What Does God Have to Say About This Friday Night?

This Sunday we begin a series on dating at Abundant Life called, What Does God Have to Say About this Friday Night?  No, I don’t have plans to turn this into a book, or a desire to become the hip church in the Bay.  So why am I doing this series then?

A few years ago, for the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping records, the majority of American adults were single (50.2%).  If you’re wondering where in America is the best place to find a working single man between the ages of twenty-five to thirty-four, it’s the Bay, with San Jose being the top ranked city in America for available single working men.  In fact, around here, San Jose has come to be called “Man Jose,” for these very reasons (By the way, several other Bay area cities rank in the top ten as well).  For every one hundred working female singles, “Man Jose,” has one hundred and fourteen.  For these reasons and more, every church in the Bay that wants to be viable and flourishing, should have a strategy to actively engage this growing demographic.

Korie and I have three singles living in our home- our kids, Quentin, Myles and Jaden.  All of my conversations with them center around one of three areas, we call them “The Three M’s”: Who’s your Master?  What’s your mission?  Who’s your mate?  Answer these three questions correctly and you’re on a trajectory for a God glorifying life rich with meaning. 

Any discipleship plan has to hover around these core questions.  And while not every single person will marry, just about all will wrestle with the question of who is their mate?  Our series is specifically designed to provide meaningful answers to help equip our people in the Bay for how to navigate this area well.  This is a part of our core curriculum as disciples of Jesus.

So I hope you’ll join us as we set off this Sunday, using the story of Isaac and Rebekah’s courtship in Genesis 24 as our guide. 

To listen to this series download our app in your app store.  Just type in ALCF.

Slavery and the Scriptures: Straight Licks With Crooked Sticks

Slavery and the Scriptures:

Straight Licks With Crooked Sticks

There’s certain verses in the Bible that rub me the wrong way. Like when Peter says that slaves are to be subject to their masters (I Peter 2:18). Verses like these remind me that it really is impossible to do theology detached from one’s culture, ethnicity or worldview. We all have a set of lenses through which we see the Scriptures, and the sooner we “see” this truth, the better off we are.

That’s right, my blackness hermeneutically prejudices me.

And so does your whiteness…

Asian-ness…

Hispanic-ness…

And so on…

The great Howard Thurman’s own grandmother refused to even read much of the epistles on account of verses like I Peter 2:18. As a former slave she found herself appalled by the perceived passivity of the likes of Peter and Paul. Her white enslavers actually used these verses as a means to subjugate their slaves to this evil system.

I was sharing my faith recently with a woman on a plane, and one of her first arguments against the veracity of Christianity is that the Bible approves slavery. While she didn’t cite the verse, she was clearly referring to passages like the Peter one to build her case. It was then that I was reminded of the importance to speak intelligently about the Bible and slavery.

Specifically, I have found these two things helpful:

First, Roman Slavery was not American Slavery:

This is pretty straight forward. American slavery was devastatingly based on a system of permanence. Except in the case of rare exceptions, you were a slave for life. In Roman times, however, slaves were typically emancipated at the age of thirty.

American slavery was a system solely based on race. If you were black you were a slave. Period.

Roman slavery was based on conquered nations. Some guesstimate that there were around sixty million slaves at the time of Peter’s writing. Most of these slaves were former professionals. Doctors. Lawyers. Educators. In many instances they were more educated than their masters. And, in most cases their skin color was the same.

The second and most telling thing, however, is that people should know that the Bible does speak very pointedly against what would become the American system of slavery:

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (I Timothy 1:8-10, emphasis mine).

There it is. Paul, the same one who also talked about slaves being subject to their masters, says that enslavers are in the same class as murderers, liars and the sexually immoral.

To be an enslaver is to be a part of a system that captures people made in the image of God and sells them into bondage. What are Paul’s thoughts on these kinds of people involved in these kinds of acts?

They’re godless.

And here is what brings me to my knees:

God allowed godless enslavers who totally misused the Bible to bring people like Howard Thurman’s grandmother, and my great-great-grandfather, along with millions of others to faith in Jesus Christ.

If ever there was a case of God hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick…

Honoring the Cray-Cray: Thoughts on the 2016 Election

A recent New York Times article “revealed” that about half of all voters hold unfavorable views of both presidential candidates.  Six in ten republicans, democrats and independents all say they are not looking forward to the coming weeks of this election.

I didn’t need to read the New York Times to get a sense of the despair permeating our country, I just had to drive through my neighborhood.  

I haven’t seen one single “Vote for Hillary,” or “Trump” sign on my street.

Or on the adjoining streets.

Or in the neighborhood.

Not one.

Come to think of it, it’s not like they’re popping up all over Silicon Valley where I live and serve.  

This election is as the young people say, “Cray-Cray”.

So what are we to do?

In Peter’s first letter he stepped into the political fray and spoke very poignantly to the role of Christians when it comes to government.  Now I know Peter’s context is different.  He’s writing to Christians under a very authoritarian form of government, while we live in a democracy.  But I do believe the principles extend beyond forms.  

Honor:

Peter tells believer’s to “honor the emperor” (2:17).  Many scholars believe the specific emperor is Nero.  

Nero.  Now he was “Cray-Cray”.  He stabbed his mother to death.  Poisoned his aunt with a laxative.  Kicked one of his pregnant wives to death in the stomach.  Had a boy castrated, and married him.  And we haven’t got to the part of burning Rome down and blaming it on Christians followed by his persecution of them.

Honor...Nero?

Well, to be more specific, “Honor the emperor”.  

Notice Peter doesn’t mention a name, just a position.  Peter is saying that no matter how much we might dislike the person, we are to honor the position.  

Korie and I have friends who are trying to teach their young loquacious daughter to show honor.  So they came up with an idea.  If ever she felt like she was going to say something unkind or disrespectful, to simply cover her mouth.  Not long after that the mother and daughter were in a store, and the mother asked her to not do something.  Immediately the young girl placed her hands over her mouth.  Curious, the mother wanted to know why she did that.  The girl said because she was going to tell her to shut-up.  The mother took her hand and acted like she was going to smack her on the backside but stopped her hand with her other hand.  The daughter asked why she did that?  The mother said she was going to spank her!

Funny, but maybe something we Christians should consider.  No matter where you land in this election, both candidates have very glaring weaknesses.  To honor doesn’t mean we agree with everything, nor does it mean we don’t voice our opinions.  Thank God we live in a democracy that allows us to have a voice and a vote.  But to honor means we express our views, even our dissenting one’s with respect and kindness and love, even if the other is seen as being unworthy.

Let’s be careful to honor, even those we assume to be Cray-Cray.  

Bryan Loritts
Lead Pastor, Abundant Life
Author, Saving the Saved
President, Kainos Movement