Pastor’s Perspective – January 2024
2023 was another banner year for violence and evil.
The world plunged headlong into wars (in Ukraine, Israel, and on the streets across the globe) and rumors of war (Iran, China, and North Korea). The economy teetered on the brink with conflicting messages of unending prosperity and fiscal disaster looming around every spreadsheet (we used to talk about newspapers, but one is hard pressed to find one these days). Our nation is immersed in what might be considered a cold war of sorts, with partisans on both sides claiming that the other side is morally reprobate and incapable of governing (all while making sure that nothing close to governance occurs). Meanwhile the Church is cleaved by the barely biblical assertions of social issue terrorists.
It is enough to make one wish the New Year could simply wash away the past and allow us to start with a clean slate and a clear conscience.
Alas, the New Year is our communal birthday. A time we celebrate with our friends, feign surprise at our age, and then make a series of unserious commitments for our next journey around the sun. We expect things to change due to the flip of the calendar, but quickly realize that growth only happens with determination and effort.
My prayer for 2024 is that the Church will grow through determination and effort. This is not to say that we can change with effort and determination alone, but as Christians you may already know this. What you might not understand is that you cannot change with grace alone. You need to involve yourself in the work of grace.
The wonderfully grace-filled, Dallas Willard, famously wrote,
“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”
As I write this, the denizens of evil are out on the streets, protesting for terror organizations, smashing windows of Jewish owned restaurants, and assaulting people solely based on their race and religion. And the Church has snapped into action and done… absolutely nothing.
A relatively small cadre of ill-informed and anti-Semitic children shut down menorah lightings in Philadelphia and Christmas Tree lightings in multiple states, and meanwhile the Church prepares for Christmas by decorating half empty sanctuaries. The enemies of light(s) are changing the world.
But what can we do? How can we change the world?
We can begin by believing that the world can be changed. That Jesus was serious when He sent us out to bring the Kingdom to fruition. That God can change even the hardest of hearts and transformed and heal even the possessed and lost.
Our opposition believes they can win. They are working overtime writing chants and finding innovative ways to blame innocent civilians for global and generational disasters. Meanwhile the Church says and does nothing.
I am to blame. And you are also. We have bought the lie that our best strategy is to keep to ourselves and hide our lights under a basket. To preserve what we have and bury it in the backyard so that when Jesus returns, we will not have lost anything.
Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the gospel message?
It is my prayer that 2024 will see the unified rise of the Church. That we will boldly proclaim the coming of the Lord. That we will preach Jesus and His Kingdom to the pagan, the Jew, the Muslim, and the lapsed Christian. That we will find His voice through the power of the Holy Spirit and act like we believe in the grace and love of God.
God has called us to be the body of Christ on this earth. God has told us to be united in bringing the gospel to the lost. You don’t have to wait until 2024 to do this, but don’t let another year go by without living as active citizens of the Kingdom of God.
May Jesus Christ transform us in 2024!