We Need Another Lincoln

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture on October 25, 2016 by jcwill5

3a52094rOne of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln.

So it’s natural for me to compare the kind of man he became through the unrelenting anvil of four years of Civil War, with what we are seeing right now.

I cannot help but compare the wise perspective and the leadership decisions which sprang from his tempered, tormented heart, with the narcissistic mentality, slithery morality, and ideological fanaticism of our times.

How far we have fallen!

And how terribly lacking are this generation of national leaders in the qualities most needed at this crossroads in our history.

Lincoln’s Transformation

My one hope is that Lincoln didn’t start out as the Lincoln we came to know.

It’s possible to be broken, reshaped, and transformed in the furnace of leadership.

Losing two of his sons to death, and touring the body-ridden battlefields of the war, changed him.

His calculating cleverness morphed into a patient kindness and transcending goodness in the clinic of agony.

Hard-bitten generals like William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant noticed this change and, after meeting with Lincoln several times in the last phase of the war, held him in awed reverence and absolute trust.

Lincoln’s Goodness

Lincoln won both his re-election and the Civil War, but looked beyond it with goodwill.

He had the rare ability to see both sides, to correct arrogance and over-reach on his own side, and to endure criticism and reproach from ideologues from all sides while staying the course.

Above all, he wanted the South fully reconciled back in the union, wanted kindness and generosity in reconstruction policies to wipe away the bitterness and shame of their defeat.

Vindictiveness and punitiveness had no place in Lincoln’s character.

Rather, it was a kind of quiet, humble, well-humored goodness radiating from him that marked his leadership.

Epitomized in the 2nd Inaugural Address

It comes into plain view in Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

His short statement reflects his empathy and insightfulness and genuine regard for all regions and their needs–even the South.

It also reflects a humble, realistic view of human nature–both sides claimed to be morally right yet both sides were, in fact, guilty of directly committing evils or indirectly profiting from evils.

It also reflects a mature kind of Christianity, which recognizes God has a mind of His own and is no party’s lackey and has, in fact, judged all sides for our shared, communal, generational sins.

Read it slowly and catch a glimpse into a greatness of heart that arose from terrible suffering.

It’s the kind of leader we most desperately need right now yet are least likely to get.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.

The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it–all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war–seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.

Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Towards Better Disagreements

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2016 by jcwill5

160314-0671-614x409I enjoy a pretty wide spectrum of views among my family and friends on Facebook.

It runs the gamut from Texas Tea Partiers to college student socialists.

In my circle there are folks who have very reluctantly reconciled themselves to voting for Donald Trump and those who are as anti-Trump or pro-Trump as one can be.

Wide Disagreements Abound

Even among my fellow Evangelical friends, the spectrum this time around is amazingly wide.

Some are not voting for any presidential candidate at all because none of the candidates fits their views or can be trusted to represent them well.

Some are voting for a candidate and party–Hilary Clinton and Democrat– they’d never normally vote for in a million years–out of offense and fright at Trump’s fatal character flows, his misogyny and hostility and running mouth.

Some are voting for a 3rd party candidate–most commonly the Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Independent Conservative Evan McMullin.

Some are holding their nose and voting for Trump in hopes of preserving a Supreme Court majority that is pro-life and pro-religious liberty.

But there are some things I have noticed in the debate and discussion that are counter-productive and poisonous to honest, reasoned debate and differences of conscience.

The first is mandating.

In mandating, there is only one way of seeing things–my way.

In mandating, there can not possibly be any reasonable reasons for disagreeing or differing in opinion or landing in another place.

In mandating, there is no recognition of other views–only contempt for other views and the people who hold them.

“Only an idiot wouldn’t vote!”

“No reasonable person could possibly come to any other conclusion!”

“Only a traitor to the cause would vote differently!”

In mandating, the words “should”, “ought”, and “must” are frequently used.

The second is browbeating.

Brow-beaters use Facebook to pressure and harangue people–particularly in their own camp– into a particular way of voting.

They ring the gong over and over and over–the drumbeat never stops.

They simply must compulsively convince and use every post to argue and agitate.

The cannot see anything on their feed without aggressively commenting against it, getting into arguments, and always having to have the last word.

The cease being friends and become trolls.

What brow-beaters don’t realize is it backfires.

They only harden people in disagreement and are lousy at persuading– but think they are brilliant and highly successful at it.

The third is shaming.

Shamers are close cousins of mandators and brow-beaters.

They specialize in belittling, mocking, and heaping disgrace on any and all who disagree.

They are equally found on the Left and the Right.

They forward posts that are not only slanted and highly skewed, but posts that demonize, dehumanize, and pounce on anything bad on “the other side”.

They delight in scandals, in misstatements, in “gotcha” news, and in “this is going to blow up their campaign” click-bait stories.

What they don’t understand is how embarrassing they are to the rest of us, especially on their own side.

Improving Our Disagreeing

It is one thing to point out abuses.

But, happily, there are beautiful exceptions and lovely examples of fair, kindly, honest disagreeing among evangelicals.

It can be done!

Christianity Today, in particular, has amassed a collection of well-written essays by evangelicals advocating every response possible to the current presidential election.

Here is the link to Ed Stetzer’s The Exchange, with the election essays listed on the right:  www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/

Another example is from The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter.

The link to his outstanding discussion of our core disagreement is found here.

Biblical Disagreeing

God understands that, in disputed matters, there will be reasonable people with reasonable reasons who land in all kinds of places on these kinds of issues.

Their conscience will not be the same as ours, doesn’t need to be the same, and is there to protect them from their unique weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

In fact, the Bible in Romans 14:1-15:7 tells us to honor each other’s conscience in “disputed matters” and to “not hold them in contempt” and even “accept one another to the glory of God.”

It’s when we drop our demand to control, and instead get small and hand control over to God and humbly pre-accept whatever outcome He allows, His life begins to flow.

When we freely accept our fellow believers who differ from us and honor their conscience, His grace is free to change hearts at His pace in order to better align them with His will.

And when we grace people even when they’ll never agree with us, we model something rare and desperately needed in these toxic times:  humility and God’s kind of love.

Should They Resign?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2016 by jcwill5

unknownThere is one fact about this election that is especially disheartening.

It’s the spectacle of notable Evangelical leaders voicing public support for Mr. Trump’s candidacy despite his manifest unfitness and repugnancy.

Yet, I understand both the uncomfortable position these leaders have been placed in, and their reasons for landing where they have landed.

I even empathize with them as they’re left twisting in the wind right now by his misogyny and his Bill Cosby-esque parade of victimized women.

For the Chance to End Genocide

Pro-choice folks will never quite understand the pro-life motivation until they understand that pro-life people don’t just look at abortion as an individual act of murder.

We look at the aggregate total and believe we are witnesses to a societally-sanctioned and legalized form of mass genocide.

The unrelenting tide of legalized abortion-on-demand constitutes, at 40,000,000 lives killed en utero since 1973  in the USA, a horror of appalling magnitude and indefensibly repugnant wickedness.

So great is this evil, so critical is the need to secure a Supreme Court majority on this issue alone, that many of our long-standing, pro-life Evangelical leaders have thrown their support behind Donald Trump.

Ending the genocide, in their minds, trumps all other considerations (pun intended).

Bonhoeffer’s Similar Moral Dilemma

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for similar reasons, was willing to be part of a plot to assassinate Hitler in order to put a stop to the already horrific bloodbath of WW2.

He wrestled greatly and long with the violation of the command “Thou shalt not murder” such a decision required.

In effect, he gave his blessing to the courageous men who carried out the failed operation and asked God to forgive him.

He weighed the immorality of killing Hitler against the ongoing genocide of the death camps and worldwide bloodbath of modern war, and found one far, far outweighing than the other.

He decided to the chance to save the planet from further bloodshed was worth risking damnation for himself.

He ended up being imprisoned, and was finally executed by the Nazi’s a week before war ended in Europe.

Some 70 years later, we debate the rightness of his morality and, by and large, agree with Bonhoeffer’s decision to lend his moral support and pastoral sanction to the anti-Hitler plotters inside the German military.

The Dilemma From Hell

With the loss of a conservative Supreme Court majority, and the increasingly likely prospect of another pro-abortion Democratic president, it’s “do or die” time in many Evangelical leaders’ minds.

Their preferred candidates all badly lost the Republican Party primary, sticking them with the bellicose, bullying Mr. Trump.

He needed their support to give him the moral figleaf necessary to win the presidency, and they needed him to appoint the necessary justices to the Supreme Court.

So, in the eyes of the onlooking world, a shockingly cynical deal was made.

Paragons of morality were pairing up with a notoriously egotistical, immoral man.

Now our esteemed leaders are in a double bind–if Mr. Trump wins, they will be forever identified with all the further moral outrages he commits while in office and, perhaps, see him break his promise on a whim.

If Mr. Trump loses, they will fully partake of his societal discrediting and political downfall.

They will lose what remains of their accumulated moral credibility and trust within the organizations they lead and/or among the wider faith community they claim to represent.

And they will still lose the Supreme Court while the genocide continues unchecked and unabated.

The Post-Election Fallout

Which is why I predict many of the most prominent among them–Jim Dobson, Tony Perkins, Mike Huckabee, Jerry Falwell, Jr.–will likely be “retiring” or “pursuing new opportunities” this coming year.

They will slowly and steadily come to realize just how damaging their deal with Mr. Trump has been to their moral credibility, however noble their intent was with respect to preventing genocide.

They will come to understand the gap of trust created by this deal won’t be bridged, and, if their boards won’t have the courage to tell them, many from the outside will call on them to step down.

What do you think?  Should they be expected to resign or be summarily dismissed by their boards?  Should they repent and ask forgiveness and remain in place to make amends?  Both?  Neither?

Interestingly, in yesterday’s New York Times, I found this insightful analysis that agrees:

The Worst of All Outcomes

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2016 by jcwill5

third-temptation-of-christAmong all that can be said about the current US Presidential election campaign, one thing’s for sure–it’s brought to light many things that have long lain hidden in plain sight.

And, for the Evangelical Church and it’s political/public leadership elites, this is doubly true.

Losing Our Shield

With the death of Justice Scalia, the very balance of the Supreme Court is now at stake in a way it wasn’t before.

Long have we sheltered behind our majority of 5 against the relentless assaults of our political/cultural foes.

But now that longstanding legal shield is almost certainly gone.

As Christ followers, what will we do about it?

Or, to put it more bluntly, what WON’T we do?

Unholy Bargain

Sadly, in order to get it back, our leaders have formed an alliance with Mr. Trump and struck up a bargain.

In exchange for our political support and despite our moral misgivings, promise us that you’ll appoint good, conservative, religion-defending justices to the Supreme Court and we’ll back you.

And so we hitched our wagon to a boastful, narcissistic, domination-seeking person who has left a long line of business, relational, and sexual damage in his wake.

The public revelations of his private, grotesque wickedness keep on coming, and increasingly we are left twisting in the moral wind.

Our leaders have been put into the ugly position of defending the indefensible, of providing cover and making excuses for manifest evils, and thus losing whatever little moral credibility we once had with increasing numbers of increasingly skeptical people.

My point is, in striking this bargain and sticking with it, we have publicly identified the Name of Jesus Christ, the cause of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the church of Jesus Christ, with this candidate.

Did we, as His ambassadors, have His prior authorization and approval to do so?  

Or did we assume so because of the “rightness” of our cause and the “importance” of the issue?

It’s almost as if we never considered the possibility that our best and immediate interests in this time and place, and His best and ultimate interests in heaven and on earth, might not square.

The Real Question

There’s an extremely simple yet soul penetrating question the Lord asks His followers: Who do we love the most?

In fact, all temptation to sin can be boiled down to one question: what do we love most and therefore desire most in a given moment?

All of us have been duped and succumbed–many, many times.

All of us have made the wrong choice and hurt our ultimate, best Friend for the sake of temporary pleasures and earthly advantages and danger avoidance.

Like Peter, we who have all denied Him three times to save our skins now find Him asking us in the guilty aftermath, “Do you love me more than these?”

Vying For the Top Spot

It all comes down to, who will receive our ultimate loyalty when competing loyalties are in play?

Who or what do we actually love the most when sorely tested by events?

Who or what else will have to take 2nd place when push comes to shove?

It’s when there’s a conflict of loyalties between two loves that life gets rather difficult.

If we love our Lord, yet we also love being in the cultural driver’s seat and being the majority religion, then either Christ or cultural dominance will prevail when we must choose between them.

If we love our Lord, yet we also love our old and cherished cultural ways, then either Christ or conservatism/traditionalism will prevail when they are in opposition.

If we love our Lord, yet we also love the personal safety and positional security that political power offers us, then a time might well come when one, or the other, will have to be sacrificed to be faithful to the other.

The Worst Outcome of All

Here’s the worst of all outcomes:

  • the evil candidate our leadership made a bargain with loses badly and we Evangelicals partake of his disgrace and downfall
  • we still end up with a liberal Supreme Court that is hostile to us,
  • we have failed our Master by misrepresenting Him for the sake political expediency–bringing His cause and His message into prolonged, deep disrepute.

I’m very much afraid this will now be our fate because of the political bargain our leaders struck with Mr. Trump.

The Scandal of Evangelical Power-Worship

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2016 by jcwill5

jesus_temptationOnce in a generation, someone writes something telling and prescient that sorely needs to be said.

And yesterday, Andy Crouch, commentator at Christianity Today, did just that.

His op-ed, titled Speak Truth to Trump, compellingly challenged the American Evangelical leadership to ask themselves some hard questions about their silence and their complicity in the face of manifest evils during this election cycle.

“Have we done Jesus Christ any favors by getting in bed with this guy?” is the idea.

Here is link to what he wrote:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/october-web-only/speak-truth-to-trump.html

The issues involved here are several.

Pragmatism Idolatry

The first is pragmatism:  if maintaining a conservative make-up of the Supreme Court at all costs is all-important, then we must go along with anything and everything.

Like the rest of society, it seems like Evangelical leaders have abandoned the inconvenient absolutes of Scripture for the advantages of what works in the moment.

We have adopted the creed of pragmatism:  the ends justify the means.

It echoes what Satan offered Jesus during His temptations in the desert, “All these kingdoms are mine and I give them to whoever I wish.  They will all be yours–if you bow down and worship me.”

A single one-time compromise, just one little bow or word of praise, and all the pain of the cross could be avoided.

It was a highly advantageous offer!

Christ’s disadvantageous but righteous reply, “You shall worship the Lord and serve only Him!”, is not been echoed by our Evangelical leadership in the USA this election cycle.

Instead, there is a pandering, a downplaying, a strange silence, and even a kind of defending of the indefensible, “But he’s changed”, “Hilary Clinton is worse!”, “It’s just locker room talk”.

Security Idolatry

The second flows from the first: compromising the core what we believe and/or refusing to denounce evil–all to gain an advantage in the face of an existential threat.

This situation echoes Christ’s trial before the Jewish Ruling Council.

They viewed Jesus as an existential threat to their national security, to their very religious identity.

He claimed to be God-in-human flesh, and would provoke Rome into exacting a terrible retribution on their nation.

He also threatened their privileged position at the top of the power structure.

So these leaders broke every rule to get rid of Him, to obtain His murder at the hands of Rome.

It culminated in them telling Pontius Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar!”

They literally denied the exclusive kingship of God Almighty, publicly denying the very heart of their own religion before their pagan overlord, in order to save their religion.

So Andy Crouch asks, “Have we not been doing the same thing this election cycle in the case of Mr. Trump because of the Supreme Court issue?”

No Joy If Proven Right

It gives me no joy to write the following:

I believe our collective and public identification with Mr. Trump has deeply and seriously damaged our collective witness for many years.

I believe we have denied our Lord very publicly by succumbing to this temptation to hold onto power at all costs.

I believe we will lose our favorable majority on the Supreme Court in any case.

I therefore believe this marriage of convenience will lead to the worst of all outcomes:

We will not only fail to gain the outcome we hoped for though defending the indefensible Mr. Trump, but we will also now fully partake of Mr. Trump’s discrediting and downfall.

At this point we can only repent late in the game, humble ourselves profoundly in the sight of the pagan majority, and get back to the business of leavening the society from the bottom up through gospel relationships from a posture of absolute powerlessness.


Descent into Madness

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2016 by jcwill5

unknownNo civilization or society lasts forever.

They rise from obscurity, grow strong, hold sway, grow complacent and corrupt, become divided and apathetic, and fall to some outside enemy who repeats the pattern.

I was thinking about Western European Civilization and the following pattern came to mind.

From God to King

In the Middle Ages (500-1400AD), God was at the summit and the church was the chief institution where all the action was.

Disputes about God were the big arguments, and men fought for their faith and/or against other faiths.

In the aftermath of the Renaissance and Reformation (1500-1620AD), the absolutist king displaced God at the summit and the Court was the chief institution where all the action was.

Disputes about royal power were the big arguments, and men fought for or against their king and/or foreign kings.

From State to People

In the aftermath of the Enlightenment (1650-1780AD), the Nation-State itself displaced the King at the summit and the State became the chief institution where all the action was.

Disputes about national boundaries and national identities were the big arguments.

Kings in the most advanced countries became constitutional monarchs and/or were replaced by Republics united by language, shared history, and cultural boundaries.

In the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution (1780-1840), power migrated more and more from the State to the People.

The People instead of Government became paramount.

Disputes about democracy and about socialism vs. capitalism were the big arguments.

It was the period of Revolutions–American, French, Russian, etc.

Flowing Downwards and Out

Notice that we’ve migrated from God, to the King, to the State, to the People.

That didn’t mean that folks stoped believing in God, or that no country had a king, or that states didn’t exist and/or have authority.

Instead, it mean that power and pre-eminance was flowing downwards and outwards.

By the mid-20th Century, in the most advanced, industrialized Western Societies, democracy and free enterprise were entrenched and dominant.

Yet the flow kept going down and out.

Increasingly, our elites and key innovators rebelled against this status quo and sought “self-expression” and “self-actualization”.

From Self to Nothing

Autonomous individualism became more important that nationalism or capitalism or socialism.

Instead of the people, the Self became more and more dominant and all-important.

During the period from the 1950’s until the end of the Cold War, the great social questions and great conflicts of our time were centered in freeing the self from all limits.

And, once again, that didn’t mean folks didn’t believe in God, or have a strong nation-state, or participate in democracy.

It mean, instead, that the Self was now the center and at the top of the values hierarchy.

There is now an almost religious mandate to affirm what any individual affirms about themselves.

The self decides its own gender, sexuality, and need for safety, and God, the State, and all people must grant it or else.

Yet there is another shift going on underneath all this Self-Identity agenda.

Against the self, we increasingly have folks who believe in nothing and who care about nobody and nothing.

Nothing to live for, nothing worth fighting for, nothing worth pursuing or obtaining.

Reigning Nihilism

Nihilism, the belief that there is nothing ultimate, nothing of value, nothing above or beyond us–not even the self.

We see this in the great political apathy of our times.

We see this in the slow but study withdrawal from all social engagement into virtual worlds in inactivity and hyper-stimulation from devices.

People no longer believe in God, in their leaders, in their institutions, in their society, in their democracy, in their future.

They literally believe in nothing–on all fronts and all issues.

Raging Disengagement

As a society, Western European Civilization is increasingly populated by irritated individuals who believe in nothing and who don’t want to be bothered.

They can be temporarily roused by one issue or another, but soon sink back into perpetual slumber.

Notice we can go no further down and out.

Our descent has reached bottom.

We no longer stand for anything, practice a hollow situation ethics without a cohesive moral center, and live moment-to-moment in an endless stream of random events that keep us perpetually numb.

We are entering into a frenzied, terminal state as a society–characterized by both anonymous raging and massive disengagement.

We are both barbarous and disinterested, furious and passive.

Autonomous Self is making furious demands, and nobody really cares and/or they do the opposite for amusement and shock value.

The Solution

Our culture in an empty, idolatrous cul-de-sac of its own making which took 1,o00 years to reach.

The answer is to back outwards and return to the superhighway.

The solution, however impossible it seems, will be to go back to the beginning and reacquaint ourselves with God.

Only when He replaces Self and Nothing at the center and at the highest place will meaning and hope return to our lives.

There is a solution!

Celebrating Weary Leaders

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2016 by jcwill5

15d5e8537a95eeb71c7bef7c044f9ab7Most people are rarely celebrated.

Small Children Celebrate Often

That word always makes me think of my three kids when they were little, waiting for my car to arrive home in the late afternoon and spilling out of the house in excitement when I pulled into the driveway.

Every arrival home was a family celebration, a cause for cheering and joy.

However difficult the day, there was something healing and freeing about being unreservedly celebrated.

Of course it eventually stopped happening.

Children grow up and become teens and then young adults–with all the tensions and trials growing into adults brings up.

Birthdays and holidays become old hat.

And so our celebrations lose their luster, become infrequent, and often cease altogether.

Jumping Up and Down

Years ago, I read a book by Larry Crabb called “Finding God”, where he spoke about how his mentor, Brennan Manning, always jumped up and down with joy whenever and wherever they reunited.

He spoke about how rare such celebrating of one another was in God’s church among the born-again.

We don’t know how to celebrate others, nor do we know how to be celebrated by others.

Take away human merit from the equation, and it gets even odder to celebrate and be celebrated.

If we celebrate only in the presence of remarkable achievement, only when it is merited, no wonder we do it so rarely.

Unearned Celebration

When our souls are filled with issues, with chronic sins, with unresolved emotional pain, none of us are going to often be star performers or remarkable super-achievers.

If Luke 15 tells us anything about God, it’s that He freely, remarkably, and unexpectedly celebrates sinners who repent and return to Him.

Heaven is always on the verge of a party, and all it takes is for one soul to come in from the cold for the celebration to begin.

God celebrates His children–constantly, eternally, infinitely, when they don’t deserve it.

He takes delight in us and enjoys us even when we’re not there yet, when we fall and fail and have yet to learn the lesson, when we’re immature and mistake-prone and messy.

As long as we’re His, and anytime we return, He rejoices over us and parties with all the angels and saints in heaven.

The grim Pharisee of His day never understood that, and had grown into cold, cheerless, alienated enforcers who were a million miles from the heart of God.

They simply could not comprehend the joy God Almighty felt over a single soul’s return home into His house after a long journey into the foreign land of sin.

From a Chore to a Party

If we are going to keep church from being a chore, if we are going to keep our leaders from finding their work with us and among us from being a grind, we must first hear and receive God’s celebrating love.

This means we rejoice in Him and with Him– each and every time He succeeds in any single person’s life.

This means we learn how to enter into His celebrating, and therefore celebrate His good work in each other despite all the ups and the downs.

It means we celebrate our leaders as God’s redeemed child, and, in turn, are celebrated by our leaders who are celebration-prone and on the lookout for any victory, any positive Christ-sign in our lives–however small.

God-celebrated leaders are freed to God-celebrate their people, speak encouragement into them, point out His unnoticed victories and hidden works in their lives, and evoke celebrating.

The Norm in Heaven

Most churches I visit are full of people who look like they need an antacid–so many flat faces and robotic guardedness it breaks my heart.

They fear failing in public, are afraid to let their guard down, are afraid to be judged harshly for the slightest mistake by their grace-stingy communities.

They have neither heard God’s voice of celebration, nor have they been undeservedly celebrated by their leaders for Christ’s sake, and therefore don’t know how to rejoice in their undeserving leaders.

God designed His church to be a center for undeserved, unreserved, mutual celebrating–an echo of what’s going on in Heaven at all times.

Joy, not wrath, is the norm in heaven.

It always has been and always will be.

Celebrating and being celebrated is the endless energy supply that keeps burnout at bay!