pull, don’t push

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke220px-Bullock_yokes upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 Kingdom work is supposed to be easy, joyful and restful.  We are supposed to find deep contentment in working with Jesus.  When Jesus tells people to come with him, that His yoke is easy and his burden is light, how many of us have said, “yeah right Jesus…you should try being a pasto, teacher, mom, lawyer…!”  Being a pastor for over 10 years I can tell you that there have been times of extreme burden and pain.  But I have come to realize that those are the times in which I try to pull the load alone.  The burden that Jesus was easing was keeping the religious commands of the scribes and Pharisees.  If the Pharisees and Scribes were around today, they would base their religious success off of Sunday morning attendance, sermon response and church growth.  How did Jesus measure success?  Probably more in the the renovation of the heart in individuals than in the amount of people who show up in a building a certain day of the week.

Making disciples is always a work of pulling, and if it is tough, there is a good chance that you are not doing it in fellowship with Jesus.  The entire idea of a yoke is two people sharing one burden.  Sometimes the work is tough because we are trying to force our will forward.  We end up pushing other people into things they are not ready for.  This is tough, forceful and ultimately damaging.  When we lead from a posture of pulling, we tend to exemplify the very thing we lead people into.

What is the burden that we are pulling?  It is our task to introduce people into a new reality of the Kingdom of God.  When we pull people into God’s Kingdom then the work will seem joyful, you will find contentment and you will ultimately say, “That was easy.”

May your work be joyful today…

May you pull instead of push today…

May you realize that you share the yoke with the king of the kingdom…

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the problem of violence: a third way

The problem with a combination of a limited debate and a culture that is already bent toward violence is that we tend to lack creativity in solving problems of violence.  But what if there is a third way?  What if there is a long-term solution?

As a pastor, you can probably imagine that I’d like each person that reads this to find and follow Jesus.  Some are already following Jesus and some still have deep questions.  But I want to quote Jesus to bring up a third way and, don’t immediately write it off.  Here’s why; I was just listening to a philosopher and theologian named Dallas Willard and he makes a great point that we have taken the teachings of Jesus and moved it out of the realm of knowledge and into the realm of faith, therefore nullifying Jesus’ teachings as intellectual thought.  In the last two thousand years this is a very recent development.  In our culture, it would be a very normal thing to say we cannot have academic discussion about the Bible because it is faith not knowledge.  We can and should take the teachings of Jesus seriously and intellectually.  They are the basis of thousands of years of culture, shouldn’t they at least be examined the same way we study Egyptian pharaohs or Greek philosophers?

So lets take this very small amount from the Sermon on the Mount.

 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

-Matthew 5:39-41

Here Jesus deals with three common cultural issues that could invoke a violent response.  First, if punchsomeone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.  In the first century world, this would have been a back-handed slap using the right hand, meaning the person being hit was inferior.  The left hand was not used for things like this, in fact commentators reveal that the left hand was, “reserved for dirty things.”  Turning the other cheek would have forced the person to hit you with a close fist, effectually saying, “Hit me like a I’m your equal.”  Jesus was not advocating that we be doormats when violence comes our way, but in this response, the cheek turner forces the violent offender to admit that they are equals or walk away.  In order to make peace in a violent world we need to step up to violent offenders.  Think of a domestic violence situation, not only is there physical and emotional pain, but the abused often loses their dignity.  What if instead of looking for the bad guys for neighborhood watch, we checked in on our neighbors and stepped in the way of abuse?  What if we demanded that people all over were treated with dignity?

The second issue Jesus deals with is a lawsuit.  He said if someone sues you for your tunic let them take your cloak also.  In order to get this you have to understand something about the first century.  At that time, you only wore cloaks and tunics.  If you took both of these items, you’d be naked.  So Jesus told people to get naked…well not really.  If you were being sued for your tunic, you probably were very poor, and giving the rest of your clothes as well would have exposed the injustice greed in the person bringing the suit.  I think if you are working for peace the way Jesus teaches, then you expose greed and injustice wherever it is.

Thirdly, if someone forces you to go a mile, go two.  In these days a Roman soldier could lawfully take a Jew, give him his pack and make him walk a mile.  The response was probably after a specified point, the Jew would drop the pack, say something mean and run.  But what if the soldier was surprised by the grace that you showed?  What if they were taken aback by your generosity? What if on that second mile they found out you are the proud dad of two little girls?  Do you think that soldier would think twice when it came time to start killing your people?  What if we took a two-mile walk with our enemies simply to get to know them?  How long do you think they would stay enemies?

I don’t know how to solve our nations gun violence problems, but I do know we need third options.  We need to be willing to give and to suffer for this work.  I love the words of Martin Luther King JR when he said: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering, do to us what you will and we shall continue to love you.  I love this quote, because it captures what Jesus did for us.  What if we endured suffering, made peace and continued to love the world the way Jesus loved the people who he asked his father to forgive when he was suffering on the cross?

 

 

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the problem of violence: a societal norm

According to the American Psychological Association:

By the time the average child who watches 2-4 hours of TV a day finishes elementary school they will have witnessed at least 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence.[1]

This is powerful conditioning.

url-1Studies repeatedly show that this kind of exposure can lead to aggression later in life.  Of course the debate against this argument is that, “its just good entertainment, it doesn’t change behavior!”   It just so happens that the folks who love this argument, are also the ones who produce this content.  It’s funny that they spend millions of dollars in advertising to persuade people to watch their shows.  If they are so convinced that media doesn’t have a powerful effect on behavior then they should stop advertising their content through television.

Since none of us, including me, are going to ditch our flat screen TV’s or put or Netflix accounts on hold, what do we do about this culture that we’ve created?

Here are some suggestions to create a different culture:

-Limit TV exposure in your homes.  Don’t be a Nazi about it, but something that I am grateful for now is that my mom made me read an hour if I wanted an hour of TV time.  And as a child I loved TV, so I read.

-Talk about violence that you see in your homes.  When kids get old enough they are going to start asking why people shoot up schools or beat people up.  Talk to your kids about it and allow them to ask questions.

-Model an alternative in the home.  A child will invariably ask you, “What do I do if someone hits me?”  Most parents I know say that you hit them back.  Not to say that Desiree and I have it all figured out, but other kids hit our girls all the time and what we teach them is to put a hand up and say, “stop don’t touch me.”  Obviously this works because our kids are really young.  When they’re older this may not work out so well.  We want to teach our kids to stand up for themselves but to be honest when they get a little older; I’m not really sure how we will go about doing this.

-Show your kids correct response.  So many times we respond in a way that does not fit the situation.  When you blow up at something little, guess what your kids learn the correct response is to something little?

-One of the things that studies continually show is that language builds culture.  Aggressive language usually builds an aggressive culture.  Model peaceful language at home and your kids will pick up on it.

What will you do to evaluate the culture that you have already created in your house?  What do you do to stop violence before it starts?


[1] Gushee & Stassen.  Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in a Contemporary Context. Chapter 7

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the problem of violence: a limited debate

The following statement might not be very acceptable, however it is the premise I am working urlwith through observation and life experience.   I feel that Americans are increasingly conditioned to only think of two possibilities to any national problem.  Recently these possibilities have been polar opposites of each other.  The media reinforces that the only dialogue that matters is republican or democrat.   I feel like we have progressively been conditioned into a way of thinking that limits solutions and possibilities    This is exceptionally limiting to democracy and free thought.

I can’t prove that my claims are true; it is simply what I have been observing.  So the drawback when we approach a problem such as gun violence in our society we have two parties advocating for policies more so because they want to be re-elected rather than what is best for society or what makes logical sense.  Look at the current debate on gun control.

One group says, the more guns we have the safer we are.  They advocate arming teachers and basically everybody.  A little more extreme wing of this group sends threatening letters to congress warning what might happen if they try to take their guns.  They essentially say, “Come and get them” with the implications being that there will be a fight.  I am consistently amazed at the contradictory nature of this argument.  We will be safe if everyone has more guns, but come and get them and there is going to be war…Wait, what?  I thought that guns were going to keep us safe.

However the other side of this debate wants to pass legislation that will make law abiding gun owners, technically criminals.  If this happens we drastically confuse the fight against gun violence as a fight against law-abiding citizens.

Both of these arguments to me seem flawed and incomplete.  They both seem like they miss the point.  But how can we find a new way when our culture seems to be so entrenched in two ways of thinking?  Isn’t their a third or a fourth of a fiftieth way?

Is a third way possible?  Is there room in our consciousness for a third way?    Are there things that we can agree on, like the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tec, or Columbine should never happen again?

What are we missing as a nation by drastically oversimplifying very complex issues?  Does limiting the debate also limit the solutions?

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rules for a preacher circa 1888, rule 11

Act in all things according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel. As such, it is your duty to employ your time in this manner in which we direct: In preaching and visiting from house to house; in reading, meditation and prayer. Above all, if you labor with us in the Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you do that part of work we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for His glory.

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told a story about wise and foolish builders. You probably know the story. The wise built their house on a rock and the foolish built their photohouse on sand. The idea is that when the storms of life come the ones who built their life on a solid foundation will withstand it and the one who didn’t will wash out. I think that this is what rule eleven is getting at.
At the end of every list of rules, that are life altering, then what’s wrong with saying, if you don’t listen to this then you’re foolish. So this is the last rule, if you’ve been following along with the rules for a preacher series  hopefully you’ve see the value in 125 year old wisdom.  If you don’t at least consider the wisdom of these rules and build some foundations on them, well  then, you might be foolish.

If you missed any of the previous posts you can see any one of them here

Rule 1
Rule 2
Rule 3
Rule 4
Rule 5
Rule 6
Rule 7
Rule 8
Rule 9
Rule 10

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