Is Anybody Asking?

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15

When is the last time, if ever, that someone who did not follow Christ asked you why you were always so hopeful? It seems to me that it rarely happens. A vast majority of people I know have never had someone approach them and ask about their faith after seeing in them a life of hope and joy. How sad is that. Peter seems to think that this should be a common occurrence. It should be something that happens with such frequency that we are always ready with an explanation. It is this verse that is at the heart of what it means to be a Provocative Christian. Our lives should be so running over with hope that people are drawn to us and want to have that hope. Our lives should provoke the question, “why are you so hopeful, or loving, or joyful, or kind, or whatever?”

In the off chance that we get asked, Peter says that we must be prepared. If this verse ever gets dealt with in sermons and Bible studies it is usually to focus on this part. Usually we focus on what kinds of answers to give people to convince them to follow Jesus. Sadly we usually focus on answers to questions that nobody is asking. Trust me, the average person who is not following Jesus really doesn’t care about things like, the rapture, how Jesus is present in communion, or if the King James is the only reliable translation. Don’t get me wrong. Truth in all it forms is important. But arguments about truth is not what attracts most people to Jesus. Lives well lived, following Him who is the Way, Truth, and Life, will attract people and provoke them to ask questions about our hope.

So why doesn’t it happen much? Part of the answer is in the first phrase, “in your hearts set Christ apart as Lord”. If we really loved the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength then our hope would be assured and it would shine through. So if no one is asking about the hope you have, maybe you need to take a closer look at whether or not Jesus is in fact set apart in your heart as Lord. Is your day filled with thoughts of how to serve Him and love him and serve and love others in His name? If so, your hope will be obvious. Do you find yourself thinking of Jesus and talking to Him throughout your day? If so, your hope will be contagious.

Another reason why people may not be asking you the question is found in the last phrase, “do this with gentleness and respect”. Far too many people have the picture of Christians, not as people of hope, but of angry people who are mad at the world. We have got to learn how to disagree with someone and be gentle and respectful. If you want a role model for that just look at Jesus when we dealt with people like the woman at the well, or the one caught in adultery, or Peter after the denial. I think that often the person who argues the loudest and goes on the attack is the person who is most insecure in what they believe. I think we have a lot of insecure Christians out there. The person who is prepared in their faith and has Christ set apart in their hearts is a person who can be gentle and show respect.

Finally, if you feel like you have set Christ apart in your heart and you are gentle and respectful, and you do shine forth hope and still no one is asking about it, there may be a very simple solution. Stop hanging out with so many Christians all the time. Let me put it another way. Start rubbing elbows with people who do not know Jesus. Most people who have been following Jesus for more than two years, have no significant relationships with non-Christians. Oh you may know some and have a passing acquaintance, but you don’t share life with them. People aren’t asking because they don’t see enough of your life to see the hope in times of trouble, or the love for others in time of suffering. You need to get closer to them and let them see your life. Invite them over for a barbecue. Get tickets for a sporting event and make them your guest. Offer to babysit their kids so they can have a date night. Find some way to serve them in Christs love and build a relationship. Oh, and make sure you are ready with an answer for the hope you have, because trust me, if you live that way, the questions will come.

Provocative Bible Verses: Mom and Dad; I Love Jesus but I Hate You!

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

What in the world are we supposed to make of these words from Jesus? It seems to be a pretty clear and simple statement but does Jesus really want us to hate our families? When I was a new Christian there was a group that made this verse one of the foundations of their ministry. They convinced thousands of young people to renounce their parents, family and friends and run off and join their group. Most people intuitively sensed that this was NOT was Jesus had in mind but at the same time they didn’t know how to respond to what seemed to be a pretty cut and dried understanding of some clear words from Jesus. As a result lots of folks simply dismissed these words as something we just don’t understand and they instead moved on to more familiar, safe verse about who much God loved them.

But we can’t just ignore what Jesus said. The enemy, Satan, would like nothing more than for us to blow off such provocative verses and refuse to get any deeper in our faith that having a some vague sense that God thinks we are okay. We need to wrestle with what Jesus meant. In order to do that we must first understand what He did not mean. Clearly Jesus would not teach that we are to hate anyone in the way that we normally think of hatred. After all, it was Jesus who commanded that we not even hate our enemies but instead love them. (See  https://provocativechristian.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/provocative-bible-verses-love-your-enemies/) It was also Jesus who said the two most important things you could do were to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Surely we are not expected to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and at the same time, detest our parent and siblings.

Some people try to use this as an example of a contradiction in the Bible and an excuse to ignore all of it. But there is no contradiction. When Jesus says to hate your parents He uses the Greek word,miseo. It is a word that has duel usage. It can in fact mean to despise or detest someone. But it is also used in the Bible and other ancient literature to mean “love less”. Numerous scholars of the Bible concur that in this an many other casesmiseo is used in to mean love one thing less than another. It is a matter of placing higher priority over one thing than another.

With that in mind the meaning of Jesus becomes easy to grasp but harder to live. What Jesus is saying is that there whould be nothing in this world that we love more than we love Him. We are not to love our parents more than we love Jesus. We are not to love our brothers and sisters more than we love Jesus. We are not to love our children, or spouse, or cousins, or next door neighbor more than we love Jesus. In fact He says that we are not to love our own life more than we love Jesus. That shouldn’t surprise us for two reasons. First, God said in the Ten Commandments that we are to have no other gods before Him. In other words, nothing in life is to have more devotion from us than the Lord our God. Secondly, Jesus said that we are to love God with ALL that we have and ALL that we are. The implication is simple, nothing and no one should have a greater place in our heart, and in our devotion, and in our love, than the Lord.

To emphasize the fact that we are to love nothing so much as we love the Lord, Jesus goes on in Luke 14:27 and says “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Those folks who heard those words come from His mouth had to have been stunned to the point of being frozen in their tracks. The image of carrying a cross was vivid to them. Anytime someone was carrying a cross they were on their way to their own execution. They were going to death, just as Jesus was when He carried His own cross. By saying that we are to love Jesus more than we love our parents and that we are to carry our cross for Him or else we are unworthy of being His disciples, Jesus is saying that when it comes to following Him, He wants your all. There is no halfway measure with Jesus. It is full and complete devotion or nothing. It is Jesus first or not at all. It is give Him your life even to the point of death, or not at all.

Sometimes your love for the Lord might mean that you have to say no to your family and yes to Jesus. Sometimes your love for the Lord might mean that you have to turn down a promotion because even though it will mean more money and prestige you know that it will have a negative impact on your relationship with Jesus. Sometimes your love for the Lord might mean that you must sacrifice your comfort and open your home to someone without a home. Sometimes your love for the Lord means you must live with rejection from people whom you care about, or face ridicule from others. You must love them and their acceptance and your comfort and your promotion and your prestige, less than you love Jesus.

So the right thing to say is not, mom and dad; I love Jesus but I hate you. Instead, it needs to be, mom and dad and anyone or anything else, I love you but I love Jesus most of all.

That First Christmas, What Jesus Sacrificed for Us.

 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” Philippians 2:5-7

 

We usually think of the Cross as the sacrifice that Jesus made so that we could be free from the bondage of our sin and all that goes with it. But Christmas is really the place where we see the first sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We don’t find it so much in what the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us about that birth, but rather in the words of the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Philippians.  

Think of what Jesus had prior to coming into the world. Paul calls it, “equality with God”. Jesus was one with the Father with all the glory, splendor, power, holiness, and delight that goes with being God. He was on the receiving end of the worship of all creation. He was literally in heaven. But He did not consider for a moment hanging on to all of that. He willingly gave it up for us. He not only gave it up, but exchanged it to be born into the world as a frail, helpless, totally dependent baby, son of an unwed mother, in a backwater village ruled by a army of occupation. He set aside His omnipotence, and omnipresence. He laid aside His splendor and majesty. No longer was he wrapped in glorious, marvelous light, but rather in homespun clothe common to every baby in the land. No longer would He be on the receiving end of the serving of the angels but rather He would be the humble one, taking on the form of a servant for us. He went from living in the palace to serving in the barn. 

I don’t think we can even begin to grasp what a sacrifice He made for us 30 years before even going to the cross. But we can get a hint in a rather surprising story. It is in John 11:35 when we are told “Jesus wept”. He was standing at the entrance to the tomb of his friend Lazarus who had died a few days earlier. The people standing around think that Jesus weeps out of grief because his friend had died. I’m not so sure. For starters, Jesus more than anyone would have understood that Lazarus was in heaven and free of pain and sorrow. He would also have known for certain that he would see Lazarus again soon in heaven.

So why the weeping? The clue is found in Luke 16. Of all the parable that Jesus told, with dozens and dozens of characters in them, only one is ever given a name. Usually they are just referred to as, “a certain man”, or “a father”, or “a woman”, or “a Samaritan”. But in Luke 16  Jesus speak of a very poor man who suffered much in life. Jesus gives this poor man the name Lazarus. Lazarus was a sickly man who begged for his living each day and was ignored by “a certain rich man”. Both of them died, the rich man going to Hades and Lazarus going to paradise. I wonder if Jesus didn’t name the poor man in the parable, Lazarus as a way to honor his friend Lazarus who died in John 11. 

Why would Jesus honor his friend this way? It is the same reason that he weeps at his friends grave. Jesus knew more than anyone what he was asking Lazarus to give up by being raised from the dead. Jesus knew the splendor and joy that Lazarus was experiencing in heaven at that moment. He knew it because it was his entire experience before being born in that stable. I wonder if Jesus didn’t weep because of the sacrifice he was asking Lazarus to make. The thought of forcing someone to give up the overwhelming joy of being in the very presence of the Father caused Jesus to weep for his friend. He knew what he was asking because he first made that same sacrifice himself. He made it for you and for me. 

Blessings to you this Christmas. May the sacrifice Jesus made for you fill you with wonder and thanks and may it cause you to have His same mind, that you consider others more important than yourself and thus honor Him who is the Lord.

Merry Christmas

Dan

Provocative Bible Verses: Love Your Enemies

When love is seen as nothing more than a fleeting emotion that we can’t control, that we fall in and out of, and that comes and goes in a completely arbitrary way, then it is impossible to obey the command of Jesus to love our enemies. So either something is seriously wrong with our understanding of love, or something is seriously wrong with Jesus. Hmmm, I wonder which one it is? So exactly what was it that Jesus said?

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45

Jesus gives us a command that directs how we are to treat people with whom we have major conflicts. He does this in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount in which he has already told us that when we are sued for one thing, we should willingly give up even more. He also said that when someone forces us to do go a mile in order to serve them that we should volunteer to go an extra mile. It is a series of statements about the need to sacrifice our own comfort, position and avoid emotional knee jerk reactions in order to demonstrate a Christ-like character. The command to love our enemies is one more example in that chain.

Although love certainly has an emotional facet to it, it is also a verb, an action that we are to carry out. When Paul tells husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church by laying down His life for her” he doesn’t say to do that only when they have warm, fuzzy feelings for their wife. He is saying that we love someone by the way we treat them, no matter how we feel about them. One way of understanding what Jesus is saying when He tells us to love our enemies is that we are to “be loving” by showing them the kindness that we would want shown to us. Jesus is including even our enemies in the definition of who the neighbor is that we are to love. We are to love them as we love ourselves.

He goes on to tell us to pray for those who persecute us. Your first emotional reaction might be to pray that God strikes them down and vindicates you. But when Jesus tells us to pray for those enemies who persecute us, He is telling us to pray that God blesses them. He is telling us to pray that God pours His grace upon them and leads them to a relationship with Him. He is telling us to pray for them in a way that love demands.

In doing this Jesus says we will show that we are children of our heavenly Father. That is what this is all about. How we respond to our enemies should demonstrate who God is. Our own feelings of anger and revenge and hurt are inconsequential compared to the opportunity we have to show people who our Father is and bring Him glory. 

Several years ago I was faced with a person who said and did some things that unjustly caused incredible pain for me and my family. My desire was to strike back but somehow God’s grace kept me from doing that. When his own life started to spin out of control and fall apart I did all I could to show him grace and mercy whenever I ran into him in the community. After two years he got in touch with me to ask forgiveness. He was trying to get his life back in order and get right with God. He told me that the grace I showed him was crucial in causing him to admit his own sin and turn back to Jesus. It was the love of Christ that made the difference. I could have reacted out of my emotion of hurt and anger or I could have acted with the love of Christ. Letting the love of Christ come through saved me from a life of bitterness and him from a life of estrangement from God. 

What motivated me time and again in that situation was the realization that such grace was exactly how God treated me when I was His enemy. The Bible makes it clear that prior to coming to faith in Christ, I was God’s enemy. Yet Jesus prayed for me in John 17 and demonstrated ultimate love by going to the Cross. If that is what Jesus did for me when I was His enemy, how much more should I show His love to fellow human beings who are my enemies? To deny that love to them is to deny the Cross in my own life. To refuse to pray that God bless those who persecute me is to deny that I am a child of my Father, it is to deny God the glory due Him.

Newsweek Magazine and the Case for Gay Marriage

The cover story for the upcoming December 15th issue is titled, “Our Mutual Joy”. The subtitle contends that the Bible is actually supportive of gay marriage and that opponents of gay marriage don’t understand what the Bible teaches. While I will admit that many opponents of gay marriage don’t understand what the Bible teaches, after reading the article it is clear that supporters of gay marriage don’t either. I went to the article expecting it to wrestle honestly with the biblical texts that usually get debated when talking about homosexuality in general and gay marriage in particular.

Much of the article is a look at two things that really are not relevant to the title or the issue of gay marriage. One is examples from history when people used the Bible to justify things that were wrong, the south and slavery prior to the Civil War loom large here. The fact that people in the past used the Bible to falsely support a position, while a good warning to us to not do the same today, does not have any bearing on the substance of the issue. Just because a theologian in 1850 used the Bible to justify the owning of slaves and was wrong, does not mean that in 2008 a theologian is automatically wrong to use the Bible to condemn homosexual practice.

The second issue comes up when the article also correctly points out that examples of a solid marriage between one man and one woman are hardly common in the Bible and that in fact polygamy was common in the Old Testament.  But here is another common mistake made when people deal with the Bible. In an ironic twist, it is the same mistake that many supporters of slavery made in the past. They look at the narrative portions, the stories told in the Bible about everyday life and elevate them above the clear teaching passages that are supposed to guide us to the ideal behavior in life. It is the mistake of taking the “descriptive” and making it “prescriptive”. Another example of this in the article is when it pulls into the discussion the fact that Jesus was never married and neither was Paul. While I commend the willingness to go against the flow of current conspiracy theorists who are sure Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, Jesus or Paul being single has nothing to say about what a marriage is or should be.  And it is certainly not an argument, as is implied, that marriage is not to be held up as some virtuous institution.

The article does deal with some of the relevant texts from the Bible. But at times it does so in a way that lacks credibility. In referring to some of the clearest statements that define homosexual behavior as sin, those in Leviticus 18 and 20, the author dismisses these passages as “throw away lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world.” If you did not know what the rest of Leviticus 18 and 20 deal with you would think from that statement that they are full of things that have no relevance what so ever for modern people living in America in the 21st century. Nothing could be further from the truth. The rest of those chapters forbids things like having sex with your son or daughter. That is hardly a throw away line only relevant for ancient Jews. It also forbids having sex with some other person’s spouse or with your sister or brother, all things that still today even the most irreligious among us do not condone.  These verses have great bearing on the position Christians should hold. One can not deal with them simply by dismissing them.

There are other passages that are brought into the article that have a bearing on the subject. Unfortunately not in the way the author presents them. The goal of using these other texts seems to be to show that the biblical mandate to love our neighbor should somehow translate into acceptance of gay marriage. I quote, “In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins..” The author then goes on to reference Jesus speaking to the woman at the well. She is a woman who has had many husbands and even now is living with a man to whom she is not married. This is seen as evidence of “Christ’s all-encompassing love”.

Here is the heart of the problem, Christian and non-Christian alike fail to make a distinction between how we are to love others and at the same time hold to standards of behavior that people fail to live up to. Many Christians want to hold to a standard of behavior when it comes to sin, including homosexuality, but they fail to live up to the standard given by Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many others want to simply accept and love people just as they are and not expect any adherence to a life that tries to live with some measure of holiness. I have three sons. I love each of them deeply, but if one of them lies, or steals, or fails to show compassion to another person, I don’t ignore the behavior in some twisted demonstration of love. Instead as a sign of my love for them I go to them and with all the grace and mercy I can muster, I tell them what they should do and how they should change, repent, for Jesus.

The article rightly calls on us to show the love of Christ to everyone. The provocative Christian life is one that does just that. We are all in the same boat in that we are sinners in need of the grace and mercy and love of God. If you are a Christian you first experienced that grace, mercy, and love in another person whom God was working through. You must, absolutely must be willing to pass that on to others. Our churches should be filled with homosexuals, adulterers, thieves, liars and cheats. Actually they already are; it’s us. Maybe if we were a little more willing to admit our own sin we would be able to be more loving to other sinners and they would want to be around us. You see we will not change the world by being holier-than-thou and spouting slogans or protesting lifestyles. We will help change the world by fulfilling the command Jesus gave us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Jesus had an open heart for the outcast, the sinner, the rejected of society. He loved them. But he also challenged them to live differently. There was another story of Jesus and a woman that completes the picture. It is the woman caught in adultery in John 8, just four chapters after the aforementioned woman at the well. In John 8, Jesus shows incredible love and mercy to the woman. So much so that her accusers leave in disgrace. But in His closing line to the woman, as He says, “neither do I condemn you” He finishes by saying, “Go and sin no more”.

Here is a link to the Newsweek article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/172653/

Jesus Must be Weeping

There are few things that can both depress me and make me furious at the same time. This is about one of those things. A headline on the BBC news website is titled Christian Infighting in Jerusalem. The title does not even begin to hint at the appalling nature of the story that follows.

In short this is the story. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed by many to be the place of the burial and Resurrection of Jesus. The church that stands there has been around for 1700 years. Six different Christian groups lay claim to some part of the structure and have done so for centuries. They are highly competitive with one another and argue over everything. Any changes, even needed repairs to any part of the building must be agreed to by all parties. The arguing is so intense that there has been a ladder on the roof above the main entrance since the 1800’s. It is still there because they can’t agree on who has the right to take it down. Probably the most incredible disagreement is over which group should control the keys to the main door. As a result, for the past 300 years, two Muslim families have that job. One family unlocks the door in the morning and the other locks it again at night.

Well as things seem to do at the church every decade or so, a fight broke out a few days ago between rival factions of monks. Now we are not talking Bloods and Crips and rival gains in LA. We are talking Greek Orthodox versus Armenian Monks. It seems that some monks violated the turf of some other monks or disrespected them and their traditions in someway. Then again, maybe we are talking Bloods and Crips here. It certainly sounds the same and at the root it is the same, pride, ego, distrust, anger, and hatred. What makes it more shocking in this case is that the monks are supposed to be followers of the same Jesus. They are battling on the very ground at which He conquered sin and death by rising from the grave.

Jesus must be weeping, especially in light of one of His final prayers in which He asked the Father to “make them one, even as you and I are one”. (John 17:21) And that is without even mentioning His statement that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. (John 13:35) It is that statement that really has me broken-hearted. The world will look at that story and have further justification for not believing or following Jesus. Why should they. His own people are punching it out over who has a right to control the space where Jesus rose from the grave. How crazy is that?

Maybe we need to read again what Paul wrote to the Philippians when he said, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit. But in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 Paul goes on to tell us that in this way we will be just like Jesus who counted us signifcant enough that he gave up His place in glory to become a man who would be our humble servant. As that servant He would suffer and die for us on the cross.

It is easy to point at some dueling monks and see how wrong they are. Yet in less dramatic ways selfishness, pride, and conceit are evident in the lives of followers of Jesus everyday. Why else would Paul have to write what he did to the Philippians? Why else would God has preserved it for us to read? I know that I must wrestle those things to the ground on a regular basis in my own life and suspect that you must as well.

Part of the reason for that is sin in general. Our nature leans that way. But more specifically it comes out of a culture that says look out for yourself first. Make sure you are happy and fulfilled. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. If your marriage is not fulfilling, get another one. If your in competition with someone for a promotion, cut their legs out from under them if you can. The list goes on and on of the ways that we are told to have a wonderful life by putting ourselves first. But then there is Jesus who says, “if you want to gain your life, then give it up. If you want to be great, become a servant, if you want to be first, then be last”. We have been made with a purpose, to glorify God in all we do. Serving others, thinking of them before ourselves, being more like Jesus, helps to fulfill that purpose. Only then will we be satisfied. Only then will be find fulfillment. Only then will we be truly happy. Only then will Jesus stop weeping and instead smile on us. Because in our oneness, the Father is glorified and the world is provoked, not to ridicule dueling monks, but to be in awe of a God who can have followers who so love one another that they consider others before they think about themselves.

Being a follower of Jesus is about becoming more like Jesus. That means being willing to suffer wrong, even when you are right. That means being willing to serve those who do not even like you not to mention those who hate you and even persecute you for Jesus name. How much more should it mean loving those who also call upon Him as Lord?

Is Your Faith Relevant, or Provocative?

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

There is a great deal of talk among Christians these days about the need to make our faith relevant. I understand the desire, in fact for a long time I said that same thing myself. The fact is, most people just don’t see a need for Jesus in their lives. The desire to make Christianity relevant, in large part stems from the realization that in this Post-Christendom world in which we live, people just aren’t paying any attention to what Christians have to say. The assumption, probably correct, is that what we are saying just doesn’t relate to their lives. There is a great deal of truth here. The average westerner really doesn’t care about our eschatology, (when and how we think Jesus will return), or about our differences over the physical presence of Jesus in communion, or a whole list of other things we spend so much time talking about.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think having a correct Biblical understanding of these things is important. And I love few things more than studying them and helping others understand them. But that is not the focal point of being a Christian and certainly not what the non-Christian is searching for. So we have properly tried to switch the focus to questions that are relevant to them, things like how to have a good marriage, raise your kids, deal with hardship, and a host of other topics. So we have made the faith “relevant” to their lives.

But I must confess that there is a growing discontent in me over what the result of all the effort this move to relevance has wrought. I get the feeling that a relevant Christianity as it has evolved in recent years is somehow lacking real punch. It just seems way too tame and respectable. It is not a faith that reaches out and grabs people who observe it in others. When I think of the word relevant, I think of people having a discussion about some topic and a point comes up and someone says, “Hey, I think this bit of information is relevant to what we are talking about”. As such, that relevant thing just becomes one more piece among many that helps you reach your conclusion or settle and argument. So I wonder if this relevant faith that we have been promoting isn’t just one more “bit of information” that people add to the smorgasbord of their world view, in order to get by just a little easier? And I wonder of our relevant faith hasn’t become something that the non-Christian is able to take or leave with equal ease.

That leads me to the idea of provocative Christianity. A faith that really rocks is one that like Matthew 5:14-16, provokes a response from people. It is that shining light on a hill that draws people, it compels them to look and see. In fact it is a faith that leads them into a worship of the Father. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.

A truly provocative faith is one that demonstrates itself in service to others in that name of Jesus. It is a self sacrificing faith that looks for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus for others. It comes out of what Paul says to the Philippians that we are to consider others more important than ourselves and in this way be just like Jesus. It is really what Jesus meant when He said that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we love someone with real action, servanthood exercised in humility, then they will want to know our God and worship Him.

There is a power in living a provocative faith that goes way beyond making Chrisitianity relevant. But it comes at a price. It is the price of sacrificing ourselves for others. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this means some sort of death defying sacrifice where you push someone out of the way of a bus and you get killed instead. It is much less dramatic than that. It is as simple as returning the extra change a clerk gave you that was more than you were suppose to get. It is giving that young couple with the new born baby, two passes to the movies and a coupon for free babysitting on a Friday night. It is inviting that international student to your hme for Thanksgiving dinner and simply setting an extra plate. It is tipping your server 20% and asking if there is anything in their life you can pray about. It is asking your neighbor if you can pick up something from the grocery store for them when you know they are sick. The list could go on and one. But these are the kinds fo things that will eventually provoke a response of worship from people who see your light shine in Jesus name.