Was Jesus a Socialist?

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” -Jesus (John 15:15)

The other night while in Washington, I had the good fortune of grabbing some tasty Mexican food with my brother.  While downing our fair share of chips and salsa, he began sharing about how he had seen someone wearing a t-shirt that said, “Jesus is a Socialist”….probably not a rare occasion here in the Pacific Northwest.  But this sentiment….is it accurate?  Does it have any real validity?

Let’s take a look….

The first thing we can look at is the philosophy of Socialism, which is a nutshell is, “What’s yours is mine.”  Historically this was enforced through coercion and threats of, if not actual acts of violence.  One of the most famous Socialist leaders, Joseph Stalin is said to be responsible for the deaths of between 20-25 million people.  Mao Zedong also a Socialist, can be classified as the largest mass murderer in history.  It is said that he is  responsible for 45 million deaths.

Now let’s take a look at Jesus.

The foundation of His message is “What’s Mine is yours.”  He came to seek and save the lost (see Luke 19:10).  He is responsible for the salvation of millions of people and the deaths of…well, nobody.  While he did encourage the rich man to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor, it was not under threat of violence.  Remember what the scripture says…

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Cor. 9:6-7

Without a doubt, God wants His people to be involved in charity and taking care of those that society often forgets.  However, He wants it to be done from the right heart and with the right intentions.

“We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

It is absolutely critical that the followers of The Way give and help the less fortunate.  It is in fact, evidence of our redemption in Christ…evidence of our very salvation….

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it wasaccounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.James 2:14-26

Forced sharing of resources versus the fruits of the Spirit found in a generous giver.  One brings pain, suffering and death and the other brings freedom.  The conclusion is obvious and self evident.  Jesus was far from sharing Socialist ideals and those that would say otherwise are either naive or ignorant of both Jesus’ character and Scripture itself.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron”  Psalm 107:13-16

God bless, friends.

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The Courage of Compassion

“Sometimes you pray and sometimes you’re the answer to prayer.”  Erwin McManus

While on a flight earlier today, I was fortunate to share a very spirited conversation with a very enthusiastic toddler.  She caught my attention when her little face peaked over the seat in front of me.  She then started pointing out (and telling me about) all of the different lights that she could find in the cabin.  Reading lights, aisle lights, blue lights, red lights, yellow lights.  She wasn’t focused on the shadowy, boring, mundane places of the plane.  She was all about focusing on the bright and colorful spots….on those lights!  What a fantastic reminder about what to focus on in life.  I wonder if that’s how God sees us from His throne in Heaven.  After all, Jesus Himself said to his followers very clearly, “YOU are the light of the world….” (Matthew 5:14a)

And what are lights to do?  Shine!

As we go through our day, watch or read the news and observe interactions on social media, one of the things that becomes very apparent is that is world can be a very cold, bitter, ruthless place.  Negativity could swallow us up, if we were to permit it a foothold in our hearts and minds.  As we experience negative interactions over the course of our lives, we could allow those to pile up and harden our hearts to the needs of others both in a long term (family, friends) and in a short term sense (those that God brings across our path today).  In this soil the seeds of bitterness and anger take root and like quickly growing weeds, drown out the beauty that is found in compassion.  We can see the fruit of this so clearly in the story of the “Good Samaritan”……….

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” 

Luke 10:25-37

What made some pass (interesting how it was the “religious” ones who passed by the beaten man) while one man stopped to not only help but provide for the need of a stranger?  I believe the heart of the matter is rooted in fear.  Fear of what others who will see what we’re doing might think of us…. “Why is helping that loser?”  “Oh, look at that pious person showing off.”  “He’ll never get a job if people like him keep enabling their behavior.”   “He’s just going to take that money and buy drugs anyway.”  It could also be a fear of not having enough time (I’d help but I need to get to work….or home….or to church….).  Fear of not having the resources to help.  Fear and judgement (by others or by what we place on ourselves…humanity loves to judge).

What made the Samaritan different?  He was on his way somewhere as well.  He had places to be and people to see.  The difference is that when he saw the beaten man in need, he stopped what he was doing.  He invested his time and his resources (and potentially his safety) in stopping to help a stranger.  He took courage and didn’t make excuses.  When he saw a need, he acted on it.

My theme verse for 2018 is Matthew 6:33 which says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of this will be given unto you.”  Every morning, I wake up and almost like a mantra, I repeat to myself, “Seek first His kingdom….seek first His kingdom….”  As I move purposely into my day with this at the forefront of my mind, my focus is sharper and my awareness as to who or what God might bring across my path is heightened.  I am able to see the opportunities more clearly because I expect them.  It may simply be a kind word of encouragement or it may be something more but whatever it is, my goal is to stay faithful.

What needs will come across your path today?  What opportunities to help, or to be kind, or to offer a hug, or to buy someone a meal or a cup of coffee, present themselves to YOU today.  They may be obvious or they may be hidden (sometimes in plain sight).  Will you be the one to show courage and take the step of being compassionate?  Will you be the one to reflect His light into a dark world?  There are few who will take this beyond a conceptual musing but I hope that one of them that heeds the call to action….is you.

May He be your strength, hope, purpose and courage today.

#seekfirstHiskingdom

Spiritual Sheepdogs

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t be there, eight are just targets, nine are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle.  Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”  Heraclitus

If you’ve ever seen the film, “American Sniper” there is a scene early on that shows Chris Kyle as a young boy sitting at the dinner table with his parents and brother.  After a fight at school, Chris’ father explains that there are three types of people in the world, the sheep, the wolves and the sheepdog….

“The sheep go through life refusing to see evil.  The wolves are the evil preying on the sheep.  But the sheepdogs?  They protect the sheep.  They fight the evil.”

Years ago I had begun to apply this concept to my own spiritual walk and think about what this would look like in that context.  After all, we have a very real, cunning and resourceful enemy.  Poet Charles Baudelaire once said that “the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.”  The truth of scripture shines it’s light and reminds us otherwise:

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  1 Peter 5:8

If we open our eyes to the world around us, we can see the path of destruction the enemy has left in their wake.  Lives destroyed by abuse, addiction, despair, neglect, hatred, violence, indifference and cruelty.  While we will usually turn our anger towards those that carry out the wickedness in our physical world, I believe we often ignore the reality of what is going on in the spiritual realm that surrounds these things.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when that day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground….” Ephesians 6:12 & 13(a)

So then, if we desire to be spiritual sheepdogs, what do we watch for?  How do we defend others and fight back when we see that the wolves are on the move or already engaged in an attack?

  1.  First, if you can recognize and discern the enemy, you’re already ahead of the game compared to the vast majority of humanity.  In our western culture, the enemy tends to do his work in the shadows.  I speculate that one reason for this is that if people knew that he existed, then they would also begin to consider if God also existed.  If the enemy can work in silence and keep people asleep in their unbelief, their job is already done.  Ask that God would bless you with this discernment.
  2. Be quick to forgive.  Jesus himself was a perfect example of this for us.  What did he say to those that crucified him?  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)  Holding on to unforgiveness in our heart is a poison to our own soul and creates a foothold for the devil.  You don’t need to be the individual’s best friend, trust them, or even choose to necessarily be around them but you do need to forgive them.  I will often do this by simply saying something like, ‘Lord I forgive anyone who has sinned against me.  I pray that they would learn their lesson here in this life but don’t hold their sin against them in light of eternity.  Use it in their lives in a constructive, redeeming way in order to draw them towards Yourself and ultimately for Your glory and purpose.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.’  Let us not forget that we as followers of Christ, have also been forgiven much.  We are therefore commanded by Christ to do the same by following His example and being ministers of His grace.
  3. Be a student of scripture.  Read it daily.  This achieves multifaceted goals.  First of all, you will become well versed in the truth and be able to discern those things that are untrue (with doctrine and otherwise).  Secondly, you will be able to share and encourage others with the “gospel of peace”.  Thirdly the Word is the “sword of the spirit” and with it you can do great damage to the purpose of the enemy in both your life and the lives of others.
  4. Understand and apply the “defensive” spiritual weapons you have at the ready.  Pursue good and Godly things, make good decisions in your own life and live out your repentance.  When you do fall, be quick to turn back to Jesus.  In all circumstances, no matter how dire, take up the “shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:16)  I am not speaking of a blind faith or faith that ‘the universe will work things out.’  It is not faith itself that is the key but Who you put your faith in that matters.  Your faith needs to be in God alone.  From an eternal perspective, your salvation (helmet of salvation in Eph. 6:17) which comes only through Jesus, makes you untouchable to the enemy.  “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (Jesus speaking in John 10:28)
  5. Be purposeful in praying for others.  This is the essence of a sheepdog.  To protect others.  To be an intercessor.  It has been said that ‘intercession is warfare and the key to God’s battle plan for our lives.’  If we want to establish a spiritual beachhead in enemy territory, this is where we start.  This is how we can can play a role in God’s plan of taking back ground in the lives of others from the enemy….  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the Lord’s people.  Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”  (Paul speaking in Eph. 6:18-20)  You may want to consider asking others how you can pray for them.  Throw the offer up in a social media post and faithfully pray for the needs brought forth.  By doing this you will also reap the benefit of being encouraged by seeing God at work in the lives of others!

Apply these tactics and principles “in order that Satan might not outwit us.  For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11)

Stand strong.

“I chose to believe.  I believe in the power of a calling.  I believe in honor and sacrifice, in courage through the danger and strength through the struggle.  I believe in Hope.  I believe in the power of will, in justice, in a new day and in making a difference.  I will never stop believing no matter what comes my way.  Some may hate while others turn a blind eye.  There will be hurdles and risks, loss of brothers and sisters and the challenge to keep going.  No matter what confronts me, no matter the danger, I will keep my faith, my hope and my courage.  I am a defender and a peacekeeper.  I am a sheepdog.”

 

 

 

Next Man Up

“Don’t just count your blessings.  Be the blessing other people count on.”

Many of us leave spiritual things to pastors or others involved in “full time” ministry.  We don’t feel “cut out” or “good enough” to “do” ministry.  After all, the pastors and ministry leaders are God’s starting lineup.  His superstars.  His first ballot, spiritual hall of famers.

But what about the rest of us?  What about those with schedules filled with career, studies, running kids to practice, youth groups and music lessons?  If God called on you….”Hey Donohue, grab a bat. You’re up!”  Would you be ready and willing to pinch hit in a critical situation where one of the aforementioned spiritual giants was not around?

Let me share a story about something that happened one recent Sunday morning.  My ten year old son an I were visiting a church in California and the guest speaker that morning was talking about his mission work in Senegal.  He talked about his previous spiritual indifference and how he began to ask God to give him “tears for His people” and a heart full of compassion…. This struck a chord within me as I had prayed this same thing years ago but ended up asking God to lower the intensity of it because it was too emotionally overwhelming.  As I heard the speaker continue to share his story I was convicted of my own spiritual indifference and began to silently pray “God give me a more compassionate heart and the opportunity to share that compassion.”

The service ended and Sean and I talked about it in the car on our way to grab me some Peet’s Coffee.  Because of traffic (I think everyone from church had the same idea as I did) I wasn’t able to make the usual left turn into the parking lot to the coffee shop and had to go up to the next light.

As I got to the following light and made the turn I noticed a small purse in the middle of the intersection. The pull began….go get coffee….no go back and get the purse….  I told Sean, “Here is our chance to be a blessing” and quickly flipped the car around. We stopped in the intersection and I leaned out the door to grab the purse with the frantic “We’re going to die!” commentary coming from the back seat.  After getting through the intersection we pulled over and I began rummaging through the pockets to try and find an I.D..  The address was a local address (same town) but my phone was at 7% and using the GPS would kill the remaining charge almost immediately.  I quickly prayed, “Lord, let the power last long enough to get this lady her purse.” I’m sure God chuckled as I punched the address into the GPS only to find that I was sitting across the street from the house.

Before we made our way up to the front door I remembered that I also happened to have one of my favorite tracts in the car with me, “God’s Love Letter.” We took the purse and the tract and walked up to the front door and rang the bell.  No answer.  Part of me was bummed that we weren’t going to receive a gushing thank you….”It’s not about you….” came the gentle reminder in my mind.  We were playing a role. God’s pinch hitters. His boys off the bench. We tucked the purse and note from God to this lady between the screen door and front door, prayed that she would see God’s heart in it and that her life would be changed.

We’ll never know what ends up happening in her life on this side of Heaven but we can be sure that God, who is faithful, is the one who pursues humanity with a great compassion and love, seeking those who are lost and calling them home.

“Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, and who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ask yourself this.  If God called you to be the blessing in someone’s life today, are you ready, willing and able to step out and be faithful?  You won’t be acting alone.  His Spirit will guide you.

Semper Paratus.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few….”  Luke 10:2(a)