Fighting Fire with Fire?

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Time and again I find myself confused by the strategy of many to relieve injustice and oppression. Let me say at this point that I am for Justice and a robust understanding of the sanctity and dignity of humanity. But let me also say that one must ground these beliefs in something. I ground my beliefs in the Christian Faith, and in the Word and Character of God. The are numerous verses in the Old Testament that show God’s contempt on the mistreatment of His creation. The following are just a handful of the verses that speak on the issues of oppression and injustice.

Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
Zechariah 7:10
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
    and do not crush the needy in court,
23 for the Lord will take up their case
    and will exact life for life.

Proverbs 22:22-23
If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.

Jeremiah 7:5-7
Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 17:5
May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor.

Psalms 72:4
Again, I ground my desire to see justice and respect of peoples in the Word and Character of God. My confusion comes in when people use unjust means to try to serve justice and/or try to fight disrespect with disrespect. The idea is to fight back, but in fighting back prejudices are strengthened and walls are built up that prevent any real justice or accord. Some examples that I have seen or heard about include things like the struggle with racism. In order to fight racism White people are demonized as a group. Beyond the logical fallacy in this kind of reasoning is the fact that this does nothing to advance the championing of those who are being oppressed. This same kind of thing has occurred in sexism, as well as other modern issues. The fact is that we will never be able to find peace through war. War will always beget war until the end of time, and peace will always be the only way to peace. War can only produce two outcomes: repeated cycles of war with periods of armistice or annihilation of one’s “enemy”.
Let us take Jesus’ Incarnation and Crucifixion for example. God loved His creation so much that He sent His Son to end the war between Mankind and God. For this to be a possibility Jesus gave up His life peaceably, not in a “blaze of glory”. Let us look at it in a more common way. If my wife and I get into an argument, one of us must apologize, and hope that the other one will accept, and possibly even apologize as well. If we both refuse to cease hostility then we will either have a very hostile marriage or we will get divorced. And this bring me to one of my core beliefs. The actions of another do not determine my actions. My actions should remain grounded in and inspired by God as always. If I follow this path, then I will find myself more inclined to “lay down my life” (figuratively and literally, if need be) to cease hostilities between myself and others.
Please note that I am not saying that I lose or give up my convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ, but I am saying that I see no need for hostility toward flesh and blood, but rather I should focus my hostile energy on spiritual enemies. Let us not forget that all of Mankind is made in the Image and likeness of God, and as He hinted to Jonah, He cares about all of them.

Until next time, May God lead us in His divine will as we seek to serve Him rightly.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

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The Ugly Earth-King

Throughout Jewish history there were prophecies made about a coming Messiah. The Jews in the First Century new these prophecies well, for they foretold of a king that would come into the world and make all things well. The Jews of the First Century would have dreamed of such a king to come and throw out the Romans, and to set every thing back to right. They pictured a king much like David, a warrior king. They looked to the days of old, and yearned. They wanted someone to take away the oppression they were under.

What they didn’t expect was a king born in a barn, and swaddled in a feeding trough. They didn’t expect a king who was raised as a carpenter’s son. Nor did they expect a peace-loving, Sabbath breaking, nomadic Rabbi to be the Messiah. Much like The Ugly Duckling, Jesus didn’t fit the mold they were trying to cast Him in. He was unexpected. He was The Ugly Earth-King.

(Please understand I mean no disrespect to Christ by this name, but instead I mean to point out as vividly as possible the difference that the First Century Jews, as well as, many Christ-followers today had/have in their conception of Christ versus who He has said He is.)

John wrote in His account of the Gospel that Jesus gave Signs of who He really was, but they were mostly ignored, or misunderstood. This is much like The Ugly Duckling. All the signs were there to let anyone who knew what they were looking for know that he was actually a swan. Here again we see what Jesus meant as He said that He is not from this world. He testified over and over again that He was from above, but just as only those who know what a baby swan looks like could have known that The Ugly Duckling was actually a swan, so too it was only The Good Shepard’s “sheep” that knew Him.

Just as the animals in The Ugly Duckling were looking for and at the wrong signs, so too the  Jews in the First Century were looking for and at the wrong “Signs”. And just as the animals mistreated The Ugly Duckling, so too the Jewish people mistreated The Ugly Earth-King.  Both groups missed out on something that was far more beautiful than they had ever imagined, but both groups were very right about something, Neither Jesus nor the Swan were beautiful in the mold and against the criteria of which they were placed.

I recently watched the movie “God’s Not Dead”, and one scene haunts me from that movie. The scene is when the atheist professor talks about his story as a 12 year old boy praying for his mother to live. He explains that no matter how hard he prayed his mother stilled died. It is to this event that he points to show that God is not real. This part haunts me because people make this mistake over and over, and have done so since before Jesus’ time, and did so when Jesus came.

We build a framework for God to fit into, instead of trying to get to know God and fitting our framework in Him. We try to create God in our image, instead of being transformed into His. We want God to work a certain way, at a certain time, and when He doesn’t we blame Him for the mess. God, much like the swan, is far better than we could imagine, but for some reason we want Him to be as we imagine Him.

So…What’s the point of this story? The point is to encourage to look pass the hollow “Hosanna’s” on Sunday, and make them real. My point is to call to the body of Christ and encourage us all to look deeper, look farther, look closer, Just  LOOK! We are coming into a season in which we celebrate the victory of The Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death. We can take this time to see The Ugly Earth-King as He is, The Messiah and Savior of the world, or we can pronounce a hollow “Hosanna”, and find ourselves not really knowing what we’ve missed. So again I say, get to know your King, not for what or who you want Him to be, but for the Magnificently Glorious King He really is.

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The Enablers Gospel

I have observed an alarming trend in many people’s thinking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as of late. The trend is to lean hard on the message of love and downplay any idea of judgement of wrongs to the point of non-existence. Let me start by saying that Love and Justice are not seen as being in any sort of competition in the Bible. They are out pourings of God’s righteousness. They are two sides of the same coin. They are complementary. That is to say, you cannot have Justice without Love, nor can you have Love without Justice. Now that we have seen the relationship between these two attributes of God, let us move to the alarming nature of the way some have begun to look at the Gospel. The idea, as I have heard it, is some variation of the sentiment, “God has called us to love, and not to judge.” Let us unpack this for a moment. The first assertion is that we are called to love. Yes, this is absolutely true. Jesus tells us to love God, our neighbors, and even our enemies. He also gives us a command love one another, as He has loved us. With all of these commands of love it is not surprising that the Gospel has begun to be seen namely as a message of love. In fact, John 3:16 tells us that it was because of His love, and a means of showing His love that He sent His Son. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that we have morphed love into something that it is not. Love carries the notion of justice. Love without justice is more akin to infatuation. If we love, then we encourage, celebrate, cheer-or, and congratulate, but we also challenge, teach, reprove, correct, and show the right way. This is why Paul says of Scripture: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 We can also notice this in one of the most loving pictures in Scripture, Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.  Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.                                                                                                                               You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

This is a Psalm of rejoicing in God’s provision and love, but notice that there is an element of that love that in corrective. The Gospel is a great story of God’s love for His creation, but it comes with His correction. His correction is not meant to be oppressive, instead it is freeing. He leads us on right paths for His name sake. He is our creator and knows what is best for us. It is not until we begin to define love in different terms that we come up with a meaning of love that cheers a person on regardless of their actions. Our sensibilities tell us that we can’t correct or reprove someone because that would cause them pain. This is far from the approach God takes with us. Consider Hebrews 12:3-11

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.

Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. God corrects those He calls to Him; to say that He does not is to contradict Scripture. Further, Jesus told His followers to love one another as He loved them. This includes that correction He regularly gave them. The Gospel proclaims the Lordship of Christ, and calls us to submit to His will and not our own. In other words, we are to set aside our own worldly sensibilities, and learn to operate and think with the sensibilities of God. Part of this means that Love is not merely cheering someone on, but correcting them. I will make one clarification, God has called us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ the King. This means the Love of God will take the front seat. In other words, the Gospel is the proclamation that the King has ascended His throne, The Kingdom of God is advancing, and that the King has called for His enemies (that’s us) to join Him. (Of course, this is a very simplified understanding of the Gospel.) The point is that the Love of God must first change a person’s heart and add him/her into His people before that person can truly be expected the respond to rebuke. In other words, we are not called to go into the world calling everyone sinners and condemning their sin. As with Jesus’ example, we must first tend to the spiritual and physical needs, before we can expect that we can begin to correct them as a brother or sister. With all of this in mind, perhaps we can begin to set aside the notion that correcting is unloving judgement. Our lives are to be wholly surrendered to Christ, and we should rejoice when our brother or sister shows us our error.

Until next time, May God lead us in His divine will as we seek to serve Him rightly.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

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Is it okay to be mad at God?

This is a question that so many of us seem to struggle with. The answer seems to be no from the sense of pressure around us. But what does the Bible teach. Let me start here with a reflection of the book of Job.

Job is likely the oddest book in the Bible. This is because Job seems to rail against God in much of the book, charging God with a massive amount of unfairness. Job’s boldness is rather astounding, but the real shocker is that his friends who repeat loads of traditional wisdom to him are considered to be wrong. The question that comes to mind, “why is this?”

I believe Job is seen as justified in his reaction to God because it was real. When I say real, I mean that Job let God know how he felt with all he was. Job didn’t hold back. Job was mad and he let God know it. I am convinced that this is the model that we are to follow with God. I became more convinced of this during my study of the book of Psalms last year.

No matter who the Psalmist was, he was real with God. Sometimes the joy was uncontainable, other times the anguish was unbearable. Whatever the case, it was raw emotion expressed to God. As I studied the book of Psalms, and reflected back to the book of Job, I began to think, “why aren’t we this raw and real with God?” Perhaps the answer is that we are scared to be. Maybe we feel weird having this kind of relationship with an invisible guy. It could be any of these, but I tend to believe that it comes down to an over sensitivity to acting right. No doubt that the Bible teaches how we are to act, but the fact is that God calls us into a relationship with Him. God said in Isaiah 1:18,

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.

These are the words of a God that cares and desires a relationship with us. Jesus calls the Disciples friends in John 15:15,

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Jesus shared with them everything He learned from the Father. These are just a few examples of the type of relationship that God wants with us. So back to the question. Is it okay to be mad at God? Let me state this clearly–YES!!! We can let God know exactly how we feel about Him. We can be free to question if He is listening or even cares at all. We can unload on God. We are not going to hurt His feelings. But perhaps a couple cautions. God is not a big fan of mere belly aching, check Numbers 21:4-9. Also, relationships require reconciliation to remain relationships. Don’t stay mad. Learn to work things out with God.

God is listening. He does care. If we are a people that praise Him and rail against Him with the same vigor, then I believe we will see that God doesn’t want emotionless automatons. Believe me, God can take it. In fact, I am certain He wants to take it. Our relationship with God is not a whole lot different from our relationships with others. If we refuse to “clear the air”, then the relationship cannot move on. We need to let God know that we are mad at Him. Of course, there is an oddity in the whole thing. God knows that you are angry. You know you are angry. You know God knows you are angry, but you still don’t let it out. I have been there. I have been convinced that God was going to work in a certain way, but He didn’t. I was hurt, angry, and felt betrayed. I honestly resented God for a while. “How could He let me down?!” The fact is that I don’t own God. I don’t get to tell Him what to do. I don’t contract Him to do things for me in return for “being good”. I set up an unrealistic expectation, and God never agreed to my terms”. This left me angry. I eventually figured out that I was being foolish to expect to be able to setup expectations like hoops for God to jump through. Now make no mistake, God answers prayer, but even Jesus closed His prayer, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Perhaps we could save a lot of heart ache if we began to petition God with this in mind.

We are made to be in full relationship with God. Some time that gets messy. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we just need to let God know just how we feel, whether good or ill. We are relational creatures created in the image of a relational God. Let us learn to be relational. Let us be real with God. And maybe, just maybe, we can learn what it means to love and be loved by the Creator of all things.

The Christmas Gospel

It’s quite honestly one of the most over-quoted verses of the Bible.  John 3:16.  It’s referred to as the “Gospel in a nutshell”, so why do I say such a thing? How could any of the Bible be over-quoted? The reason that I say that it is over-quoted is because is has become a comfortable catch phrase amounting to “God loves me enough to die for me”.  The truth is that God so loved the “kosmos” (kosmos is the Greek word that is usually translated in this verse as “world”, but can imply a much larger scope, which I believe should be applied here). The last time I checked, you and I were very important, but certainly not the “kosmos”. So let’s dig deeper.

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit all of creation became cursed (Genesis 3). God loved His creation and wanted to see it flourish under His guidance, not suffer under sin. In true Johannine style, John is thinking of the whole of Scripture, right from the very beginning. By including this bit in Scripture, John is pointing out that God so loved all of creation that He set out to redeem it through His Son. Yes, Jesus died for you and me and countless other people, but His scope was much bigger than just us.

“That He gave His one and only Son“. With this bit we run to the Cross without a second thought. I am mystified at how often we forget that Jesus became human. (John 1:1-14 NIV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The God of all things sent His Son to be Immanuel “God with us”.

The start of the culmination of the Gospel was Jesus coming to Earth to be with us in the flesh. Now that’s a God that cares. Somehow I think we have divorced that little baby from the real life grown man that died to set creation right. We dispense with the innocent baby. We dispense with the child of Mary. We forget that He came to live, teach, start the Church or rather usher in the Kingdom of God, and with His death purchase our pardon. That is the life the baby Jesus we celebrate this time of year is destined for. He came knowing the misery and suffering that He would endure in life and in death. He came knowing that the only eyes gazing on Him as His died would be those of scoffers, a crushed and questioning disciple, and the woman that birthed and raised Him, Mary his mother, broken at the sight of her little boy beaten and dying. He knew what He was in for, and yet he came, and God the Father sent Him.

God sent His only Son knowing that He would get tired and weary. He sent His Son knowing that only a handful of people would listen to Him, and even fewer would follow Him. God knew that His Son would have to pray often, as we ought to, in order to resist temptation. God sent His Son knowing that prayer was His only way to be in touch. He knew that the intense intimacy that was shared would go with Him, and that on the cross the separation would be complete. When God gave His only Son He knew how much He was giving up.

“that whoever believes in Him will not perish” It is in God’s will that we not perish. Paul wrote Timothy and encouraged him in 1 Timothy 2I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” The fact is that all we need to do is believe in Jesus. Mind you that actually believing in Jesus brings with it a slew of other responsibilities, but if it is perishing or serving God and believing in His Son, believing sounds pretty good to me. I also love the “whoever”. God made no distinctions. This Good News is for everyone!

So what’s the punchline, so to speak? “But have eternal life“. Here we tend to run straight to living forever, or going to heaven. If this were it I’d have no right to complain, but it is even better than that! “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3 NIV) So that’s what this whole thing is about? Knowing Jesus and God? YES! And I find it wonderful! God wanted me to know Him and His Son so much that He sent His Son to endure all and then die and resurrect. Now we can talk about how much God loves us.

For me the point of Christmas is to remind me that God cared enough to send His Son to muck out a life with sinful, hardheaded, spiteful, and vengeful mankind. He did this because He loves the “very good” creation that He made, and He wants for all of it to be redeemed. Yes, He loves us, but Christmas is about God sending His Son to begin the redemption of the world. And the great news is that he has invited us to help. We are to be in the Kingdom, but also to BE the Kingdom. Christmas is the Sunrise celebration of the Kingdom of God coming to Earth to make things right. That is Christmas, and that is the Christmas Gospel.

A Few Thoughts on Being the Church

I often think about the state of the American Church. By American Church I mean the broad spectrum of professing Christians who live in America. I am deeply concerned, and have a deep sense of sorrow for this portion of God’s Kingdom. Why? The reason is the stubborn way so many Christians in America insist that faith is personal. Of course faith is personal, but it is also meant to be communal. Now I’m not saying “go to church”. I’m saying that we must BE the Church. For us to effectively be the Church we must learn how to be communal. No, I am not suggesting that we all move into communes. I am only suggesting that we learn how to be a real part of each others lives.

Let’s take Jesus as an example. Jesus spent three whole years eating, sleeping, traveling, and just living with His disciples. They were very communal. His disciples knew what each others weakness were. They knew what each others strengths were. They were like brothers. Yes, they fought. Yes, they had times where they probably would have rather been somewhere else. But, they were communal. They did faith together. They learned from Jesus together. They learned what it meant to be a follower of Christ, together. So, where does this leave us. Well, we could all move to the desert and try to replicate the experience the Disciples had, but I don’t think that is what we are called to.

I am convinced that we are called to do something far more radical. I believe that we are called to die to ourselves. I believe that we are called to die to our need for  our lives to be private. I believe that we are called to die to our sense of entitlement. When I say this, I mean our sense that I do something, then I expect something in return. I mean our sense of justice has got to change. We have to be willing to be wronged, without seeking revenge. We have to be able to swallow our pride, and allow others to be first. We have to learn what it means to strip away all of our worldly conceptions of what is just. The world’s sense of justice has no place for real love and sacrifice. We have to learn how to strip away the veneer, and begin to be real with each other. We have to give up on this overdeveloped sense of individualism that we have learned to hone. The American mantra is “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and dust yourself off.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Individualism isn’t scriptural.

Many American Christians, as well as other non-believers, have picked up “Judge not or you to will be Judged”. (Matthew 7:1) Somehow there doesn’t seem to be any room for 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In Jesus’ own words,  “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17) It is clear that Jesus did not mean that people should not be corrected. So what does He mean by do not judge? I believe that it is far more faithful to Scripture to say that we ought not judge someone unworthy for God’s kingdom.

I am convince that we Christians are far too harsh on each other when we do actually correct one another. Romans 15:1-4 encourages, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” The call is clear. We must learn to open our lives to the scrutiny of our fellow believers. This is sure to be uncomfortable, but it is the only way we can learn to really BE the Church.

There are two other key things we need to keep in mind as we try to be the Church. The first is that we must remember that we are all sinners, but that does not mean we have license to sin as much as we want. Paul exhorted Timothy saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Peter wrote,
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

If we are to be the Church, then we must embody Scripture. We must learn how to be loving, without throwing out truth. We must learn the difference between bearing with our brothers and sisters, and enabling them. We cannot afford the old individualistic ideal of “Jesus and me”. We must learn to think communally as Christ did saying,

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
 on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
 but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)

and also,

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one__I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Jesus wanted us to BE the Church. We cannot do this by ourselves. The Church is a body made up of parts. We must learn how to begin to function as part of the body, or else we (the American Church) will die.

Until Next Time. May God cause His face to shine upon you, may He gracious to you, and may he grant you peace.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

 

Kings among men

What is wrong with the Church today? Why are people so apprehensive to deal with Christians? Why have Christians not gathered the crowds that Christ had? The truth is that these questions would be hard to answer in a whole library of books and articles, but I can speak to one aspect of them. In fact, I am convinced that it is the primary aspect.

What is this aspect? It is the insistence that we are kings among men. To be sure we do not require people to call us “your highness”, but so often we demand that we be acknowledged. We demand the world to see our worth, and heed our rights. We have become rights oriented. Paul exhorts Christians by asking “why not rather be wronged” (1 Corinthians 6:7). It is true that he is specifically speaking to Christians taking lawsuits against other believers to non-believers, but I believe in the context of the whole of chapter 6 we can legitimately ask “why not rather be wronged” or “why not rather be slighted” or maybe we could ask “why not rather suffer insult”? However the truth is we are all to ready with explanations as to why not. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves’” (Luke 22:25-26). However, it seems we would rather “lord it over” others than the possibility of having it lorded over us.

We go to church and sing about bowing down to Jesus, and putting our crowns at His feet, yet we turn around and take them back, and stand tall to go back into the world. We have this mistaken concept that we need only “be good” at church. Somehow we have arrested God and shackled Him to our pews. We must begin to realize the falsity in living this way. God is by our side in every moment, and we are to represent Him in all we do. Jesus Christ is not our Lord at Church and our Savior while we are in the world. Jesus is both Lord and Savior at every moment in and after we bow to Him.

This is the main reason that the Church is having such problems. We are seen as trying to be kings among men. Christ has called us to be servants, not kings. We are to follow in His footsteps. So what did Jesus do? Jesus served. Jesus brought hope to those that needed hope. Jesus defended the oppressed. Jesus showed how to love, and how to challenge or fight back. Jesus was hailed as king because He served. Jesus put others rights above His own.

This means that the only way we can represent Christ rightly is to see others as above ourselves. We must be willing to ignore the wrong done to us in order to focus on showing love and mercy to others. We must learn to look beyond our hurt, and to see the Imago Dei within all people. This means to follow Christ, we MUST die to ourselves, we must die to our selfishness. We must find our importance in Christ alone, and rest assured that even when we are disrespected, and our rights are trampled, Christ looks on us with adoration. In these moments He is proud of His Bride. We must put down our crowns at the feet of Christ and leave them there. We must pick up our role as servant, and show the world that Christ came to serve man as the way, the truth and the life. Christ came with an offer, not a demand. Why should we do anything different as His people?

Until next time, may God cause us all to think deeply about our faith and the world we live in, may He cause us to be consumed with Him so much that we become like lanterns glowing with the light of Christ.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

The Art of Slowing Down

Recently I have been subbing for a friend on a bowling league. I have a tendency to hurl the ball down the lane with gusto. I am actually a fair bowler, but I get rushed sometimes, and other times I can get frustrated and impatient with myself. The advice from the wise older bowler, who also had to remember this point, “slow down”.

The first night, before this advice, I bowled slow, but it was a strained and restrained slow. It was a restricted, constricted, and stifling slow. At the end of the night I was sore, and just as frustrated as ever. I had bowled slow, but it was not a natural slow. It was forced.

I was given the advice to slow down the most recent time. I resisted this notion at first. I had tried it before after all, and it made things worse. I was miserable, and I bowled poorly to boot. I eventually gave it a shot, but I decided that this time had to be different. I needed it to flow, to be natural, to be intentional, but relaxing. After all what else is recreation for? It worked! I wasn’t great, but I was consistent, and I enjoyed what I was doing.

Life can leave us feeling rushed and frustrated too. We can begin to just go to work, just go to church, just get this done, or just get that done. We can find that life becomes a series of tasks to get done in as little time as possible, and when things get in our way, or slow our progress, we get frustrated and angry. Slowing down is a foreign concept to us. We may well have forgotten what it means to slow down. It is an art after all, and one that we need to relearn.

Just as in weight lifting, we need to remember to breathe. Just like in putting, we need to learn how to take our time, and be intentional. Just like threading a needle, we need to learn patience. Life presents us with a myriad of things that demand time and effort from us, but they also demand that we slow down and be intentional. They bid us to enjoy them, and with them life. If we could learn the art of slowing down, perhaps we could learn how to enjoy life, and be productive at the same time.

God has granted us blessings abundantly in every area of our lives, but our rushed, hectic, and frustrated existence often causes us to over look these blessings. Maybe we could start by taking a breathe, and thanking God for it. Eventually we might be able to praise God that every action we do is possible because He causes us to have life. He sustains us. With the enjoyment, and thankfulness of each moment we can begin to appreciate how blessed we are. This can only happen if we begin to train ourselves to slow down, to still our soul, and know how great God truly is.

Until next time, may God grant you rest and peace in Him, may He help you to slow down and walk with Him, instead of running through life.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

Persecution for privileged Christians

I have heard many arguments about public display of faith in America. I have heard much about rights we are to be afforded, and so on. Any time I hear about these things I find that there is another group of Christians crying foul. I am certainly not unsympathetic, but I do tend to feel like Christians cry foul when our right are squelched, yet we tend to attempt to squelch the rights of others.

For many years I have seen and heard of my fellow Christians actively taking away or limiting the rights of other groups. Often I find that this is even done in the name of our God! Yes, we should have rights. Yes, other peoples rights offend us on occasion. Either way you slice it oppression is oppression. And we tend toward oppression when we start making demands for limiting the expression of other worldviews.

It seems to me that we often have far more rights than we are grateful for to begin with. This doesn’t mean that we need to lose any rights, but it should give us reason to pause. We are a blessed people. We have far more rights than most other Christians around the world. We should look to the blessings that we have, and quit bemoaning our fallen nation. We truly are better off.

One of the greatest things about our Nation is the fact that people don’t have to walk like, talk like, live like, or be a Christian. We have Choice. That is how God intended things to be. We get to choose if we want to follow God’s way or completely disregard Him altogether. Freedom creates the opportunity for real decisions to follow or not follow Jesus. We speak so often of the oppression and persecution we suffer, but I am convinced that we only do that to rid ourselves of the guilt that we sit in luxury while others suffer for faith.

We must accept that some of us may never suffer for the Kingdom of God. Those of us who are so fortunate to have this as our reality have a responsibility to serve in our own contexts. This means to serve Christ where you are, with all that you are. Of course, If we began to do this, then more than likely our friends of all persuasions may well disown us. We might lose the cozy bubble of gentle and luxurious safe Christianity that we are used to. We might find that the sedated form of Christianity that we have gotten accustomed to is all that the world will accept. We might find that Jesus is just as controversial today, and in America, and among those who profess to follow God, as He was in first century Israel.

It seems so trivial to complain over prayer at a football game when people are still being beheaded in foreign countries for praying in their inner rooms. We have such little understanding of persecution in America, that the slightest perceived violation of our rights causes us to cry out. The mere fact that I can sit comfortably in my house and write this goes to show the extraordinary privilege that we enjoy. That fact that you can disagree with me shows the same.

There are three things that I would hope for you to think about more deeply. The first thing is that we are truly blessed, and God is the one  who has blessed us with freedom. The second thing is that we must not be oppressors, for God despises the oppressor. The third thing is that with our freedom and blessing we ought to spread the Grace and Truth that is the Love of God, and the Gospel to the world. It is time for us to respectfully and in all Grace proclaim the Word of God to all nations.

Until next time, may God bless and guide you, may He cause His face to shine upon you, and may you find peace, rest, and comfort in Him.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

A thought about daily sustenance.

I sit and eat a tuna sandwich. It comes to me that a tuna fish had to die so I could live. As I follow this trail of thought, I begin to notice a pattern. Plant or animal, something has to give its life for mine. All of creation works on this principle, yet it is strange to many that the spiritual should be the same.

Christ died that I should live. And how fitting that He should explain it in the terms of sustenance. He said “I am the bread of life”. Just as wheat, before it is bread, must be cut down, so too Christ did give His life. He also compared His blood to wine. Again with the grapes that were harvested and stamped into juice we see an image of Jesus giving up His blood as a grape would its juice.

Maybe I am over thinking things, but what does it hurt to thank God for the plant or animal that gave its life that we might live? Perhaps if we slowed down and showed more reverence and thankfulness for the food God has provided, then we might find it a little easier to feel as blessed as we are. And maybe if we realize the amazing fact that death gives way to life as a part of the natural order, then maybe we can see that Christ dying for us fits well with what we see around us as God’s plan.

So let us praise God for the life that was given to provide us with our daily sustenance, both physical and spiritual. If we can learn to see these blessings from our Father, then perhaps we can learn to see how blessed we truly are. Maybe we can declare His goodness even when our day isn’t turning out the way we would have it turn out. Maybe we can learn to be a thankful people with praise on our lips, instead of a hard and angry people shaking our greedy fists at God exclaiming ” where were you on that one God?” or “why aren’t you blessing me God?” or even “Where are you God? Do I have to do this all alone?”

If we don’t look for His hand, we will often miss it. If we don’t see God’s hand, then we will often fall into the trap of thinking He isn’t there or doesn’t care. This is why many of us don’t see Him moving in our lives. We don’t see His benevolent hand in our daily lives. We forget to look. We forget to be thankful. Then we rail against God claiming that He has left us on our own. Of this I am certain, He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. He may be silent at times to encourage us to search for Him, but we can be certain that He is there taking care of our needs all the while.

Until next time, may God bless you with the sight of seeing all He blesses you with daily.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp