My Thoughts on Charlottesville

Yesterday, I shared a few thoughts with my church regarding what our perspective as Christ-followers should be toward the recent news of racial clashing in Charlottesville, VA. The protesters, mostly KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, former general of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. As a result, counter-protesters showed up, opposing white nationalist ideologies – now more commonly being referred to as the “Alt-Right”.

Frankly, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of having to address this blatant discrimination, and I’m even more tired of “Christians” who would defend them – all while quick to point out the flaws of those who have committed acts of violence in the name of BLM. As if one excuses another… Nonetheless, here we are. Again. And something must be said, especially to fellow Christians who must be reminded of who we are and what we are called to be in this world.

Here are my humble thoughts

  1. God made our ethnicities, and we are all equal image-bearers of Him. Acts 17:26 tells us that, “He [God] made from one man, all nations [lit. ethnos] of the earth.” God created beauty in our diversity. This wasn’t just the occurrence of random genetics rising to prominence amongst people groups, it was our Creator who thought our diversity into existence. We all share God’s image. When any of us dare to elevate one ethnicity – or demean another – we dishonor the God whose image they bear.
  2. It took the shed blood of Jesus to redeem all of us. John 3:16, the most well known verse in the Bible tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (emphasis, mine). If any of us think ourselves better than anyone else, may we be reminding, that at the cross of Jesus Christ, we all stand on even ground. The poor Hispanic, the educated black, the trust-fund white – all get to Heaven by the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ. None of us come to God with anything to bargain for our salvation – our ethnicity, which God Himself created, least of all.
  3. The church is to be a place of healing and reconciliation. Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female; for we are all made one in Christ.” In the church that Jesus said He would build, we all have equality with one another. The church today should be focused on breaking down such barriers, and elevating the status of our fellow brother and sister.
  4. Racism, bigotry, and hate in general will always exist this side of Heaven. This incident and others like it, are just further evidence that mankind cannot solve mankind’s problems. I wish this would end somehow. I wish all the racist people would stop being racist, those hurt could find healing, that prejudice and hate would come to an end. But it won’t. Not in this life. That means that somehow, someway, we must all learn to exist in this broken world, while not becoming jaded by the sinful attitudes of others.
  5. We must not give in to the hate. It would be human nature to want retaliation. But we no longer walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The Apostle Paul admonishes us in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” The grace, peace, and power to do good that God has placed inside of you and me through His Holy Spirit is far greater than the evil that exists around us. As hard and even painful as it seems, we must love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who would spitefully use us. Yeah, that’s a tall order, I know. But only when we focus our eyes on those who would do wrong against us. When we focus our eyes on Jesus, we remember that He loved us even when we were the enemies of God.
  6. Heaven will be filled with diversity. Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” So much I love about this scene from Heaven! It’s full. It’s diverse. Every people group is represented, and presumably still bearing evidence of their ethnicity. There’s multiply languages still in Heaven! The use of plural language in worship (“our” God). Heaven is going to be amazing, in no small part because of how big, diverse, and beautiful God’s family is! So we would do well to start seeing it, acknowledging it, and celebrating His family here and now.

Those are just a few of the thoughts I shared with my church family this past week. We will never legislate righteousness, we must persuade people. “By your love one for another will the world know that you are my disciples.” Let’s be voices of hope and restoration.

Blessings,
Pastor John

New Favorite Song…

I’m totally in love with this song by Elevation Worship called, Fullness. The reasons are plentiful: it’s packed with Scripture, it speaks to the day of Pentecost (when the church was born) in Acts 2, it references all of the prophetic foreshadowing to the move of God coming through the Holy Spirit, it’s full of modern significance as it’s chorus and bridge consistently cry out “Spirit come!” as if inviting God’s power and presence into our lives and communities in the same way today, and it speaks of longing for our King’s return.

My favorite version of this song is their acoustic set which, though I can’t find it on iTunes, is available via youtube (linked below).

If you’re interested in doing a devotion over this passage, here’s my thoughts below on the song – and more importantly, the Scripture it references…

The Bible tells us in Acts 1 & 2 that after Jesus had risen from the dead and spent 40 days with His followers that He told them, “you will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 2 tells us the story of the disciples after they received the Holy Spirit, and the revival it brought of people turning to faith in Jesus that resulted…

Fullness of eternal promise / stirring in Your sons and daughters / earth revealing Heavens wonders / Spirit, come! Spirit come!

“‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy… ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky, and signs on the earth below.'” Acts 2:17, 19

As the Day of Pentecost began, and the church was born, Peter addresses the busy city of Jerusalem quoting from the promise of the Holy Spirit coming in the book of Joel in the Old Testament.

What You spoke is now unfolding / all Your children shall behold it / dreams awaken in this moment / Spirit, come! Spirit, come!

“And your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…” Acts 2:17

This line was in the song was another reference to the prophecy in Joel of the coming of the Spirit.

Pour it out, let Your love run over / Here and now, let Your glory fill this house / Pour it out, let Your love run over / Here and now, let Your glory fill this house

Referencing the Scriptures above of God’s Spirit being “poured forth on all mankind”. I like the present tense of this – the song is being sung as if we are crying out for God to pour His Spirit on us anew today. A prayer I consistently pray over my life and church.

Now the world awaits Your presence / And this power is within us / We will rise to be Your witness / Spirit, come! Spirit, come!

This third verse directly takes from the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8, where Christ Himself tells us, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…”

The song then crescendos at the bridge which repeats:

Tongues of fire – testifying of the Son / One desire – Spirit, come! Spirit, come! / Speak revival – prophesy like it is done / One desire – Spirit, come! Spirit, come!

The tongues of fire is perhaps the only confusing part to some in the song. Its referencing what took place at the moment that the Spirit came upon the first disciples. In Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”

The tongues of fire, were the writer’s best description of what he was seeing as the Holy Spirit visibly manifested His power on the first followers of Christ. The point was, they had received the Spirit, had His anointed power poured on them, and were now ready to face the world with the message of the resurrected Christ.

In regard to the “Speak revival – prophesy like it is done” What we see in the Scriptures is that when God forecasts the future through one of His prophets, He often speaks of the future in the past tense – to God, the future is just as complete and definitive as the past. So God can speak of the future as if it’s already happened. Along those lines, this song is literally asking God to, “speak revival – prophesy like it is done.”

It’s like asking God to bring that same Holy Spirit – Day of Pentecost – kind of revival to our lives, cities, and nation… and to speak that revival over us as if it were a matter of fact – like it’s already done, This might be my favorite, most well-thought-out line in this song. And it’s the perfect high point to a song that speaks of the coming of the Spirit, and longing for that fresh wind and fire in our churches today.

A few concluding, personal questions for you:

  • Are you seeking the Holy Spirit’s anointing on you as a follower of Jesus?
  • Do you pray for God to “speak revival” over your life/family/community?
  • How can you be a witness of what God is doing in your life?
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you to show the world the hope that Christ alone can bring.

 

Blessings,
Pastor John

PS…
Let our hearts continue burning / For our King is soon returning…

Why I’m EXCITED for LifeCity!


Our move from Montague Elementary to Santa Clara High School is just 31 days away, and we couldn’t be more excited to see what God is going to do. But even before we’ve relocated, God has been at work. Here’s what’s got me looking forward to what’s to come:

  1. We’re increasing! We’ve already seen consistent growth over the past few months since we announced our move. The start to 2017 has seen more people connect, consistent first time guests, and increased returning guests. We’re already averaging more in January than our best previous month!
  2. People are growing in their faith! We’re seeing an increase in our leaders, LifeGroups, volunteers, and number of people inviting and bringing their friends to worship gatherings.
  3. Spiritual decisions are being made! More and more people are making first time decisions to trust in Christ, and several others have rededicated themselves who have otherwise felt far from God before coming to LifeCity.
  4. The word is getting out! Our church has been pumped, and actively inviting people. We have mailer going to 25k homes! People stop me to ask when our first day at the high school will be. It’s just awesome! And I can’t wait (Feb. 19, btw!)

If you’re a regular attender at LifeCity and want to find out more about our church, you should check out our NextSteps class coming this Sunday, Jan 22. We’re praying for 100+ people on day one in the high school, and if you live in the area we hope you will be there! As we often tell people – no matter who you are, or where you’ve been, you matter to God, and you matter to us! Come checkout LifeCity Church and see for yourself.

Blessings,
Pastor John