THANKFULLY HOPEFUL

I’ve often said if we as Christians fail, it is that we fail in love. I am certainly guilty of this on occasion as most all are.This morning’s emailed devo (from a longtime friend of mine) came with the following anonymous message:”You will know a tree by its fruitand you can’t pick an apple from a lemon tree.You will know their lives by their love.By their love you will know who they’re following.”Perhaps there are times when you, like me, feel like a lemon?!I preach, teach and seek to model the life of a Christ-follower. But oh how the Spirit, both directly and via friends and accountability partners brings me to face the sad and ugly truth at times! Whew! And Amen, Lord help me/us. I am often not the Christ-follower I desire to be.Self-confidence is a lemon because the real truth is “our sufficiency is of God”, and really, “what have you [we] received that is not a gift?”This Thanksgiving here in the U.S.,  among the many people and events I’m deeply thankful for is my gratitude to God for the chance to change, to grow, hopefully to become more of a true follower of Jesus. Love is so obviously both the motive and the goal throughout the Word of God.I’m thankfully hopeful because I know God still works miracles. I mean actual “we have no other explanation for this” healings and such, but indeed the greatest miracle is that I can grow, change, become more like Jesus. Ha, due to how little I reflect Him at times, I’ll never run out of things to learn and grow in!!But this is in part why I’m thankfully hopeful and why all who seek Jesus should be: “for it is God who works in you [yes, YOU and I], both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2.13)The word translated “works” in the Greek means “to be operative, be at work, put forth power, to work for one, aid one, to effect, to display one’s activity, show one’s self operative.” God DOES that in those who seek to follow Jesus. He does it by God the Holy Spirit, daily moving in our life. You may not notice the wind but it’s blowing. It’s there even when you don’t feel it, even when there is no perceptible movement.We do not always recognize positive inner change taking place. But the grace of God is that He (unlike many of we humans) never gives up on us. “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.” Yes, thankfully hopeful is what we can be!Holidays can bring out the tensions of meal preparation, shopping and “we rarely see one another and when we do, we bicker” family calamity. Holidays can be an opportunity to backslide or grow, to learn/reflect the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace and patience or of course, human old nature. We can fuss over the smallest things and blow it when it comes to loving.”But now faith, hope, and love remain–these three. The greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13.13)I’m thankfully hopeful, truly am.Though it may at times seem a crawl rather than a walk… remember, you and I who seek to grow in the love of Jesus Christ NEVER walk alone.

THE POOR, POLITICS & “GOD’S BIG SIX”

There are countless texts in the Word of God (Bible) that reveal the heart of Jesus and His call for His people to care for the poor. Jesus indeed said “You shall have the poor with you always, and you can do good to them whenever you want to”. The sad fact is many of us do not want to or believe we lack any means to help. Crosses are never convenient.In that there are those poor who have made foolish choices and landed themselves in their needy state, many otherwise loving Christian people figure many if not most are largely “reaping what they’ve sown”. I won’t argue about the reality of this for in some cases it’s true. Yet it seems to me in terms of voting and laws either being enacted or decided upon that a great many Christians are less biblical than cultural, less gracious than Pharisee-like. Remember that “grace” means unmerited favor, of the sort Jesus gives us for our own sin and ultimate salvation. How is it we demand others EARN -our- grace?!Recently someone asked me about “the poor” and how I could take the political position I’ve taken in the past several years. What you are about to read is the foundation of my answer. It is the core decider for me, the “where”, “why” and “what” as I’ve considered a multiplicity of issues.Matthew 25 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ 46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”The following are notes from a sermon I have been preaching from time to time for a number of years. They include what I refer to as “God’s Big Six” and a simple breakdown of what the majority of us can and should be doing about practical, human need.In Matthew 25 Jesus calls us to serve: The HUNGRY- food The THIRSTY- drink (clean water?) The STRANGER- lodging (“strange” to you and I -foreigner?)… the homeless- housing The NAKED- clothing The SICK- healthcare/medicine/clinic (or hospital) The PRISONER- guilty or not, justice and visitation/compassionate careMany Christians focus almost solely on the issues of abortion and what they (I) believe the Bible says about wrong sexual practice- specifically homosexuality. May I inform or remind the reader I was right on the edge of a full-on bisexual lifestyle when I began to follow Jesus in my 18th year. I have had a number of gay or lesbian friends, still do, and have seen the love and power of Jesus bring real and lasting change in their lives, just as I have among heterosexual people with unbiblical habits. My wife and I fostered and adopted children. My adopted daughter would have been aborted had we not done so. I spent time in jail twice with Operation Rescue, blocking abortion clinics, praying and begging God for mercy for the mothers, children, staff, the church, my country and myself. I have been involved in a number of pro-life rallies and demonstrations.I am not holier-than-anyone!! Yet I beg the reader to consider what they have actually done beyond voting and talking about these issues.While most of the six issues Jesus raised may on various levels relate to the pre-born and to homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people ALL of them relate to the poor, to poverty and not only to those who have encountered injustice or misfortune but who are very possibly guilty of choices that put them in such a state where they are without adequate food, drink, friends/shelter, clothing, are physically ill and/or are in prison. This does not mean- nor is Jesus implying- tacit agreement with people who may have done or not done things to place themselves in a position of need. Neither Jesus nor God the Holy Spirit Who breathed this text, nor Matthew as he writes his gospel clarify HOW or WHY a person or group ended up in such a state.Here, Jesus simply calls all who follow Him to face the ultimate truth: you are treating ME (Jesus) exactly as you are treating “them”.I work and serve in a local congregation that daily reaches out to the poor. To say that I personally live out such relational love in each of these areas toward every one I meet on a daily basis would be untrue. To say that I take them very seriously, try to apply them and believe I should apply them daily is absolutely true. I cannot in good conscience be part of a local congregation who do not seek to have such heart and serve people in these ways.May God help us move deeper into a truly biblical Christian life where the love, grace and compassion of God motivates us more than does fear, self-protection and suspicion of those unlike us. So many are less fortunate than we are. To whom more is given, more shall be required. God has given us so much. Certainly He does so in part… that we might learn to share.I know many individual believers and entire local churches and congregations are doing a lot of good in these areas. Absolutely so! None the less- If the church (and by that I mean all congregations of true Christ-followers) shared as we should and could, there would be little if any poverty in our nation and a great deal less in the world.I understand those who work hard and are hit by economic hardship do not want any government taxing them more to help those who seem lazy and simply by choice, “living off the state”. I understand serious Christians disagreeing with politicians who take other than biblical stands on everything from what seem like “Christian freedoms” to abortion and sexuality. I fully realize the anger, frustration and shame experienced when a government spends my/our tax dollars on things we find fully ungodly and reprehensible. I get it and even agree with some of the feelings and certainly some of the conclusions.I further support (always have and continue to) friends and others in the military who are by the way, not deploying themselves… whether I agree with their deployment, the particular war or tactics or not- I pray for, directly thank and owe a debt to each of them. I get it. I get it more than many reading this will ever believe I get it! But I first and foremost “get” basic human need- and I cannot deny Jesus in what He says in the above text.For me, He and His words trump all personal pain, sacrifice and political position.Meanwhile we agree with or castigate political leaders for doing (or not) what the church ought to consistently do. When these practical needs are great and the bulk of the church does not sufficiently work to meet these six basic areas of need, I suggest a government (regardless of political party) has not only the right but responsibility to step up and help.Does any government do it sufficiently, or to all of our liking? Apparently not. When has any American citizen truly enjoyed (God loves a cheerful giver) paying taxes… even paying them for what we DO like and agree with often seems a pain to most of us!So I ask the reader what I ask myself: what are -you- doing about these six areas? Study His words, then your own heart and actions. Rhetoric never fed, gave drink, clothed, housed, healed or visited prisoners or anyone else with God’s love or justice.

AIN’T NEVER ENOUGH (OR) THERE’S ALWAYS JUST ENOUGH?

What I write now is so obvious it’s almost like, why write it at all… but I’m doing so because I think it may be an encouragement to many in ministry and local churches who find themselves in rather the same predicament time after time.In Jesus People U.S.A. Ev. Cov.church/community, where I serve on the pastoral team, we interact with many people. Quite a few love Jesus fully, are “on fire” for the Lord and care deeply about His Word, His will and missions, locally and elsewhere. We’re doing a lot of outreach on a daily basis in all sorts of areas of need. By God’s grace we’ve been blessed seeing a fair bit of visible fruit in a good many lives over the years.As in most local congregations or ministry centers those gifted and called help to oversee various departments of service meet with staff often, in some cases on a daily basis. We also have committees who look after various needs within and outside our fellowship. I sit on a few of these boards/staffs, or on occasion I am invited to do so.After some 38 years of service I’ve discovered two universal truths: there seems to be nearly never enough a) money or b) responsible people to work in any particular department! I’ve further learned this is pretty much the same no matter what ministry, church or mission area one spends time with in the wide world…God has entrusted people to us who are full of need. Sometimes the needs are long-term. sometimes shorter and easier-to-resolve. There are issues of temptation and sin. Sometimes physical or mental/emotional illness are involved. We in leadership are likewise often in need. Sometimes it’s not the individual in question but their spouse or a child or two, perhaps other family members who are struggling. All of this weighs on the person which in turn affects their ability to think clearly, make sound judgments and at times may even eliminate their capacity to serve responsibly in a particular ministry.If the Lord deems you worthy of working with/alongside of broken people (and you’re likely broken in one or more areas yourself…) then does it not seem He does so at least in part, that you might both get discipled and learn to grow in the everyday flow of things while serving together? This is precisely how it looks to me, in JPUSA and elsewhere.If everyone is totally solid all the time, fully responsible, completely reasonable and rarely walks in anything but “the Spirit”, I’d say you don’t have some sort of ministerial utopia- rather you have a group God doesn’t at present believe He can entrust with hurting people.Or maybe you have a very active imagination?!Those who believe God has called them to minister purely to get a specific thingaccomplished with few or no hassles tend to function better in a corporate, not congregational world.Of course it’s best to vet people thoroughly or not give them “staff” or leadership responsibilities in the first place, but people change, illness or temptation strikes, for any number of reasons “speed bumps” pop up in most any ministering group.You may respond “But Glenn, isn’t the point to bring healed, stable people in to help the sick and unstable?” and my answer to that would be both “yes and no”. Empathy comes from feeling and entering into at least some amount of suffering with those who suffer… even -because- of those you’re serving.If you believe yourself to be perfect you’ll tend to have very little patience with those who aren’t.I’d say that the Father keeps us on our knees in prayer and creative In terms of finances. Prayer, careful thought, budgeting and stewardship of what He has given part of the foundation of any stable work. Linking with godly, experienced leaders in other ministries and local congregations is a huge part of how we learn to flow with the tides.And an oft-missed fact is that it’s not always money we need most. Our lack of prayer, lack of readiness to change, unwillingness to suffer a certain amount of loss/pain in terms of making changes, all of these can keep us locked into thinking it’s all (or mostly) about finances that keep this or that ministry from growing or accomplishing God’s purposes.Truth is, I don’t personally know of many local churches or ministries who actually have a surplus of funds they don’t know what to do with. Do you?! If you knew how close to the edge they were you’d likely not conclude they don’t have some of the same problems your fellowship does. To whom more is given, more will be required. That’s the way it really is!Need keeps us on our knees- seeking the Lord for guidance, direction, help, blessing in other ways as well as keeping us tight with Him in terms of provision.I doubt if humanly speaking, any Christian ministry is overdosed with finances and healthy, responsible people who never bring problems or pain to work with them. I think this has always been and shall always be the case.God is well-aware how we tend to depend on “the arm of the flesh”, in our own smarts, our own power, talents and our own ability as humans to make decisions apart from Him. He knows better than we do what a train-wreck such self-dependence can create.Much like physical exercise, such difficulties stretch us so that we can grow stronger. I’m not saying it’s always a fun ride, only that beneficial spiritual growth happens due to such things. Paul writes “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”. A. W. Tozer wrote “miracles follow the plow”. Indeed so.May the Lord help us to lean on Him and not so readily complain about the need most all of us share world-wide. God’s Word is clear: He knows our needs before we ask Him, and He provides exactly what, who, when and how we need that provision. If He clearly does not over an extended period of time, perhaps we are carrying a burden He hasn’t called us to carry.We must remember and remind one another that God indeed has the whole world in His hands, and it’s certain He’s better at meeting need than any of us are.We can also be sure that it’s not the Lord’s will for us to beat ourselves up for our failures. At times we will fail in both loving our neighbor and in judgment calls on budgeting and finance.Nobody is literally “perfect” in doing ministry and mission, but may God help us to grow, trust and obey Him in love that more actual need can be met.In His will, way and timing, God meets the need.

Tagged

The “Three B’s”

Let me say right from the start that I”m writing to myself as much any who read this blog!I’ve recently re-visited a concept that I learned about while traveling in Europe quite a few years ago.In many a local church the “Three B’s” still rule. It doesn’t even matter what sort (or form, stream) of Christian assembly, be it a more traditional, house church, emergent/emerging, mega church or other sort of gathering. This is something not so much taught as it has been expected: First, Behave, then Believe, then we’ll let you feel like you really Belong.For a lot of younger gatherings of Christians in an increasing number of local congregations these expectations have been literally turned upside down, and I happen to see the love and wisdom of God among His people when such is being done. Rather than behave, believe, belong, it is more and more:1) Belong2) Believe3) Behave.The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) is the denomination Jesus People U.S.A. belongs to. Seven of our leadership team took part of the ECC’s teaching for ministers which included commentary on a “believer’s church” as opposed to merely a (often common in European and Scandinavian countries) “state church” where all citizens of a given country are automatically part of the national church.Without breaking all this down for the reader (and there are a number of slight variations on the basic structure from country to country, etc.) let’s just say that this may bring to mind a “seeker’s church” vs. a “saved/Christ-follower’s church”.My position is that the only true member of Christ’s Church, universal or local, are those who believe and follow Jesus. At the same time I also believe a spiritually healthy church opens itself and must welcome those who do not yet follow Christ though they may attend gatherings regularly.If a local church isn’t reaching those who are not yet born of the Spirit, it’s basically a social club, not a missional church.There are those rare occasions that a gathering might best only serve true followers of Jesus but this seems to me quite rare indeed, mostly with regard to sensitive discussion of deep moral failure or the like, where some or most of the believers gather out of love, offer supportive prayer. In such a meeting, careful, brief discussion which encourages healing and restoration of the individual, couple or family is key. A meeting of this sort is in some cases best done “in-house” and out of sensitivity to the people in question it may be more appropriate for those not following Jesus to be excluded. We really must consider how ethical it is for this or that group of people to know certain details about others’ lives.I happen to be an ordained minister in the ECC and serve on the pastoral team at JPUSA, which is both an intentional Christian community as well as local congregation of the ECC. No matter your link with Christians, no matter what sort of gatherings you have in or outside of a denomination, etc., no sane Christian wants complete chaos and mayhem during a prayer, worship, work or social gathering of the local flock. All of us would agree there is some measure of civility needed.Still I ask how is it that we think we can demand exemplary Christian behavior out of those who don’t know if God even exists? It seems to me that in trying to force people to “behave” we sometimes push them farther from believing- due on occasion, to what may be pharisaical rules and regulations.Expecting Christian behavior prior to solid Bible-centered belief and surrender to Jesus… and not engendering patient, graceful interaction in relationship whereby and through which some may well see Jesus in us to such an extent they DO come to saving faith in the Lord… this seems to me rather obvious. If saving faith and fully compliant, quiet, submissive behavior is -demanded- prior to offering a person at least some sense of belonging to a group, that group will likely turn more away than it will end up serving.We don’t think being “soft of sin” is the answer. Grace isn’t at all cheap, far from it! Yet when we consider how far from God much if not most of the world is, when we recognize the lack of love many of we Christians at times manifest toward “outsiders”, are we not shooting ourselves in the feet? Ours are the very feet that ought to be carrying the Good News TO those still “without hope and without God in the world”.If we demand biblical behavior and even faith before individuals feel any sense of welcome from us, how do we expect biblical, fruitful missions to happen locally? Indeed, I am fully convinced we are often quite selfish, impatient and just plain grouchy rather than convicted and willing to repent of our -own- sins as Christians when it comes to welcoming those yet outside the spiritual church. As we mature enough to open our hearts and arms, if we will be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger… if we will pray and think a bit more like our Lord, there will be a welcoming of those yet without Him.Is this not exactly how He interacted with His disciples?They all fled at his arrest and eventual crucifixion. Yet there was only one place they belonged: with Him. That’s where they eventually returned.He clearly showed grace and extreme patience with them both in terms of their behavior and their rather regular lack of faith in either Himself, the Father or the Word of God. Sounds a lot like most of us.May we learn from Jesus who loved them so much that He continued to make room for them.Eventually, most of them were martyred out of love for Him and for those He sent them to reach with the Good News. If that isn’t a lesson to us about belonging, believing and behaving, I can’t think of any better.In my own life, it’s clear He brought a sense of belonging to Him a before I had anything close to a mature faith and certainly before I learned to behave!The point is that it is rather foolish to expect maturity from the immature. At the same time we who have walked with Jesus for some years MUST exhibit the very maturity we’re expecting of the younger, newer people in our midst.God help us to love as He loves us: regardless.It seems to more and more of us that if we will truly offer a sense of belonging, belief in Jesus will often follow and mature. Godly behavior springs from a genuine faith among those who know they belong.

The Winning Obsession

So the reader may think “What, is Kaiser going to tell us the only way to win is to follow Jesus”? Or perhaps “Oh-oh… he’s gonna kick our chops about always thinking we have to win all the time. So are we to be thoroughly happy and satisfied with losing instead? Good grief, what’s he thinking?!”You’d be pretty well right twice, but the second question and somewhat, conclusion are the core and likely more disturbing points.See, I think that in the entire world, and more so among many western nations, specifically in the U.S. of A. we are literally hell-bent (no pun intended) on winning, and winning in many cases no matter the cost to our opponents. Further, I think we often do not consider the cost to ourselves, our children and grandchildren or the rest of society, be they Christ-followers or not. The same applies to many, many Christian people.I am indeed thinking about current political situations in the U.S. and beyond, but even closer to heart, in all forms (yes- ALL forms) of Christian gatherings, relationships, families, marriages and even our individual relationship with God in Christ. We must wrestle with God and lose, die to self, learn to be compassionate to others even and especially when it seems we don’t get our way- which of course is in our view, always the “right” way, God’s way.If you’re wondering about it, yes, I’m talking to myself as well as the reader! Losing gracefully is important.Are you or I ever wrong? Do we ever speak or act before patient consideration of the results? Facing the truth of this -is- God’s way throughout His Word. Often such considerations are not part of our reality, nor are the needed humility and caution. I would argue neither of these are automatic pillars in American culture.A culture of continual “win” will in the end, lose. It will lose in part, due to the corruptability and therefore corruption of the people who begin to claim their chosen (and in many cases, “taught” and/or “learned”) culture or subculture as if it were somehow equal to the very canon of Scripture.NO culture should be given that place in the life of a Christ-follower. “Win” often boils down to control.In sports, for example, to win is nearly always to control the pace, the rhythm, the flow of the game. In American football the team that controls the line of scrimmage nearly always wins. In world football (soccer) the team who controls the play and has the greatest skill in keeping possession of the ball largely wins in the end. It’s the same in most sports. The companies that rather monopolize a given market are the one’s who seemingly win.My chosen computer operating system is Linux, not Windows or Mac. This has been the case for many years. There are a load of reasons why, but let me get to the point:I listen most Wednesday nights to a several-hour long computer show which is about ninety-five-percent about the major operating system’s failures on most every pc and laptop you’d care to mention. Meanwhile, I deal with perhaps a one-percent failure rate- and that mostly due to personal mistakes, not operating system failure. In this scenario, who is really and truly winning, the mainstream or alternative people using an alternative approach? Of course there’s a learning curve and this is where many people just swallow “the norm” and dig in, regardless of the inherent pain and train-wrecks of (even) the computer culture.A biblical, Christian culture is just that – it’s not merely a “human” culture or subculture. Biblical discipleship includes a learning curve and a lot of us would rather not go there!There is not only a learning curve in spiritual but societal growth as well. Many choose to ignore or reject the personal assessment and work involved.One of the most needed fruits of the Holy Spirit in a Christian life is self-control. This is certainly the one I need most, I admit it! To win all too often means “to GET and maintain control”, not to share or lose it. At that very crossroads comes the collision- with the very nature of love God is working to help us grow and mature in as opposed to “my way”. His way always includes the cross.To confuse Christ and culture is to confuse culture with provision and ultimate salvation. Ain’t NO OTHER LORD and absolutely NO OTHER SAVIOR than Jesus Christ, period.When a good number (majority or minority) of Christians support a political candidate who then goes on to lose a national, state or city election, it’s as if the devil himself has control of the earth! Ain’t so. Never was and never will be.When a group within a denomination or local church lose a “political” or policy vote or decision on (for example) -how church is done-… whew, the fallout of anger, bitterness, backbiting and slander often surfaces. Local churches have split over the “new carpet” that is about to be installed… so when matters of even greater importance come up, look out!!Let me be clear, any ministry type, mission society, coffeehouse, emergent/emerging, house church, worship team, evangelistic band, family, marriage can be severely wrecked by the attitude and character issues in a person and especially group of persons who are fully focused on WINNING or nothing. Little or nothing of God comes about when we wholesale decide “either we win or we walk”. It’s how we lose that largely reveals our true nature, at least in that time and place.IS there a time, a season, an issue worth fighting and fighting hard for? Can it be that separation of one from another or this group from that group- even in the body of Christ- is a good and even Spirit-led event? I believe the Bible gives a number of clear supports to such… but very, very rarely.What I think we have a hard time facing up to (and repenting for lack of) is the humility, the extreme patience, the willingness to even hear “the other side’s” position and rationale for doing or not doing X, Y or Z. We just want our way, we want to WIN. From Cain and Abel it seems part of our dna, personally and in culture.While it seems to me there are culture-neutral issues and more clearly biblical Christian elements in American culture, there are plenty of ungodly, self-serving, mean-spirited and “blow these people away” elements in our culture as well. Our culture, though often laced with Christian (and sometimes even biblical) ideals is yet built on control and rebellion. I am not convinced a thorough read of U.S. (church and non-church) history reveals an American Revolution built on pristine, Christ-following ethics so much as “personal freedoms to live as WE (read that, “I”) choose, King George”!It’s clear to me that Britain had it’s own selfish interests at heart… but the idea that colonial Americans were all wonderful patriots and not rebels is simply nonsense from both a biblical as well as historical view if one is willing to face facts. But if you disagree, of course you’d have to admit and suffer loss… and that’s the point.I don’t want to lose either! I want to live freely, get my way, be in the majority (at least now and then!). I also want to serve and honor my Lord Jesus and build rather than trash the Church -at large as well as the local church/community where I serve.The Christ of Calvary doesn’t at all look like a winner, rather a full-on loser. Game over, the end, darkness beats out light, curse-God-and-die stuff.Not so. Good Friday only preceded Easter Sunday, it did not conquer it.Jesus said “In the world you shall have tribulation”. He went on to say, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. But we don’t take that to heart. We want to win!The issues we care about range from stupid to sublime, tiny to massively important. They affect only ourselves as individuals or may affect millions. We listen, read, watch, talk, blog, take sides. But oh how we are bent on winning, and again, I say it’s hardwired into our culture to WIN or ELSE.The “or else” is where we rip, rend, crash, burn and out of emotion more than anything like faith, hope, love, or in the knowledge and wisdom of God which is first of all pure, peaceable, etc…. man I’m so convicted… just read James chapters three and four… I’m not kidding: read the entirety of those two chapters and you have in my view, exactly what every sort of local congregation in the U.S. needs to hear at this very moment in time, be they totally old-school traditional or super hip and fresh in their approach.Sometimes and in some areas the church climate may seem pretty bleak, but then the church is literally you, me and all who follow Jesus. The question is, are we following Jesus or simply determined to win at all costs?Those who follow Him in accord with the Word of God will at times suffer great loss. But consider this: in the end, nobody else wins.I don’t think winning is what life is about. Life is about receiving and sharing God’s love in Jesus Christ. At times it seems we Christians are better at body-slamming than loving. Then again, the Word (yes, New Testament, not only Old) and history records the very same truth.God help us to lose with grace and when we win, to walk in a deeper humility and grace. Either way we know You are Sovereign… not us!Somebody once wrote a song with this core lyric: “When you lose, you win, that’s the way it is. That’s when the love comes down.”