Is Capitalism Bad?

Das Bean Photo by Mark Publava

I was very surprised to find out in April that Colorado’s largest teachers union, Colorado Education Association (CEA), passed a resolution that states 

The CEA believes that capitalism inherently exploits children, public schools, land, labor, and resources. Capitalism is in opposition to fully addressing systemic racism (the school to prison pipeline), climate change, patriarchy (gender and LGBTQ disparities), and income inequality.

So is capitalism bad?  It looks like the majority of the delegates at the CEA convention believe that capitalism is bad.  This really surprised me, especially since all the economically successful countries of the world use capitalism to a significant degree.  We have seen almost all communist (i.e. pure socialism) countries become capitalistic. Communist countries could not provide a standard of living that the mostly capitalist countries could.  Capitalism works. Pure socialism has not worked.

It needs to be noted that there is a spectrum of economies that exist between pure capitalism and pure socialism. Pure capitalism or laissez faire economics allows market forces to run free with no government interference in the economy. Pure socialism (e.g. communism) has the government in full control of the economy.  Almost all country economies are not pure capitalist or pure socialist. The economies are a combination of both.  China’s economy leans heavily toward a socialist economy, but it is also very capitalistic.  The American economy leans heavily toward a capitalist economy.  However, almost all economies today you can treat as capitalist economies,  even the Chinese economy.  It is effectively a capitalist world, so I am surprised that this resolution passed because it looks to me that capitalism has already won.

Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, in response to the resolution, defended capitalism.  “It’s the great economic engine of capitalism that creates the prosperity that funds our schools,” Polis said. “Capitalism keeps teachers salaries up, funds our schools, and leads to the great prosperity we have.”  Well said!  That is the reality. 

So why does the passing of this resolution bother me?  With the majority of delegates, who I assume to be mostly teachers, supporting this resolution, I wonder what those teachers are teaching in the classroom. We must be careful not to take a broad brush and paint all public school teachers as anti-capitalists, but I do find the passage of this resolution to be very concerning.  There is definitely an anti-capitalist bias among many teachers.  One tweet praises the fact that the CEA can now lobby the state to pass anti-capitalist policies. They see the world very differently from how I see it.  I believe it is their worldview that is why they are anti-capitalists.

That different view of the world is what bothers me.  It is upside down from the Christian Faith, and I believe it is harmful. They assume they are by nature good.  They look inside themselves at their feelings and desires to determine who they are. They look outside themselves and see a world full of problems. They believe it is out there in the structures of society where the problems exist. So they think that if they control society, they can fix the problems and with the right education and training create something that resembles an utopian society.  I believe that is their worldview.

Instead the Christian will look inside and see that we are self-centered, selfish, and altogether broken.  Our feelings and desires are not trustworthy.  The Christian recognizes that the problems in the world are all the result of broken sinful people.  The Christian also looks out beyond the world to find a God who loves each and every one of us and wants to begin a restoration process so to save ourselves from ourselves. Christians, who recognize they are forgiven and loved by God, can fix the problems and change the world.  It has happened in the past and it still happens today.

I believe the reason pure socialism or communism failed is because we all are selfish and self-centered.  Those in power selfishly took advantage of the rest. They looked after themselves and not the good of their country.  Capitalism allows people to pursue opportunities to grow their own wealth.  Selfish self-centeredness can be the motivation to improve one’s well being.  Unfortunately, it also can be a reason to oppress one’s workers and one’s competitors.  I believe that is why we do not have pure capitalism.  At times, the government needs to step in and stop any bad corporate behavior..

It is my opinion that this non-Christian upside down worldview, that is being taught by many teachers, is harmful, especially to the young people.  Puberty is a time of great change.  It is also a time when the young person is trying to find their identity and figure out who they are in the world.  It was true for me.  These concepts of gender identity and oppressive structures in society can be unsettling and confusing. I believe this is why teen mental illness and teen suicide rates are up.  It is an unhealthy worldview that is being promoted.

Yes, there are many problems in the world.  Yes, there are societal structures that need to be fixed.  Yes, there are many inequalities that are unfair.  All these things are not right and need to be fixed, but the problem is not capitalism.  The problem is us. With God’s help we can make progress against these problems.  Christianity has been a strong force for good. (Unfortunately, it is not always the case because Christians are broken people too.)  I truly believe the world is a much better place because of God working in and through Christians throughout the centuries. With a right worldview, a Christian worldview, we can make a positive difference in the world.


A hug, Photo by Melanie Stander

The Christian Faith is all about forgiveness. What does forgiveness look like? Let me explain forgiveness in a story.

You invite a friend over to explain why you have to do an unpleasant task.  You explain why it is necessary and your friend grudgingly agrees, but he leaves angry and in his car he purposely backs over your mailbox and then drives over it again before speeding down the road.  To replace the mailbox will cost at least $100.  This is a debt your friend owes you.  The monetary debt is not the only debt.  Your relationship is also broken.  You have feelings of anger and sadness at how things turned out. Those are debts too.  You have been wronged. You want vengeance. He needs to pay.  He owes you and you have a desire to even the score.

However, you decide to forgive.  As a Christian, you forgive because God has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).  You are no different than him.  You both are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness (Romans 3:23).  You forgive because you have been forgiven much (Matthew 18:23-35). With the Holy Spirit in you, you have the power to forgive.  This is the first dimension of forgiveness.  It is upward and looks to God.

You internally forgive your friend.  If you do not, your friend and this event will have power over you. By not forgiving, you will let this event influence you in the decisions you make.  By forgiving, you decide not to demand the $100+ from your friend.  You will also treat him well and will not extract a payment in any way for the mental anguish he caused you. If you do not, your unforgiveness will bind you and you will take actions solely because of what he did. Forgiving will free you from this bondage. This is the second dimension of forgiveness and it is inward (Mark 11:25).

The third dimension of forgiveness is outward (Luke 17:3-4).  You go to your friend to reconcile with him. You confront your friend about the wrong, the destruction of the mailbox and his anger.  Most of the time, it is not 100% his fault.  You likely had a part to play in the wrong.  No matter how small a part it was, you should apologize and ask him for forgiveness for your small part.  That will help with the reconciliation.  Now you have confronted him with his wrongdoing.  If he takes your admonition to heart, forgive him and let him know that you will not hold anything against him.  If he does not and refuses to repent, then you still can be open to restoring the relationship as much as it is possible (Romans 12:18).  Even without his repentance, you have internally forgiven him so you can and should still treat him with love and respect, however the relationship is not what it once was.

If things are serious, you may need to involve the police.  You should consider whether having the police involved is the best thing for him and for others in contact with him.  Out of love for him and for the others, you need to consider what is best.  Note justice and forgiveness are not mutually exclusive. Your internal forgiveness frees you to do the best thing possible without any need for revenge, and that may mean involving the justice system.

So how does justice play into this idea of forgiveness?  Looking at God’s forgiveness for us, we start with the knowledge that God is both forgiving and just.  On the cross, out of love, God reconciled the world to himself by paying our debt (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).  He could not ignore our sin and let it go.  Justice required a payment for our sins and Jesus made that payment on the cross. So justice and forgiveness need not be exclusive to each other.  

People, who do not like forgiveness, often point to abusers and oppressors for their reason not to forgive.  They think you are letting them get away with their wrongdoing.  In most of these cases of abuse, power dynamics are involved.  The abuser or the oppressor twists the relationship so that they are in control and they have the power.  It is not a healthy relationship. It is best for others and for the abuser/oppressor that they receive justice that will protect society.  A slap on the hand is not going to change their behavior.  They need a sterner punishment for their own good and for the good of society.  

The purpose of forgiveness is to restore and create a good healthy relationship.  Internal forgiveness makes it possible for the relationship to be restored.  The repentance of the offender with the proclamation of forgiveness then allows the relationship to be restored. This restoration is a process that can take some time before the relationship is fully restored.

This post was partially based on Timothy Keller’s book, “Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I?”.

Rejoice, Pray, and Give Thanks!

Prayer Photo by Jesper Noer

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

This sentence has meant a lot to me in my spiritual walk.  I try to be intentional and disciplined in strengthening my relationship with God, and this sentence along with Bible reading and study, and serving God by serving others allows that to happen. I believe this sentence with the 3 humanly impossible commands can help set our attitude and can help us build some good habits.

Pray Without Ceasing

I am going to start with continual prayer since I believe it is central because it focuses us on God. I have a whole blog post on “God Awareness” where I show the importance of prayer to remind ourselves of the presence of God. By praying as often as possible we can keep God in our thoughts and it makes us aware of God at work around us and in us. God is at work in us rewiring our brains so that we can be more like him.  I believe this habit of praying is one of God’s ways he uses to change us.

So what does this continual prayer look like?  For me it is made up of mostly short bullet prayers. When I think of a person I try to say a short prayer for them right then and there.  Also many times I pray “Thank you, Jesus” when I recognize something to be thankful for or I am reminded of what Jesus has done for me by dying on the cross.  Another short prayer I say many times a day is “I am yours”, in which I acknowledge God is my master and I surrender myself to him.  In a day, there tends to be many periods of dead time.  One significant dead time is when you are driving in a car somewhere.  You can use that time to sing praise songs in the car along with the radio, or you can also use the time to pour out your concerns to God. I recently used the time waiting for a dentist to pray for people. The point is to use the dead time in the day to connect with God.

Continual praying allows us to further develop that intimate relationship with God by recognizing his continual presence in our lives. He is always there for you with his love and we can respond to his love in loving prayer.

Rejoice Always

When we recognize God’s continual presence, his goodness, and sovereign control, we can rejoice. Joy is not happiness. Happiness is dependent on what is happening around us.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and is not influenced by circumstances. The Apostle Paul describes himself “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10), so one does not have to be happy 24/7.

So what does it mean to rejoice always?  One definition states  ‘“rejoicing always” is a conscious attitude of contentment, hope, and happiness that comes from deliberately focusing on Christ and the eternal treasures that we have received freely from Him.’  And Kay Warren defines joy as:  “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” 

Note the focus is on God, his work, his goodness, and his sovereign control. This means we can rejoice even in our trials and sufferings (James 1:2-4).  Because of this attitude, Paul and Silas were able to rejoice and praise God even though they had been illegally beaten and thrown into jail (Acts 16:16-40).  When we focus on God, what he has done, and what he is doing, we can rejoice.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Because knowing of God’s goodness and knowing that God is in control, that is he is working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28), we can give thanks in all circumstances. It is easy to be thankful for the good things that happen to you. When you are in a tough situation it is harder to be thankful.  To be thankful in a tough situation, you are forced to trust God and to see his hand in directing you through the tough situation.  Just making the effort to be thankful will help you to connect with God.   24 years ago, I came down with Gillian Barre.  I missed 6 months of work.  I was in the ICU for two weeks.  It was a tough situation.  Yet because of that illness, I have a greater awareness of God’s goodness and grace.  It also helped Gail and I to bond.  I can be thankful for that illness.  I have had several blog posts on being thankful.  The awareness of God’s goodness allows us to give God thanks.

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you

God wants to be in that intimate relationship with you.  This continual prayer with thanksgiving and rejoicing allows us to grow closer to God and recognize his goodness and love for us.  He desires the best for us, and developing the habits of continual praying, rejoicing, and thanksgiving will bring us closer to him.  It will rewire your brain to be more focused on God. It requires you to be intentional and disciplined. I fail daily in my attempts. However, I have learned to not think of the failure as a test that you have failed, but rather to remind yourself that you are in training while God is doing that brain rewiring.  Remember God is at work, changing you to be more like him.

Through the Lens of God’s Love

Two women talking (Christina@wocintechchat)

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

As Christians we see the world differently.  When we look at the world, we see the world through the lens of God’s love.  Out of gratitude, we love because of God’s love for us (Romans 5:10).  He loves each and every one of us unconditionally (1 John 4:9-10). God loves us so much that Jesus gave himself for us by dying in our place (John 3:16). God did not wait for us to get our act together.  No, he did it for the ungodly, that is for sinners like us (Romans:5:6-8).

So as Christians, we imitate God and love all people (Ephesians 5:1-2).  We walk in love.  What does this love look like? First, love is more than words.  Love expresses itself in action.  Second, love is sacrificial, meaning that you put the needs of the other person ahead of your own and do what is best for them. Third, you actually care for the people you are loving.

Because of our relationship with God, we recognize that we are in the same situation as everyone else.  We all are broken, self-centered sinners in need of God’s love and forgiveness (Romans 3:10-12).  God loves everyone fully just as we are, and wants to bring us in relationship with him.  God loves us so much that he does not leave us the way we are, but instead he works in us to improve us and to make us holy.   In the same way that he loves us he commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35 ).  God has called us to love not just the people we like, but also our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  This is how we can respond to his amazing love.

I am certain the average American does not view the world through the lens of God’s love.  Many Americans view the world in terms of power.  Many times those terms of power are expressed in terms of oppression. Viewing the world in terms of power is divisive because doing so divides the world into winners and losers, oppressors and the oppressed, liberals and conservatives, etc. I believe this is one of the main reasons why things are so divisive today.

As Christians, I believe we can make a difference by showing love to people we disagree with. I believe this is the best way to change minds and unite people.  However, I also believe loving takes time.  We need to be in it for the long term and be patient.  I believe it is the main way God wants to use us to change lives.  We need to be wise in the meekness of the wisdom that is from above (James 3:13).

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

And we can make use of the fruit of the Spirit that we have been given.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Galatians 5:22-24)

Acting in love, using Godly wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit, looks very different from the way the world acts, but I believe acting this way reconciles people and brings peace.  It does not carry with it the added problems that arise from having a power focused worldview.  We can make a difference in the world today by loving others.

Similarities Between My Cat and Me

I look at our cat, Frodo, and I realize my relationship with the cat is similar to my relationship with God.  I love our cat, I look after our cat, and I provide for him, but he can be demanding and at times he even attacks me.  He wants the good moist cat food early.  He does not want to wait for the proper time to be fed.  There are times when I think he is in a foul mood and he feels the need to assert himself. That is when he will attack and put his claws and teeth in my leg.  I then will yell at him and stomp my feet. He will run off afraid, but he does not seem to learn that biting me is bad for him.  There are times when he has to wait because I am not there. I wonder how impatient he is.  And he expects me to walk him to his cat dish. Is my walking to the cat dish an assurance for him that there will be food?  There are other times when he wants to go outside and it is raining or there is snow.  He will look at me and I think he is telling me to fix the situation.  Even though I provide for him, he thinks he is the master and he should be the one in charge. And yet I still love him.

I see a lot of similarities in my relationship with our cat, Frodo, and my relationship with God. I am much like Frodo, the cat.  God, out of his love, provides for me.  I have all I need, but there are times when I want more and I want it now.  I am not satisfied with what I have.  I want to be independent, master of my own destiny, and at the same time I want and expect God to provide for all I desire.  There are times when I assert my independence and do things that are bad for me.  I do not listen to God and I sin and bear the consequences of my actions. I did it my way instead of God’s way.  In these times, I like to think I am in control and in charge, when nothing is further from the truth.  And despite my sin, my wanting to be like God, God still loves me and desires me to be in a relationship with him. And God was willing to go to extreme measures to bring us back to him.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

These verses are foundational to the Christian Faith.  If you do not get that God loves you and wants the best for you, then you do not understand the Christian Faith.  

God created the world (Revelation 10:6) and it was very good (Genesis 1:31), but Adam and Eve decided that they wanted to be like God, that is to be their own god (Genesis 3:1-6).  They became self-centered and everything went downhill from there (James 3:14-16).  Adam and Eve harmed themselves and the world, but God still loved them and had a plan to bring them back to him and restore the world (Genesis 3:14-15; John 3:16). We are their descendants and we carry the same broken sinful nature that they ended up with (Romans 3:23).

Jesus is at the center of that plan.  He came into the world to live the perfect life that we cannot (1 Peter 2:22).  He came to suffer and die to pay the price for our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19).  He then rose back to life from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And through the Holy Spirit he gives us life, and not just any old life but an abundant life (John 10:10) that is eternal (Romans 6:23).  One day everything will be restored and made right, and we will live forever with him (Revelation 21:1-5).

Reality is found in the Christian Faith. I have a good life because of my Christian faith. My faith has made a difference in every aspect of my life. Let Jesus change your life.

The Chosen

Jesus Christ Statue Photo - Myriam Zilles

The Chosen” is a television-like series of shows on the internet that tells the story of Jesus.   I like it, because it fleshes out the characters and brings them to life.  I see this series as an example of what I call good historical fiction.  Good historical fiction tells a story in a historical setting and keeps the historical details correct while adding fictional details to create the story.  Most historical fiction is mostly fiction using history as the backdrop for the story, but some historical fiction is about telling the historical story by fleshing out the history with added details.  I think “The Chosen” does a good job of keeping the facts straight while fleshing out the story with fictional details.

An example of bad historical fiction is the “The Da Vinci Code”.  There is even a separate Wikipedia page showing all that is wrong with the “The Da Vinci Code”.   Dan Brown rewrote history to tell his story, and to make matters worse he claims it all to be true at the start of his book on the “Fact” page.

So one needs to be careful reading or watching historical fiction to keep in mind what are the facts and what are the added fictional details.  Moses most likely does not look like Charlton Heston, and Jesus most likely did not look like the blue eyed blonde Jesus that the Northern European painters portrayed.  A good historical drama follows the facts and tries to have the fictional details be plausible. The added fictional details need to fit in with the known facts.  Oftentimes good historical fiction will bring out the implications of the facts known in the story.  This means there is a lot of research that goes into creating good historical fiction.  Good historical fiction illuminates the story with historical facts from a variety of sources.  I think “The Chosen” does a good job of this.  It does not mean they have it all right but they do present a reasonable possibility. 

Let us look at a bit of an episode from “The Chosen” and compare it with the account in the Bible.  Looking at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21 and the corresponding part from “The Chosen” series, you notice that what John had recorded is only about a 2 minute conversation, whereas “The Chosen” expands it to a 10 minute conversation (and that with the last 3 verses not being included).  And my guess is that the actual conversation was even longer.   “The Chosen” creates a fictional backstory that brought Nicodemus to Jesus.  There is also conversation that included why Nicodemus came at night and an invitation from Jesus for Nicodemus to follow him. All this is added detail that may have happened but maybe not. It is a reasonable possibility.  I like the end of the conversation where Nicodemus, being hesitant to commit to following Jesus, kneels before Jesus, kisses his hand, and  quotes the first part of Psalm 2:12, and Jesus then gives Nicodemus a word of grace and encouragement by quoting the last part of the verse.  That too was an added detail along with the added details that include things like the scene taking place outside on a rooftop.

I like “The Chosen” and I would recommend it.  I think it follows the accounts of Jesus well.  It has sparked my imagination of what it was like back then and who the disciples were.  It paints a good picture of Jesus and the disciples. However, it is not the Bible and is not a replacement for the Bible, but I do consider that they have been faithful to the text of the Bible in the episodes I have seen. It is a worthy depiction of the Gospel story of Jesus.  So again I recommend that you watch “The Chosen”.  Seasons 1-3 are available now for viewing.

Critical Race Theory

It was about 4 years ago, when I began to learn about this view of the world called Critical Theory. Before that I had heard of Critical Race Theory or CRT but I really did not know what it was.  Today I look around and see that Critical Theory is everywhere in various forms, and in many cases it is called CRT even when it has nothing to do with race. It is foundational for the concepts of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Equity is pretty much just CRT.  So what is it and as Christians how do we respond to it?  I will focus on CRT and not the other Critical Theory variants, but they are all interconnected.  You will find that in most cases the only difference is the focus on race in the case of CRT.  Unfortunately, CRT has been defined in many different ways, but I will try to give a good definition of it.

First, though CRT is incompatible with Christianity, it does highlight some truths that we as Christians can agree with.  There are norms, social structures or institutions that perpetuate ideas that are opposed to the truth.  Secularism can be one dominating structure and racism is another one that still lingers today.  Racism is nothing more than a social construct.  One could use hair color instead of skin color to divide people.  What if the darker your hair was the better and more desirable the person you became.  The point is these ideas are still being intentionally or unintentionally promoted and can be used to oppress, dominate, and divide.

Critical Theory seeks “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Max Horkheimer, 1982).  Critical Theory and CRT sees the world and relationships in terms of power dynamics.  The world can be divided between the oppressed and the oppressors.  The goal is then to liberate people by dismantling the institutions and structures that subjugate and oppress. Racism is one such dominating structure that still exists today.  If you listen to the stories of black people, you can not deny that racism exists today.  We, whites, many times are always not aware of it, and may not be aware sometimes of our own racist actions.  These are the remnants of slavery that colored our thinking.  I believe that even blacks are colored by these remnants of slavery.  According to CRT, the worst thing one can do is to continue in this state of oppression, and it is a virtue to pursue liberating people from this oppression.

Christians are also in favor of liberating human beings, however we recognize the reality that we are broken, sinful, self-centered people, who can not save ourselves.  We look outside ourselves to our loving Creator, who is able to save us from ourselves. We are liberated from our sin, and because of God’s love for us we can love others and care for them.  We see others and the world through the lens of God’s love, and not in terms of power dynamics.

We need to move to being color blind in regards to race and move towards reconciliation.  Unfortunately, that is not what CRT is about.  Racial color is important to define who the oppressors and the oppressed are.  Though CRT wants to liberate the oppressed minorities from racial discrimination, I believe it ends up reinforcing the racial separation.  Instead we all can work together to help  blacks and other minorities overcome past mistreatment by helping them identify the unique gifts and talents God has given to each of them individually.  Doing so can help them understand God’s guidance that will allow them to achieve their full potential.

In order to move towards reconciliation, white Christians need to listen to the racial minorities in our towns.  We need to learn their stories and understand where they are coming from.  CRT claims we can not understand them because we are not the oppressed.  They say the oppressed have the truth because of their lived experience.  There is a kernel of truth in that but the truth is not dependent on our lived experiences. To the best of our ability we can try to understand them as individuals. The truth is found in God’s Word, the Bible. We need to connect and reconcile with them whether they be hispanic, black, asian, native American, or some other racial brand.

We need to share God’s love with them, help them fight against oppression and victimhood, and show them there is hope for them. They have hope because they are loved by God and God will lift them up.

What Does Real Love Look Like?

love you

In the English language, there are many uses for the word love.  Love can be defined as a strong like or an affection.  Many people would say love is a good feeling.  Some would even equate lust with love.  Others would say love is a result of evolutionary biological urges and an inbred drive.  I think there is a better definition of love.  I believe love is altruistic.  Here is a definition I like. “Love is a commitment you make to act in someone else’s best interest. True love can only be known by the actions that it prompts.” (“God Space”, by Doug Pollock, p. 92). Love puts the needs of the other person first.

The Bible talks a lot about love.  Here is a great description of love. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

Note how relational the love description is.  You can replace the word ‘love’ with ‘God’.  God fits the love description perfectly.

Love is patient.  Patience (long-suffering, forbearance) is a fruit of the Spirit.  Can you be patient and gracious with people? 

Love is kind.  Kindness (goodness) is also a fruit of the Spirit.  Can you be nice and kind to people?

Love does not envy. Being not envious or jealous helps strengthen relationships.  Can you support the achievements of others? 

Love does not boast. Being not boastful allows you to be focused on the other person.  Can you put the other person above your own needs?

Love is not arrogant. Again, being not arrogant or proud means you can focus on the other person.  Can you listen to the other person and try to understand them?

Love is not rude.  You should not act unbecomingly or dishonorably.  Can you treat the person with honor?

Love does not insist on its own way. You should not be self-seeking or focused on yourself.  Can you be concerned about the other person?

Love is not irritable. You should not be easily angered or provoked.  Can you treat abrasive people graciously?

Love is not resentful. You should not keep a record of wrongs suffered. Can you forgive the other person?

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. You should not rejoice in unrighteousness.  Sin is destructive, and it hurts people. Can you be concerned about the destructive effects of wrongdoing?

Love rejoices with the truth. Truth is found in Jesus.  We can rejoice in all that God has done and is doing in the lives of people.  Lies hurt people. Can you be honest to others?

Love bears all things.  You will experience tough times.  Can you continue to love in these tough times?

Love believes all things. Love acts in the best interest of others.  Love is realistic and yet positive.  Can you put the interest of others ahead of your own?

Love hopes all things. Love sees the God given potential in others.  Can you see potential in others and not dismiss them?

Love endures all things. You can stand with others as they go through tough times.  Can you stand with those hurting?

Love never ends. Love is unconditional.  There is nothing to stop love.  Can you continue to love others when they are acting unlovable?

Can you be a loving person?  With God’s help you can.

The Kingdom of God

Is the Kingdom of God here today or is it coming at the end of time?  The answer is “Yes”.  Both are true. The Kingdom of God will be fully realized at the end of time, but it is here today.  Too often we focus on the end and not on what God is doing today.  If we focus only on what Jesus has done for us, we then miss out on what the Holy Spirit is doing in us and through us.

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) we learn to pray “Your kingdom come”.  The Kingdom of God is not just about being with Jesus someday with a new earth and heaven (Revelation 22:1-5), because God is reigning now (Psalm 93:1-2) though we may not always see it.  Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was here right now (Mark 1:15; Matthew 3:2).  The Kingdom of God is here today, because Jesus reigns in the hearts of all believers and through our witness the Kingdom of God is expanded. So when we pray “Your kingdom come”, we are asking that by his grace the Kingdom of God would be made known in our lives and the lives of others. God’s reign will be fully realized at the end of time.

The Kingdom of God comes to us when God saves us, forgives us, and calls us his own. But salvation is not just about forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14).  Salvation is also about restoration and healing (Jeremiah 30:17; Isaiah 53:4-5) now.  Jesus paid the price for our sins (Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19), but salvation is more than a legal transaction that brings us back to God. Salvation is also a way of life (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 2:24). Likewise, eternal life is not only something for us in the future (John 3:15-16), rather eternal life is something we have now (John 3:36).  Also we are not just saved from Hell (Matthew 25:46), but we are also saved to restoration, healing and wholeness (John 10:10; Colossians 2:9-10).

This restoration, healing, and wholeness allows us to become Kingdom Ambassadors for God (2 Corinthians 5:20), sharing the Good News of God’s love for us.  God has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)  so that people may glorify God the Father (Matthew 5:16).  Feeling overwhelmed!  No need to worry.  The Kingdom of God is all about Jesus and he with the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do those good deeds.  Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-11).  The juice that nourishes us flows from the vine to us, the branches, to produce good fruit.  We need to abide in him and let his grace transform our lives to produce good fruit that honors God.

Christianity is more than receiving  a “Get out of Hell Free Card” for the future. It really is all about restoring your relationship with God, and that is life changing right here and right now.

This post was inspired by a table in an article by Robin Dugall.

Inside, Outside, Upside Down

Das Bean Photo by Mark Publava

Today, many of us feel like the world has been turned upside down.  Now today’s emerging culture has people looking inside at their feelings and desires to determine if they are male or female and whether or not they are gay.  It used to be that you looked at the outside, and found out whether your body was male or female.

Again today we look outside of ourselves to find what is wrong in the world, and we look inside to try to find a solution to all that is wrong, because we are considered to be good by default.  This is upside down from the Christian Faith, which points out that when we look inside, we find that we are self-centered and selfish, and that is the origin of all that is wrong in the world.  And as Christians we look outside to God for our help and salvation.

So this emerging culture change is very much upside down from the previous Christian influenced culture.  So which worldview or culture is right-side-up? It depends on how you look at it.  I believe the Christian worldview is right-side-up, but you can make an argument that the nonChristian worldview is dominant and thus it should be right-side-up. About 2000 years ago, the Thessalonians referring to Paul and Silas, shouted “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6-7).  Christianity has always been countercultural to the sinful ways of the world.

I have friends who have a grown child, who is gay.  I believe this person looked inside to discover their homosexual desires and looked outside to blame the parental upbringing for all the struggles the adult child currently faces.  And this young adult also blames the conservative government where they live for their problems.  It appears that this young adult is quite unhappy, and I believe their issues and their unhappiness is due to their worldview.  That is to say this person has embraced this emerging worldview that they are good and anything wrong that happens is outside themselves. They think they are not to blame.

This means this emerging worldview also takes a dim view of forgiveness.  Forgiveness allows the offender to not pay their dues, while the forgiver takes on the offender’s “debt”.  Forgiveness is not fair, and some say it promotes injustice, but reconciliation is very hard without forgiveness.  Forgiveness goes against human nature.  We want justice and vengeance for those who have harmed us.  However, we would rather not take the punishment for our own wrongdoing.  As Christians we note that God has forgiven us.   Every one of us is a sinner and is in need of God’s forgiveness.  Because God has forgiven us so very much, we are able to forgive others and bring peace and reconciliation.

In this post-Christian society, there is this darkness of unhealthy thinking that is causing a lot of chaos, suicides, and mental problems.  As Christians, we can be lights to show a better way to live.  We show a life that offers love, peace, and security that is only found in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is a key tool Christians can use to show God’s love and bring some peace and reconciliation to the world. There will be pushback because Christianity is countercultural and counter to our human nature, but we have the answer.  Therefore let us go out in love to serve, to speak the truth in love, and to lovingly correct the wrong thinking.