Who Failed Who?

Though tragedy brings us the haunting worry that God has let us down, it is healthy to ask ourselves questions first.

alighttomyway

Psalms 75, 76, 77, 80

Have you ever felt like God isn’t keeping His promises? The psalmists did. They, like many of us, find ourselves in situations where God is noticeably silent or worse, absent. Didn’t God promise to never leave or forsake us, to be our strength and shield, to give us everything we need? So why does it seem there are times He reneges on His promises?

When the psalmists felt disappointed in God, they often started to remember the many ways God had been faithful in the past. God had proved His faithfulness over and over, fulfilled one promise after another. Then inevitably, they realized it was they, not God who had reneged on their promises to Him.

As I read the Bible I am reminded that God loves to bless His people. God longs to shower His children with love and joy and peace, and to…

View original post 174 more words

Love the Inconveniencers

Lord, help us get over ourselves.

Brandon J. Adams

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. First it was a trouble where the engine would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump and my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

View original post 301 more words

My Blog Has a Facebook Page!

Yeerk. I hate self-promotion. I really do. This post will probably get deleted after a little while.

But it’s part of the job when you’re hoping to write a book. A little-known secret of authorship is that you must first prove your ability to market yourself, because publishers simply don’t have the resources to do it for you. If you’re going to compete for their attention, you have to show a ready audience.

So…ahem…

Hey, loyal followers! This staccato, semi-coherent blog now has a Facebook page! I use it to pass on thoughts and lessons God’s giving me (they all come from him) that don’t qualify for a blog post. But also to link to blog posts.

If you have surrendered to Facebook and would like to toss out a Like for it and its posts, I’d be super grateful. Here’s the link…

https://www.facebook.com/brandonjadamsblog/

Now back to your regularly scheduled frantic Fourth of July preparations. I was never here.

Why We All Need Some “Jesus Freak” Again

dctalkWonders never cease – dc Talk is touring in the U.S. again!

Though there’s no whispers of a new album, Michael Tait announced last week that dc Talk will be touring on land together for the first time in sixteen(?) years, starting in 2020. The dates and locations have yet to be announced.

The sequence of events when I read this:

1. Yell.

2. Pinch myself.

3. Yell again.

4. Check if it’s April 1.

6. Gab on Facebook about how we’re totally road-tripping for this.

7. “Holy cow, those guys look OLD”

8. Re-download Jesus Freak and Supernatural (the latter was sorely underrated, come at me).

9. Head-bang.

10. Advil.

11. There’s no 5 in this list.

12. You went back to look and are now chuckling at yourself.

13. Consider just how much we Christians might need “Jesus Freak” again.

I’ve briefly opined on the angsty/alternative phase Christian music underwent in the 90s. I wouldn’t call it insincere, but I don’t feel it did enough to prepare young people for suffering. The unexpected nature of suffering – jagged, unfair, isolating, relentless – got under-attended by Christian music in favor of riling people up to stand out against the world. And it’s something that keeps showing up in the autopsies when people walk away (though it’s unfair to lay the entire blame at music’s feet).

But it occurred to me – twenty years later, maybe what Christians need most is a call to stand out.

I’m not just talking about our witness, though that’s a weekly burr in pastors’ shoes. We fall into selfishness, gossip, anger, and tribalism as quickly as the next religion. It was Brennan Manning’s quote along these lines that we remember from the Jesus Freak album (Track 4):

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

I also mean our lost boldness.

We’re so hesitant to share our faith these days. I’m so hesitant. We make so many excuses, design so many shortcuts, apply so many disguises to the issue of sin and repentance. We’re too busy apologizing to the world for a message they’ve deemed unacceptable. In what universe does that make any sense?

The Man with the Tat on his Big Fat Belly would stand on his box in the middle of any American city. But we wouldn’t.

Whether the church earned its fall isn’t the point. Christians have been screwing up since Paul’s days; it didn’t change what he wrote.

The deepest question is, might our security be in the wrong place? Are we drawing our sense of approval from unsaved humans rather than God? If we were utterly free of the world’s opinion, if we were fully convinced of Matthew 10:28’s distribution of our priorities, what would we be teaching?

Well, we probably wouldn’t really care if they labeled us Jesus Freaks, ‘cuz there ain’t no denying the truth.

dc Talk injected a welcome dose of this freedom into our spiritual bloodstream. We’ve lost something sinceI pray that God gives Kevin, Toby, and Michael a powerful message for their tour.

And I pray for extra gas money, because people, I’m going. Imagine how many dad-bods will be in that mosh pit now…

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media.

Cheer On Each Other’s Races

Occasionally, social media proves it’s actually good for something, and a fine example is when someone mocks an overweight person working out.

Take this guy:

This is inspiring. It puts to shame most of our excuses. Who cares where his starting point was? He’s heading in the right direction. And decent people cheer him on, as they should.

But there’s always some shock-value specialist, lurking in the drifting shadows of the Twitter wasteland, who decides it’s all just too positive and rushes in to kick sand into the goodwill oasis – with words of mockery.

Mocking his size. His pace. His form. His progress. His skin color. Whatever is attackable. With cruelty they wouldn’t dare

runnerThen comes the rare instance where Twitter can be relied upon to make itself useful: they’ll blast this cruel peanut gallery. Knock them back a few pegs. This man is taking charge of his life, they’ll say. He’s bending his mind and body to improvement, no matter the grade of the hill. Why should he be shamed for that? (I’m making these defenders sound polite.)

They’re tilting at windmills, of course, because the peanut gallery’s appetite for brazen tastelessness knows no bounds (they’re what keeps Family Guy and the Deadpool franchise going). It’s easy to get angry with them.

But perhaps we should feel sorry for them, too. As one of Dre’s respondents said,

“Dawg u lapping everyone who’s sitting on the couch rn keep up the hustle”

Or perhaps Jesus said it best:

The Pharisee took his stand, and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people — greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me — a sinner! ’

I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11-14)

Jesus argues that the slow man who humbly runs his race is closer to God than the speedy man who criticizes from the bleachers. 

Cheering on each other’s races is in diametric opposition to judgmentalism. There’s just no room to do both. When we look down on struggles that we are not experiencing, we join the peanut gallery.

And we reveal our own lack of spiritual fitness: pride.

And our blindness: to the pride, and to our other sins, and to Whose power lifted us out of the sins we have beaten. When we see our sin, how can we possibly judge?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1)

Let’s leave the peanut gallery for the great cloud of witnesses. Gyms and Christianity should be judgment-free zones.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Don’t Resist Gratitude

Brandon J. Adams

Don’t fall for the lie that supports your discontent: that gratitude is a cliche.

That “counting your blessings” is a wispy, Hallmark-level cop-out thrown out there to distract you from how you’re really feeling about things.

That it’s God’s consolation prize given in place of just fixing your problems.

That it’s God’s passive-aggressive way of telling you he’s not concerned with your struggles.

A grateful posture this Thanksgiving really can do you enormous favors.

It can calm the storm in your heart. I mean, how wonderful would it be to go an entire day emotionally ironclad, completely unperturbed by anything going on in your life?

It can make you more attractive to people. Gratitude shows on your face. It gets people wondering how you do it, how you maintain an attitude of thankfulness in the serenity while everyone else rags Jesus about how the boat’s being swamped.

It can drive…

View original post 131 more words

Can Christians Serve in the Military?

I was recently asked whether I believe military service is Scripturally permissible for believers.

Full disclosure: I served in the Air Force in the immediate post-9/11 months. (My father served in the Army National Guard during the 1990s; his father was a sailor in World War II, had a destroyer sunk from beneath him in the Battle of Guadalcanal.)

Though there was patriotic fervor even amongst civilians following 9/11, it took a different form within the military ranks: aggression. Many soldiers took up a kind of enthusiasm towards vengeance. I vividly remember the videos that circulated through our email inboxes in those pre-Youtube days (this was one of the first and a rather tame example).

I didn’t get into that mindset. I still reject caustic jingoism and delight in death. Though combat requires a resolute and focused mindset, I do not think the Christian can justify bloodlust in the heart.

But the question remains: is violence, even without aggression, conscionable at all for believers? Some (like my Mennonite brothers) do not believe so.

I’ll stick to the Scriptural arguments I know and let you decide. Any other talking point (such as society’s perception of veterans) is secondary.

* There is reason to infer a Scriptural teaching against self-defense for state-persecuted Christians, following Jesus’ model (e.g. “He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the streets” (Isaiah 42:2) and that of the saints down through the ages.

* Personal revenge is Biblically difficult to justify – “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

However, these two are far from the only situations that might require force.

* Romans 13 is largely about submission, but theologians have traditionally homed in on verse 4 as justifying force to maintain order:

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. v.4b

Its simple thrust is this: there are wrongdoers in the world, God does something about them, and he uses human agency (the “sword” specifically, flawed though it be) as his instrument. He does not ignore it, nor command soldiers in this case to stand aside for judgment from heaven.

* In 2 Timothy, Paul promotes a soldier’s qualities as admirable and imitable for Christians. In Ephesians 6, he speaks of spiritual equipment at our disposal and uses military equipment as the most comprehensible analog. These are not explicit endorsements of military service, but using military imagery to address Christians doesn’t exactly rule it out, either. Paul could have contented himself with the runner analogy, and he must have been aware of how praising a soldier’s qualities might have been taken. If God explicitly wanted pacifism for his people, it is unlikely that he would have left these verses as they stand.

(The passage is not meant to portray soldierhood as a competitor to Christ. As a matter of good exegesis, we should avoiding reading into a verse things that aren’t there.)

* God used war to conquer Canaan. Though this was a specific dispensation and not permission for wanton violence in our own lives, God still used the sword, not the bargaining table.

* Ecclesiastes 3:8 teaches that there is “A time for war, and a time for peace.”

But for me, the strongest evidence that Christians can join the military in good conscience is God’s command to protect the innocent. 

Some might point to Jesus’ command to love your enemies. But Jesus actually commanded us to love all men, enemies and their victims alike (such as the Guatemalan poor).

What happens, then, when one group turns upon another? If love means non-violence, we would thus be choosing a party not to love. Inaction would then be loving the strong at the expense of the weak, the criminal at the expense of the innocent. And the divine command to love would be rendered impossible to follow.

When an evil is clear and present, inaction is complicity. That seems to be the stance of Proverbs 24:10-12:

“If you do nothing in a difficult time,
your strength is limited.
Rescue those being taken off to death,
and save those stumbling toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,”
won’t He who weighs hearts consider it?
Won’t He who protects your life know?
Won’t He repay a person according to his work?”

I believe we thus amend our definition of love to include all of Scripture’s implications. We are commanded to love our enemies. We are also commanded to deliver the weak and needy from their hands (Psalm 82:3-4, Prov. 31:8-9, Isaiah 1:17). It should be noted that the belief that Scriptures outside the four Gospels carry a lesser authority than Jesus’ words is a position this blog does not entertain.

It is fair to question the righteousness of any war. It is proper to pursue every possible alternative first (and America has historically done so, including in WWII). It is right to remove all hatred and bloodlust from our hearts. And if you cannot stomach war, it’s possible that military service is not part of God’s will for your life.

But at the end of the day, Scripture also tells me that part of my Christian duty is to safeguard the innocent from those who trade in violence themselves. It is naive to think that such men will always respond to the gavel or the negotiator. I believe it is justifiable for Christians to serve in the military under the right circumstances.