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Jesus Says, “No, America, You Won’t Be Great Again.”

For what it’s worth, I’m not now nor have I ever been anti-American (as even close friends have been accused of behaving). I LOVE my country and and very glad that I live here, serve here (though my opinions do not reflect the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any government agency), and raise my family here. For all our faults (and we can point to quite a few), there are places in the world that are FAR worse off. So I’m not here to bash America. I’m here to talk about Christians who have jumped on the “Make America Great Again” bandwagon.

You see, the expression implies that America WAS great but somehow lost its greatness. It now needs to regain what we once had. So I want to know what it is we’ve lost and what we need to get back. My friend Harry said it very well when he responded:

I believe the more specific definition is “great for who(m)”? In a land of such diversity greatness is defined by any individual group to suit their own needs and desires. It’s a dandy catchphrase but is it also a balance scale. Does “greatness” for some come at a sacrifice to others?

I think that’s a big part of the problem. Going back to greatness for one group doesn’t look so hot for another group. It’s a matter of perspective, depending on which side of history you fall. But my BIGGEST problem comes from Christians who eagerly (sometimes humble-732566_1920overwhelmingly so) desire to be part of the “Make America Great Again” movement. I expect such behavior from non-Christians. But Christians are supposed to approach issues like this from a different perspective. Jesus addressed greatness several times.

He said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

and:

And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35)

I’m not talking about pursuing excellence. If we follow the Apostle’s advice and do everything we do as doing it unto God, we’re going to pursue excellence. But the idea of greatness runs contrary to the idea of humility. Greatness is a comparative quality – it’s being set apart from the norm or average. It’s saying, “I’m more special than ________.”

GreatI fail to grasp how a commitment to Jesus, one who epitomized service to others, allows us a Christians to say, “We desire to be better than everyone else!”

I recognize that it’s impossible to lump everyone who says, “Make America Great Again” into a single group. But my observation is that the slogan, and many who promote it, embrace an “us vs. them” mentality that is at odds with the Gospel of Jesus.

Real humility doesn’t say, “I desire to be great!” Real humility says, “What can I do for you?”

So be patriotic. Pursue excellence in all you do. There’s nothing wrong with that! But be humble. Embrace serving others. Reject the pursuit of greatness as a goal. Let greatness be the result of a life of serving others and seeking to build others up. Remember Jesus’s words I mentioned earlier:

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”

Holding On To Politics But Letting Go of God

presidential-election-1336480_1280Let’s be honest – it’s easy for Americans to get caught up in the political furor of the presidential race. I don’t know the exact number but I think I remember hearing somewhere that more Americans than ever are turning out for primaries and rallies. People are HEAVILY invested in this race. And this is true on both sides of the aisle.

But Christians are too invested.

Yes, I said it. Christians care SO much about this presidential election that they are letting go of God. Of course they don’t admit it.

Heck, they don’t even recognize it.

They will claim that they believe the way they do BECAUSE of their faith. Funny enough, people on all sides of any issue make the exact same claim. But I don’t think that faith is driving the Christian fervor. Not really. It’s not about spirituality. It’s not about the Gospel. It’s about a superficial cultural religion – not real Christianity. Look at the words of the Apostle Paul:

bible-1031288_1920If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17)

Let’s break it down:

  • Our priority is to FORCE God’s kingdom onto the nation. Where we are instructed to set our minds above, we choose to set our minds to November and re-creating a theocracy (which we never were, by the way – this was never God’s nation, and we were never God’s people “called by His name).
  • We revel in those things we are told to put away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Our candidates intentionally stir up these passions to rally us to their cause. This is not the Christian way. It’s political, sure, but not Christian.
  • Rather than seeing the unity of humanity in Christ, we highlight the differences between us. Now more than ever we hear language of separation – language that creates an “us Vs. them” mentality. This is not right.
  • We refuse to put on the attributes to which we are called: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness.

If these are the things that Christians are supposed to focus on, to cut out of our lives, and to put into our lives, why are we completely ignoring God’s word?

My guess? It’s because we’re not really Christian. We’re social Christians. We believe in a God-like being who kind of cosmically started things, but we’re not ACTUAL Christians where we’d allow God to tell us that our behavior is atrocious and that it’s time to change.

This is not me advocating for not voting. As citizens we have a responsibility to vote. Even the Apostle Paul knew how to use his Roman citizenship to accomplish his purposes. But Paul’s focus was not on being Roman. His focus was Jesus.

We’ve lost our focus on Jesus. We’re social Christians but not actual Christians. When God wants to change us we say, “Forget that!” We’d rather change the world around us. It’s time to walk away from setting our sights (and our hopes) on the government.

It’s time to refocus on Jesus.

On the Campaign Trail With Jesus

usa-806576_1920Have you been following the debates and primaries around the nation? I have – like a nut. While I don’t promote any single candidate, I do very much care to see what happens and follow the process closely.

Have you noticed what happens after the results of every primary? What does the winner do? He throws a big party. Usually there’s a speech involved. What does the crowd do? They go BANANAS. The cheering, screaming, and chanting is something else. But in the midst of all the chaos we need to be asking ourselves three questions:

1) Are we following the right guy?
2) Are we following for the right reasons?

3) Are we willing to live with the consequences of following this guy?

This isn’t new to our political era. The scene has been the same throughout human history. From the beginning of time, we cheer and roar when our guy wins and comes out to celebrate. This is EXACTLY the scene we have at Jesus’s triumphal entry, the time we call Palm Sunday.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

The scene is an identical scene – a carbon copy – of the triumphal entry from many years before when the Maccabees defended Israel and defeated their enemy. And any Jew who knew his history COULDN’T have missed the parallels with Jesus’s entry. It’s no wonder people were going nuts.

The new Messiah was riding in the same way Jewish victors had in the past. In a nation occupied by Rome, the huge crowds saw a geo-political hero who was coming to set Israel free from Roman oppression. They had question 1 right – they were following the right guy (the Messiah) but they missed question 2 – they were NOT following for the right reasons.

humble-732566_1920They wanted a new political leader. They wanted to make Israel great again. They thought Jesus was the guy to make that happen. But their reasons for following were not Jesus’s reasons for showing up. Jesus wasn’t about geo-political power. He has NEVER been about geo-political power. Jesus is far too humble to care about such nonsense. In fact, when other leaders would march into town for their victory parade on a mighty steed, Jesus comes in riding on a donkey. Even in victory he is the epitome of humility.

When we make the decision to follow Jesus and understand the right reasons (vs. the wrong reasons) for following, we’re then forced to come to terms with question 3 – are we willing to face the consequences of following Him? It’s not an easy road. In fact, Jesus promised that in this world we WILL have troubles. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that Christianity is the easy way out. But even when we go through hard times we have a God who walks alongside us to comfort and care for us. The road following Christ may not be easy, but the rewards are eternally immeasurable.

Are you following the right person?
Are you following for the right reasons?
Are you willing to face the consequences of following?

Dear America, You Left the Christian Nation Behind

flag-1192625_1920A few days ago a friend of mine posted a video of British Prime Minister David Cameron. In the video, Minister Cameron was giving his annual Easter message from 2015 and made repeated references to Great Britain being a Christian country.

And American conservatives are going NUTS for it. I’ve seen comments from people telling the PM to “stick it to Obama” and thanking him for “having the guts to say what Obama would never say.”

Watch the video:

Here’s the thing that conservative American Christians needs to understand about this video and, the bigger issue at hand, our own history: AMERICA IS NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION! In fact, we left the Christian nation behind because our founding fathers didn’t want us to be a Christian nation.

There is still an official Church of England. There is no Church of America (not officially, anyway). One of the ideas of settling in America was that there would be nobody to force our form and manner of worship – we can worship how we choose. We were part of a Christian nation and we left it behind to pursue something else.

It is inappropriate to our history and our Constitution to try to force a national faith on America now. Don’t misunderstand me – I believe that the Christian faith IS the only way to God. I do not believe that we can force the country into a mold from which it never came.

America can’t “get back” to anything because it never started out that way. It started out apart from a national faith. This ALSO means we cannot misappropriate the biblical promises to Israel and claim them as applying to the United States of America. They are not ours to claim. We are not God’s chosen people. If we humble ourselves and pray then God will not heal America and restore it to its pre-Cold War greatness.

That is NOT biblical. We can serve the one, true God from any nation on earth. We can serve the one, true God no matter which party is in office. My God is bigger than partisan politics and international borders.

If you can’t get down with that, perhaps your god is to small…

How Christians REALLY Feel About Donald Trump

This election cycle has been something else, I’ll give you that. It has looked more like reality tv than a political race. Indeed, the last Republican debate seemed more like a wild west shootout, with the exception that the gunslingers used angry words in place of six-shooters.

And through the smoke and chaos of the OK Corral (or the cause of it?) emerges one candidate who has consumed the political landscape.

donald-duck-973226_1920The Donald.

No, this post won’t be an evaluation or critique of the man and his policies. Rather, I’d like to look at how Christians feel about him and respond to him and to his message. So, doing what I like to do, I took to social media to ask a simple question:

As a Christian Republican, if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee:

a) I will vote Trump
b) I will vote Democrat
c) I will not vote at all

The results of roughly 130 people (yes, yes, I’m not some big-time pollster) have been counted and tallied – there are not more hanging chads to argue about. This was the basic breakdown.

~ 41% said they would vote for Trump.
~ 20% said they would vote Democrat.
~ 39% said they would not vote at all.

Of course, Facebook responders also responded with several lengthy dissertations on why Conservatives are God’s chosen people. And other responders had lengthy dissertations on why Trump is the devil incarnate. What it really comes down to is recognizing that there is no monolithic Christian perspective when it comes to the presidential candidates.

I know fervent Christians who will be voting for The Donald.
I know fervent Christians who will be voting for other Republicans.
I know fervent Christians who will be voting for Bernie Sanders.

I haven’t met any fervent Christians who claim Hillary, so if you’re out there, drop me a line and let’s chat – you must exist somewhere in the Cosmos, and I’d like to hear your perspective.

white-house-451544_1920The point is this: though we have a say in electing our government officials (which is more than many Christians through history could say), a lot of us are going to not have our candidate of choice be the next leader.

And that’s okay. Or it should be.

Ultimately it comes down to trusting God to manage the affairs of the world no matter what human is running the show. In an era of the Roman Empire, where Christians were a persecuted minority, the Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:2-4)

If Paul can urge Christians on to good conduct in spite of the authority at the helm of the government, should we do any less? Sometimes we act as if we, as American Christians, are above the biblical call behave decently even towards those with whom we radically disagree. We treat political opposition in a vile manner. It’s like the presidential candidates who pretend to be God-fearing evangelicals in order to win the evangelical vote yet are horrible to each other on the debate stage, acting in ways that do NOT honor Christ.

This isn’t supposed to be who we are. Our politics are not supposed to trump (low-case “t”) our faith. We can rise above the political muck and mire and still treat people decently. We don’t have to name-call. We don’t have to slander. We don’t have to rail against people.

We can live out a Christ-like faith in a God who is in control of human history, even when things seem dark and desperate. At least, that’s how I interpret WWJD.

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How about you? Did you vote in our poll? How do you respond to the candidates?

A Church That Loves Politics More than It Loves Jesus

I enjoy following politics. I really enjoy political races for office. I believe that citizens in a democratic republic (like America, if you didn’t know what we are) have a duty to cast votes and play an active role in the political process. It is the primary means by which we hold our leaders accountable and shape the vision and future of our society.

I enjoy my faith. I really enjoy Jesus. I believe that citizens of God’s kingdom (all of those who claim to follow Jesus) have a duty to be loyal to Jesus and play an active role in the life of God’s kingdom. This necessitates we understand the breadth and scope of Jesus’s life, mission, and call to those of us who follow him.

One of my favorite stories from Jesus’s life takes place during a visit to the temple. Jesus sees a bunch of merchants and vendors trying to make a profit selling sacrificial animals to worshipers traveling from out of town. The mark-up would have been considerable, and the vendors were there not so much to help those who needed to offer sacrifices, but to line their own wallets with cold, hard cash.

This was simply unacceptable to Jesus, and he goes ballistic. He starts flipping over tables and driving out the cattle and animals, jesus-clears-the-temple

and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbersden.” (Mark 11)

Then this week I saw a very interesting phenomenon.

During the Iowa Caucus, I saw many churches that had opened their doors and had become caucus voting locations. Pews were filled with voters carrying flags, buttons, and banners promoting their favorite candidate.

It got me thinking…

I’m pretty sure Jesus would visit these church caucus sites in Iowa and start flipping over pews and tables…

No, it’s not wrong for Christians to engage in politics. I think it’s a GOOD thing to do.

What I have a problem with is people turning our sacred spaces into political grounds. How can we worship Jesus and worship candidates at the same time? How can our sanctuaries be converted to multi-purpose rooms used for secular political activity? I’m not cool with it.

Our call as Christians is to influence and change culture, not let culture influence and change us. One of my favorite Ed Stetzer quotations goes something like this:

When you mix faith and politics you get politics.

This is what I see happening during this election cycle. Don’t let it.

Yes, vote. Yes, get election-978904_1920involved in the political process. Yes, make sure the right candidate takes office.

No, don’t mix the two. Jesus doesn’t ride beside our politics. He needs to be above our politics. Because he’s the Lord of Republicans AND Democrats…heck, even of the Socialists. Jesus supersedes politics.

Don’t get caught up in the political movement and sacrifice our sacred spaces and our very faith.

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What do you think? Are you okay with churches being voting locations? How do you respond to the blending of faith and politics?

Presidential Election Season: An Open Letter to Conservative Christians

Well, here we are again in presidential election season. I’m so glad candidates are starting to declare their bids for office. Christians were becoming too nice on social media (yes, that’s sarcasm).

Now the candidates are starting to declare their bid for office. That means the idiots are coming out of hiding and railing against politicians with whom they disagree. Homer Facepalm

May God have mercy on us all.

As someone who self-identifies with conservative Christianity, I’d like to say a couple things to American conservative Christians.

1. Please cut out the vitriol you spew about politicians. Many conservative Christians behave as though their Bibles say:

And Jesus spake, “Thou mayest put off the qualities that are supposed to make up thy character when thou art criticizing political enemies.”

Except Jesus never said that. The qualities that make up our character are supposed to be there in and out of election season. Colossians 4:6 says:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Many conservative Christians stop being gracious when it comes to discussing politics. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to be silent when you have a dissenting opinion. I am saying that we’re not dissenting in a way that honors God.

2. Stop blasting Hillary as being evil. I’ve heard her described as “monster,” “liar,” “domineering,” and a whole bunch of other terms I won’t even bother repeating. You may not like her personality or her politics, but they does not give us cause to be rude and vile in the way we talk about her.

Here’s the thing – a lot of conservative Christians said similar things about Barack Obama. Many went so far as to call him the Antichrist. But we’re coming to the end of his presidency and the country is still here. He DIDN’T destroy America. The Apocalypse has NOT come. Soooo…y’all were wrong.

Perhaps people who hold different political views than we do are not evil or welcoming the end of our great nation. Perhaps they’re just different. Perhaps Hillary is simply another politician and not Satan incarnate.

And allow me to get on my soapbox for a second. A lot of the criticism leveled at Hillary Clinton is merely because she’s female (yes, I went there). Men who display the same qualities and characteristics are not blasted the way she is. Gender bias is a real phenomenon in our society – don’t play into it.

At the end of the day, please voice your opinion! That’s part of the beauty of living in a democratic republic. But do it in a way that honors God, honors people, and isn’t idiotic. 😉

Thanks,

Chris

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

Related Posts:
Why Democrats are Wrong
Is Barack Obama the Antichrist?

Religion + Politics = Politics

Ed Stetzer once said something along the lines of: “When you mix religion and politics you get politics.”

While I am a big believer in Christians engaging in government through running for office and exercising our right to vote, I am an even BIGGER believer in keeping government OUT of faith.

I am a patriot, and proudly put on my uniform as a Chaplain in U.S. Armed Forces. As a pastor, however, I have a real hard time when politics and patriotism invade the worship service. Worship services should be just that – worship. When we allow patriotic elements and politics to enter the worship service we are saying, “Move over, God, because we want to address our political agenda alongside you.”

This is why I cringed when I heard that Liberty University allowed Ted Cruz to make a political speech and announce his run for the presidency at their weekly convocation.

Here’s the thing – I don’t care if Liberty wants to allow Mr. Cruz space on campus to make his announcement. That’s not my issue. My issue is the venue in which the announcement took place. Convocation is mandatory for students.

The University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., tried to explain away the dilemma we see established by a required worship service being turned into a political rally.

Convocation is not a worship service. Convocation is Liberty’s educational forum for students to hear from speakers with a wide diversity of viewpoints from all walks of life—entertainment, business, politics, ministry, and more—many of whom are globally respected as experts in their areas.

Sounds good, yes? Except I don’t think it’s accurate.

Liberty’s website (as of last night) looks like this:

Liberty Screenshot

Notice the left-hand side of the screen where they list “Worship Services” and the first thing mentioned is Convocation. Now flash back:

President Falwell:

“Convocation is not a worship service.”

Website:

Worship Services: Convocation

President:

“Convocation is not a worship service.”

So which one are we supposed to believe? Which one is inaccurate (or worse, intentionally deceitful)?

Talking to a previous undergrad student from Liberty, I was told: “Convocation was a worship service when I was there. There were worship songs, prayer, and then the speaker. If that’s not a worship service, what is?”

Mixing faith and politics is always messy. Worship needs to be about God – not politics. Don’t misunderstand me – I think there IS an appropriate time for Christians to engage in politics. Worship services is NOT the time.

This is because we cannot worship anything beside God. He alone is supposed to be the sole object of our worship. And, in the end, our ultimate loyalty lies with God and NOT with any political party or country. We are Christians who happen to be citizens of America (or wherever you are). We cannot blend them into one odd “Americhristian” category.

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

God Doesn’t Favor Israel Any More

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it himself:

I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy.

That may be a contender for understatement of the year. I’ve seen conservatives using Bibi’s speech to blast President Obama (“This is what a real leader sounds like,” “It’s about time a strong leader spoke in Congress,” and on and on). I’ve seen liberals belittling Israel and conservatives as using this opportunity to undermine the President.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in political science or foreign affairs. That’s not my primary concern. Like many people, though, I am concerned about a nuclear Iran. As Netanyahu notes:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated — he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.

I am against the slaughter of people groups. I am also pro-democracy. For those reasons I tend to be pro-Israel. Israel But political science and foreign affairs is not my primary concern nor is it the focus of this blog. The focus on The Bible Blotter is the Bible and letting the Bible influence our behavior.

That being said, I think it’s time American Christians separate our support of Israel from our idea that Israel is God’s special nation. We must realize that the Israel of God’s Old Testament promises is not the geo-political entity we call Israel today. We who believe in the one true God have been “grafted in the vine” and are now part of God’s chosen people. Blood line does not matter – faith matters.

As Paul says in Galatians 3:28-29 ~

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

I understand this is not a popular opinion. I know many Americans consider supporting Israel to be a God-honoring biblical mandate. In the grand scheme of things, though, the nation of Israel is simply one of the nations of the world.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 9:6-8 ~

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Being born Jewish doesn’t make you a child of Abraham any more. We are of Abraham through faith. The citizens of Israel need to respond to the Gospel of Jesus just as the citizens of any nation must.

God is not the God of America. God is not the God of Israel. God is the God of ALL nations. Christians in America and Israel are on the same spiritual footing as Christians in China, Thailand, Russia, Cuba, France, and every other nation on earth.

Jesus is the great equalizer. It is our faith that binds us together – not our bloodlines. This is a hard concept for us to embrace. Jesus took it to a radical degree. Once when his family came looking for him to try to “manage” him, the crowd told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you.” Jesus’s response?


Who is my mother, or my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother. (Mark 3:32-35)

In a society where family is everything FamilyJesus sets a new standard. This is the standard that is upheld in the rest of the New Testament. God’s people are not so by birth into the Jewish nation.

We are God’s people by our spiritual birth into God’s kingdom through our faith.

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

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