It’s a Crying Shame


shame1 Peter 4

Shame doesn’t seem to have much influence these days. Reality TV, YouTube, even the nightly news prove that people are willing to do almost anything for 15 minutes of fame. In spite of this fact our culture still likes to use shame to try to motivate people to do things their way.

  • “You smoke!? That’s a shame. You’re killing yourself and your children.”
  • “You like 64 oz. soft drinks!? Unbelievable. You’re the cause of America’s obesity problem.”
  • “You own and know how to responsibly discharge a firearm!? Shame on you. You are contributing to that culture of violence that’s killing our kids!”
  • “You believe homosexuality has nothing to do with love and everything to do with sex AND you have the nerve to tell me it’s wrong!? Bigot. What you believe is shameful.”
  • “You trust the authority of a hokey religion and an ancient book over your own ease, comfort and pleasure!? Ridiculous!”

You’ve seen it and experienced it. Shame is easy to identify. It often sounds like, “Let’s do it for the children.” I think it’s time we noticed. Our culture is trying to shame the faith right out of us.

One of the problems of American Christianity is that we’ve come to believe a lie. In the past American culture was saturated with the influence of Christianity. Being a Christian wasn’t simply a statement of faith. To a large degree it described the core values of who we are as a nation. Because of this American Christians have suffered very little, if any, persecution within our own country. American Christians often seem surprised, even indignant, when they are inconvenienced or have to suffer for their faith. That’s the lie. Because we have lived in a blessed and prosperous nation and because that nation, historically, was built on the principles of our faith we believe the lie of entitlement. We believe we are entitled to our faith. We believe we are entitled to the blessings of this nation. We believe we are entitled to live our faith without fear of persecution, shame or inconvenience. That’s the lie.

Today, the influence of Christianity is waning. We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. I don’t really like the term, post-Christian. It implies that the people who stand opposed to Christianity somehow had it or understood it in the first place. They think they do, but they don’t. Instead, we see an increasing number of people who boldly stand against Christian values and principles. Shame is one of the tactics they use to get Christians to stay silent. People of faith are left with conflicted. What happened to the safety of my American culture and what have I done wrong to deserve such shame?

We see Peter’s encouragement. 1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” He follows up with, 1 Peter 4:14-16, “So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!”

Our current generation will use shame to silence Christians. Persecution is what comes next. Most American Christians have experienced very little of the former and none of the latter. But it’s coming. 1 Peter 4 warns us not to be surprised. Instead, be ready. Consider it an honor. It’s counter-intuitive, but receive the shame and praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

The shame and persecution of Jesus led to our salvation. The shame and persecution of Stephen led to the conversion of Paul. The seeds of our faith were planted in soil rich with the blood of martyrs. The foundation of our nation is built on the remains of our honored dead, those willing to give their lives for what they believe.

What are the limits of your faith? Will you consider it a shame to be called a Christian or will you praise God for the privilege of being called by his name?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being willing to suffer the shame of persecution for me. Thank you for the valiant men and women who have given their lives for the message of the gospel. I pray for myself and my family. No one wants to suffer for their faith. I don’t want to experience persecution. Give me the wisdom and insight to see shame and persecution coming. When it comes I want to be ready to stand. Give me the strength and courage to speak wisely, act honorably and, if necessary, to give my livelihood, reputation – even my life – for the faith you’ve given me. Like I am blessed because of the faith of those who have been martyred for the gospel may future generations be blessed because of my faith whether I have to suffer the shame of persecution or not.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Safety & Security or Suffer & Sacrifice


Suffer, Safety1 Peter 2

I placed my faith in Christ when I was 9 years old. I grew up in church, so I’ve been around information about Jesus and what it means to follow Christ for a long time. There’s so much about following Jesus that is counter-cultural. It’s backwards from what the world says to do. It’s not just counter-culture, it’s the opposite of our natural predisposition. While I may not have perfected following in his footsteps I have gotten comfortable with many of these ideas and try to practice them. I’ll bet you have too.

  • Love your enemies.
  • Humble yourself.
  • Practice self-control.
  • Sex is blessed in the context of marriage so remain faithful to the wife of your youth.
  • Bless those who curse you and spitefully mistreat you.

While these things are counter-cultural they’ve been practiced by so many Believers who have come before us that even our culture has begun to recognize their value. But there is still one principle I, and most Christians really struggle with today. It’s the idea that we should be willing to suffer for our faith.

1 Peter 2:21 says, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” This isn’t the only place in Scripture that talks about suffering for our faith. It’s all over the New Testament. Philippians 1:29 tells us, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” 2 Timothy 1:8 says, “With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.” And 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

As modern Believers today most of us were raised in a nation where being a Christian is safe. More than that, we’ve been in a prosperous nation where food is plentiful, resources are abundant and following Christ is one among many reasonable choices people make every day without threat or consequence. The church I serve celebrated its 66th anniversary a few weeks ago. One of our charter members told the story that when the church began it met in a tent. On weekends it rained they had to get there early to raise the flaps or the inside of the tent would smell like a wet dog. If it started raining during church they had to raise their feet because water would flow down the slope of the floor. Can you imagine? A few weeks ago we got complaints because the church’s wi-fi wasn’t working properly. Our level of inconvenience and the pains we ‘suffer’ has certainly changed.

But inconvenience isn’t what Peter means when he says that God called us to do good even if it means suffering. During his time people were thrown in prison for their faith. They were beaten. They were killed. Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down for preaching the gospel. That’s not inconvenient. That’s genuine suffering and Peter says not only should we expect it. We should willingly endure it.

And that’s a principle that goes against everything our culture has taught us. We’ve been taught that safety, security and survival are the highest priorities. Today, kids wear bike helmets. The Mayor of New York City wants to ban large sugary drinks because the obesity he says they cause is killing people. We throw out perfectly good food because we’re one day past the expiration date printed on the label. We’re a culture consumed with survival, safety and security.

Like loving our neighbors, blessing those who curse us and practicing humility, in God’s opinion there is a higher standard, a better standard. God’s more interested in our service, sacrifice and submission than our ease, comfort and pleasure. It’s not that he’s unconcerned with our safety or security. It’s that his view of what’s safe is so much bigger than ours. It’s that he places such a high value on people that he says it’s worth it to suffer if suffering will rescue them from hell, deliver them from bad choices, and help them overcome the challenges they face.

Think about this. God is a father who willingly put his son in harm’s way. He sent his son to a people he knew would hate and reject him. He sent him into a world that was cruel and filled with pain. God sent his son out of the safety and security of heaven to suffer through this world, to suffer through death. He sent Jesus to serve people and ultimately become the sacrifice that paid the penalty for your sin and mine. In God’s eyes you are so valuable you are worth suffering for.

Now that you are a Christ-follower God wants you to see the world the way he does. He wants you to value what he values and live according to his standard. He wants to you to trust that he knows best. Even if he’s telling you to do something that seems unsafe or that will lead to suffering. He wants you to value people the way he does and be willing to suffer for their sake. He’s not asking you to be stupid. He’s asking you to make service and sacrifice your standard rather than safety and security.

Are you willing to suffer for your faith? Are you willing to suffer in order to do good for someone else? Would you be willing to put your children in a dangerous situation for God’s sake? What are the limits of your faith? Is suffering where you draw the line and what miracles will you miss if it is?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

I’ll confess, Father, I’m not terribly interested in this one. I don’t like to be inconvenienced, let alone to suffer. Sometimes it’s even tolerable to suffer the consequences of my bad choices. But to suffer for making the right choice? I struggle with that. I have been influenced by movies and stories of heroes who find a way, people who survive at all cost. Survival has become my standard rather than service and sacrifice. So…help me to pray a dangerous prayer. I’m not sure I mean this, but I’ll pray it anyway…help me to be willing to suffer for your sake. Help me view suffering the way you do. Give me a heart that says, “No matter the danger, if God leads me to it, I will go and take my family with me.” I’ll confess, it sounds crazy to me, but I trust you. So help me to do good, even if it means suffering for it. And help me to teach my kids to do the same.

Thank you for being willing to send your son into the danger. Thank you that he suffered and died in my place, for my sin, that I might have a right relationship with you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Backstage: The Perfect Highlights Reel


If you’re reading a chapter each day we’ve finished 1 Thessalonians. I didn’t get to write about the last couple of chapters. What stood out to you as you read?

Today we start 1 Peter. Did you know the chapter we read is at the top of each of post? If you click it a window opens directly to that chapter. I hope you enjoy the observations I make about what we read. I hope my words encourage and challenge you to take your next step of faith. Here’s a suggestion that will help you get the most out of these devotionals. If you have to choose between reading the Bible or reading my comments on the Bible – pick the Bible. You can have the author present while you read and ask him questions directly about what you read.


backstage1 Peter 1

Because of the work I do I’ve had the privilege of being on both sides of the stage. I’ve been the artist leading worship. I’ve been the preacher entrusted to deliver the message. I’ve been the actor or emcee. In my current position I’m often the Minister of Announcements. I’m comfortable on the other side of the stage as well. I’ve led the technology team responsible for making the sound, lights and video that seamless piece used to enhance the message. I’ve been the stage manager or producer behind the scenes calling the shots. I’ve also been the roady responsible for load in, load out and clean up. Whatever my responsibility I’ve had backstage access to a lot of cool events.

I’ve been backstage with Governors and Congressman. I directed shows with artists like Toby Mac, Chris Tomlin, Mercy Me, & Skillet. But enough name dropping, here’s something I’ve noticed about them all.

They’re just people.

They’re lives aren’t any more special than yours or mine. Their stage may be bigger. The limelight may shine on them brighter, but the life they lead isn’t that different from yours. Too often we look at those on stage and wonder why God won’t let us have a life like that. I’m not talking about the popularity, prominence or even the pay. I’m talking about the show. We see their life on stage. We hear the wisdom they speak or we’re inspired by the music they bring. We experience the joy of the moment. We are entertained by the story they tell and we assume they must be living their happily ever after. When will we get to live ours?

This problem isn’t simply about our admiration for celebrities. We do this with friends, family, colleagues, clients and coworkers. We look at their lives and wonder, “When will I get mine?” I’ve been backstage. I’ve seen the other side. The show you see is an illusion. That makes it sound dishonest. It’s not. The vast majority of the people I’ve worked with are sincere in their faith. The show you see isn’t an illusion because of deception. No, it’s a well crafted story that’s been practiced and honed into a razor-sharp edge designed to accomplish a specific purpose.

The problem isn’t the sincerity of the people on stage or our lack of a happily ever after. The problem is that we compare our behind the scenes footage with everyone else’s highlights reel.

Do you see what I mean? The show is the highlights reel. You’ve seen highlight videos. They never show the whole game, just the game winning touchdown. They don’t show the hours, days, and months of practice required to make the song perfect. We just push play on our iPhone and the music sounds amazing. The highlight reel never shows the effort spent finding just the right turn of phrase that will allow the speaker to be charming, memorable, relevant and inspirational. We see the finished product. We compare that to our behind-the-scenes footage.

Backstage things are a mess.

1 Peter 1 tells part of the story of our salvation. God chose, before time began, to create people he would love with an everlasting love. These people would rebel and reject him. They would need forgiveness. Justice would demand a sacrifice. God paid that sacrifice for us through his son, Jesus. Now our relationship with him can be restored. We can be holy as he is holy. We can be set apart as God’s special people.

But there is a backstage to that statement. Holiness is like the highlights reel. It’s something God does in you and through you. Sometimes he does it in spite of you. In the meantime there’s the behind-the-scenes footage of your life. There’s the backstage mess. 1 Peter 1 talks about the prophets who knew God would send a Savior, but who never saw that Savior themselves. There are moments your faith is challenged or violated, moments you’ll be forced to try to think clearly and practice self control. You have the promise of your salvation. You look forward to the day Jesus Christ will be revealed, but right now all you have is the struggle.

1 Peter 1 challenges us. Look at verses 6 – 9, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

This world is our backstage, the story of our life the behind-the-scenes footage. Heaven is the highlights reel.

Will you be holy as God is holy? Don’t get discouraged because you compare your behind-the-scenes footage with everyone else’s highlights reel. Instead, use this time backstage to make moments that last forever.

What will you do today that will make the highlights reel?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your gift of salvation. Thank you that you have loved me with an everlasting love. Thank you for writing an incredible story in me and through me. Today I want to draw closer to you. I want to become more like you. Don’t let me get discouraged because I compare my behind-the-scenes footage with everyone else’s highlights reel. Instead, let me make the most of the time I have. Let me make moments worthy of your highlights reel. Let me become holy as you are holy.”

I love you, in Jesus name – Chad