without status. The ones society doesn’t recognize.

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

Is Jesus cleaning house?

Matthew 21:12-22

There are a couple of things I know in our current political and cultural climate:

  1. We can’t predict anything. I’m done with that. I have a sense of what the Spirit was speaking to me this morning in prayer as I read this passage, but that’s it. I have no “thus saith the Lord.” All the “thus saith the Lord” proclamations to this point concerning the election are just not much in the way of accuracy. We’re guessing. And there is a reason.
  2. We’re doing too many things based on fear. As Americans. As Christians in America We’re reacting out of fear. For believers, that is not only not good… it’s not necessary. 

Several years ago I was listening to a church leader who had been pastoring a significant Pentecostal church in the days of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart and their downfalls. He was seeing some wonderful things happen in his church and was growing somewhat influential in the Charismatic Movement so some media outlets asked him his opinion about the downfall of two very prominent TV preachers. He refused comment.

He said, “Jesus was going through his garden pruning with a chainsaw, and I felt like I was some little twig holding on for dear life! What did I have to say against someone else?”

It wasn’t that he didn’t have an opinion, or that he felt Bakker or Swaggart were somehow being maligned. He just didn’t feel the need to pile on. He knew what was happening. Jesus was cleaning house.

Again, I have no “thus saith the Lord” on this, but the question ringing in my mind this morning with this text is this: “What if Jesus is cleaning house?”

Jesus in the Temple that day isn’t going after Rome. He’s going after Israel. He’s going after their lame attempts to hold onto power while they allowed oppression of the marginalized all around them. The Jewish leadership was pressing down on people and using the Temple for strong-arming the margins when it should have been a house of prayer. Their priorities were all messed up.

He then demonstrates it further in the cursing of the fig tree. There was the tree looking all good, but no fruit. It was symbolic of Israel. “You all LOOK fine with the Temple looking better than ever… but you have NOTHING to give out in life!”

What if Jesus is cleaning house? No matter what happens this election cycle, what if he is trying to say to American Christianity: “Quit grasping at political power!”

What if we quit trying to justify “backing” one candidate or another, which is only thinly veiled as our attempt to remain in a place where we have some political influence? What if Jesus is cleaning house by whittling away religious freedoms we’ve enjoyed… NOT to “destroy America” but to wake up the Church?

What if the Church got back to prayer… NOT for “America to wake up” but for the American Church to wake up? What if we got back to the basics of prayer… just simply seeking God without any agenda as to how we feel our “rights” are being stripped away, but just being in his presence and looking to glorify his great name again? 

What if the Church got back to paying attention to what Jesus demonstrated in his life? When Jesus overturned the tables and called people back to prayer, the margins flocked to him. They came to him in the Temple area, where the Jewish leaders had been trying to control who came in and who stayed outside. What if the Church in America turned its attention back to the margins… away from Washington? 

What if we began to see the marginalized again… to reach out to the poor, the oppressed, the beat down… What if we didn’t give standard political answers (from the right OR the left) and shut our mouths and just worked?

What if Jesus is cleaning house? Not Washington… his house. His church. His people.

What if we would listen?

What … if…


The true power of the gospel

The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious experience, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being “left behind”), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises a hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun.  — N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope