Jon’s Soapbox Chronicles – On #TakeAKnee, Protesting, and Empathy

First and foremost, I love America and I am blessed to live in this nation.  I like American History, the American flag, the American songs.  The 4th of July is my 2nd favorite holiday, only to be beaten by Christmas.  Is America perfect?  Nope.

I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from, beloved reader.  Unity and healing are my passions.  We can’t keep needlessly battling each other while we die from our own festering wounds.

I’m going to address 2 elephants in the room; the topics we are aware of but don’t want to talk about.  They are racial injustice and nationalism.

Racial injustice combines two words: racism and injustice.  Racism is the belief rooted in hatred that says one is superior or inferior to another because of skin color.  Injustice is dishonesty, unfairness, and partiality.  Therefore, Racial Injustice consists of acts of dishonesty or unfairness done to someone or a group of people based on their skin color, those acts ranging anywhere from lying to murder.

I also need to address nationalism.  There’s a difference between patriotism and nationalism.  Patriotism is a love for one’s country.  You can be proud to be an American; there’s nothing wrong with that.  Nationalism, on the other hand, is patriotism’s evil brother.  Nationalism is patriotism unhinged and extremified.  Nationalism says one nation is supreme over others; everyone else must kneel and pay homage or face the consequences.

So you have racial supremacy and national supremacy. Yikes.

Sunday, September 24 was another chill day, until the NFL. While I do enjoy football from time to time (Go Dolphins!), I seem to keep coming across the same narrative: players kneel, sit, stand arm-in-arm, or not even come out of the locker room during the national anthem as a sign of protest.

(By the way, NFL didn’t require players to be present on the field when the national anthem played until 2009.  That’s not the point, however.)

Disgust and disappointment become anger and rage as social media becomes another verbal wildfire, with gasoline being poured on every side.  You’d think we would have a break from this kind of stuff, right?  But we come back to the divisive issue of race relations, and we all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

(Also, just know that a group or an individual out there is trying to profit from the racial divide for their own reasons.  Be aware of that.)

I read another blog about the same issue and the author said he felt like he was in the middle of a dodgeball game with his friends and family on both sides of the court, pelting each other all while trying to convince him to join their side.  I feel the same way.  I have people I love on both sides arguing passionately, slamming each other on the way and if I joined, I may be a great help, but I’d also feel incredibly guilty.

The anger seems justified on a surface level.  “How dare you disrespect the red, white, and blue?” they scream and type. “People died for this nation and you’re spitting on that!”  “You’re not grateful to live in this great country!” “You shouldn’t protest this way!” “The NFL should fire you!” “Why are you so whiny?” “If you don’t like living here, move!”

I mean, it is in the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.

Freedom of speech and peaceable assembly is protected, so why the backlash? I submit to you that it’s because of nationalism.  When someone reveals an issue with America, the person is seen as a threat to our “perfect” nation and must be shouted down or dealt with; when and only when the First Amendment applies to our own standards.  I remember reading somewhere that when we see an argument against our core beliefs, it can register as physical pain and we will defend ourselves or we will try to explain it away.

Kaepernick and Co. nonviolently protesting during the national anthem was neither out of disrespect for America or her flag, nor was it out of contempt for veterans and those serving our country.  They’re doing it because they have seen America and Injustice sleeping in the same bed.  I submit to you that they also love America but they see her in need of healing.  Pointing out flaws in love and doing something about it leads to healing, which is a painful process.  But, we are experts at hiding our pain while inflicting it on others.

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What is the big why of protesting?  Why are people like Kaepernick and Co. not willing to stand and salute for the anthem?  Why is #TakeAKnee trending?  What is the purpose of their actions?

(Christians, I know you mean well when you say that everyone should take both knees in prayer.  There is a time and a place for everything. While it sounds great, you’re not helping.)

Protesting says there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi both believed in nonviolent and peaceful protesting.  Good protesting is a cry of a people that wakes the public to the injustice keeping them captive without using violence.  The problem is that people who are used to sleeping see it as more of an annoyance and an inconvenience.  No one likes to be woken up in the middle of a very good dream after all.  It’s like the old cartoons where someone is trying to sleep but he keeps dealing with yowling and singing cats.  It almost makes you want to throw a boot at them.

Kaepernick and Co. know this.  They are trying to get your attention to the racial tensions and violence in America, the “land of the free.”  They know that being peaceful is the best way; violence ruins a protest’s cause.

But you don’t see that.  What you see is a bunch of disgruntled, unappreciative, overpaid, attention-seeking “Americans” who supposedly hate our nation. Your nationalism is showing, and it’s blinding you to reality.  Therefore, you make commitments to boycotting the NFL and doing your best to urge others to do the same.

You’re worshipping America again.

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Guys, ISIS hates our nation.  North Korea hates our nation.  Iran hates our nation.  I don’t know if Russia likes us or not.  We still need to pay China back.  I’m pretty sure people in our nation hate us too and love to see us divided.  They are our main concerns, not people like Kaepernick and Co.

What you’re really telling these protestors is that racism is normal and part of the American life to non-whites, or that racial injustice is a figment of their imagination.  You’re really telling them that their lives don’t matter.  You’re really telling them that they make you uncomfortable.  You’re treating them the same way people treat those with a mental illness; telling them to stop being so dramatic and getting over their “imagined” problems.  You’re really telling them that people like Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile deserved to die because they looked like a threat and/or had a criminal rap sheet.

I really don’t think you care at all about racial injustice because you’re not at the receiving end of it.  Instead, you become experts, judges, juries, and executioners.  I’m not apologizing for my firm tone here.  As I say to my friends on lighter occasions, “I’m 1000% done.”

Understand that my words are out of love and frustration.  A lot of us black people are upstanding citizens, even community pillars.  A lot of us are kind and successful.  We’re not looking for special treatment.  We’re not all lazy, incompetent, mumble-rapping, sex-crazed, criminal record holding, entitled people on welfare (everything most Americans, and conservatives, are offended by).  We’re not looking for war or violence.

I don’t want to have to tell my future family to “be safe” or to fear for my life. I want my future family to grow and thrive out here in America.

We want someone to listen to us.  We want to be understood.  We want you to know our pain.

Honestly, we are great at sympathy, but we suck at empathy.  Sympathy is just feeling sorry for someone and their situation, and then moving on with their lives.  Empathy is more than that; it involves feeling what the other person is feeling and it moves them to get their hands dirty to help them in their time of need. Empathy is from a Greek word meaning “to suffer with.”

Before Jesus started the Parable of the Good Samaritan, someone asked Him what was the greatest commandment.  Jesus responded by saying to love God with everything and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Then the guy asks, “Who is my neighbor?”  In other words, “Jesus, tell me who my neighbor is so I can dismiss everyone else.  Whom can I selectively love?”

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a guy walked down a road and was attacked by robbers and left for dead.  Both a Levite and a Priest walk by, but they, not wanting to get their hands dirty for their own reasons, pass by the other way.  But a Samaritan sees him, and has compassion on him.  He felt the guy’s pain, he suffered with him, and he also did something about it.  The Samaritan bandaged him up, treated him and put him up in an inn, paying for all costs as he recovered.

We best discover empathy when we are in person, face-to-face with the hurting; when we encounter our neighbors.  Let them speak and tell you their stories.  Don’t dismiss what they’re going through.  Put yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel.  And finally, find a way to do something about it.  You may disagree, but at least you’re listening.

Listen much, touch gently, and speak when needed – Words can be encouraging, but really what we desire is your concern and to know that you love us. – A student on the events at Virginia Tech

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. – Paraphrase from my Discipleship Ministry class

Racism has lasted for what seems like an eternity.  Slavery has lasted for generations, but came to an official close with the end of the Civil War and the events of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Underground Railroad, Juneteenth, and the 13th-15th Amendments.  Racial oppression continued with the Black Codes, Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Jim Crow era.  Though there has been widespread racial integration, there are still people out there who are convinced of the idea of white supremacy and it’s constantly being passed down to this day.  It’s sad, honestly.

(Also, can everyone – black, white, all people – please drop the n-word?)

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Folks, don’t let nationalism cloud your judgment or empathy.  Don’t let it blind you to the people around you.  Nationalism, like any worshipped idol, will require a sacrifice and a price.  The more you give, the more it takes and never gives back.

And as for Kaepernick and Co., they’re going to keep fighting for what they believe in and no one is going to stop them!  Racism and racial injustice will not win!

I long to see the ethnic walls shattered and that we would unconditionally love one another regardless of race!

Part Two is coming and will be more about nationalism and the Church.

A people who will not acknowledge the sins of their nation are doomed to turn a blind eye to injustice.  A people who cannot separate the identity of their nation from the sins of their nation are doomed to undermine the good of their nation. – Caitlin Bassett

Until next time, I’m stepping off my soapbox.  Remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

 

– Jon Pannell

P.S. – Let’s talk if you disagree.  Let’s not scream at each other or prove another wrong.

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The Hero and the Fatal Flaw

“You don’t have to be a superhero.  It’s not your job to take care of everyone.  Don’t do things just because you think you have to.  We like you regardless of what you do.”

——-

*More on that quote later. And no, I’m not playing the “Jesus is the TRUE superhero” card*

I love superheroes.  These guys and girls with superpowers, weapons, gadgets, fighting skills and probably loads of money have incredible backstories that shape their identity.  They’re known for saving the day when catastrophe strikes, seeking justice, and rescuing those in distress.  They keep the world safe from the forces of evil and are placed on pedestals for the world to see, honor, and hold in awe.

Everyone wants to be the next Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or Captain America.  We walk around with their shirts, act out their mannerisms, buy their action figures and watch their movies.  They dream of kicking evil in the face, and who can blame them?

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There is a lot of fame, glory, honor, and appreciation that comes out of saving the day. But the sacrifice…oh, the sacrifices made for this to be a possibility.

I submit to you that behind every “perfect” image of a superhero are shards of their former selves, breaking away by the second.  Every mission and external conflict takes an internal toll, bringing them to an eventual funeral and burial of their real selves.

Is it because they are more loved for what they do than who they are?

I was Super-Jon for a while; my own superhero and the eager go-to guy. If there was something that needed to be done, I would do it.  I cared for the people around me and wanted to make sure they were happy. I was too dependable.

I frequently saved the day, but my real self would fade every time I donned the cape and mask.  I was too willing to drop what I was doing to save whoever was flashing the distress signal; how could I say “No?”  I hated the gift given to me.  The past two years were filled with obligations and a LOT of stress:  Church, work, plays, assignments, projects; all created a mountain that became increasingly impossible to scale by the day.

Fellow reader, this may resonate with you.  Maybe you’re the guy who says yes to everything because you think saying no might ruin your image or your relationships with others.  Or you’re the girl who fears missing out and feels obligated to be involved in everything.  You fear becoming irrelevant.  Everyone around you is happy and content, but you are a complete mess.

Nobody thought of bringing a headache pill to the party?

You look at your closet, where your costume hangs, and ask yourself if it’s worth it anymore.  You’ve already given up so much; what else remains?  What would people think if you retired or needed to take time off?  You want to be appreciated, and maybe you are. But ask yourself, Is this building up or destroying my health?

Let me tell you something:  You don’t have to be the superhero all the time.

But I’m being like Jesus and serving everyone around me,” you say.  But Jesus also stepped away and took time to rest and pray.

But I can’t have any off days. I’m always needed,” you fight back.  Keep telling yourself that as you continue running your mind, spirit, and body into the ground.

But won’t I be selfish?” you ask out of concern. Selfishness is being inconsiderate of others; looking out for number one.  It’s having the resources, but unwilling to help.  How can you help if you don’t have the resources?

Here’s an unpopular thought.  Your health and sanity are more important than saving the day.  When you’re stressed out and overwhelmed by life, you may need to slow down and take it a day, even a moment, at a time.  Your mind and body will issue distress signals when you’re doing too much; will you heed or ignore them?

You can’t make others happy while making yourself miserable.

We save the day as superheroes, but who’s going to save us when we’re in distress?  What happens when saving the world becomes a burden?  What happens when we experience burnout?

Burnout is real, folks.  People walk away from church, ministry, and even faith because they keep pouring themselves out past empty.  They become isolated, making themselves prime targets for the enemy.  They are more prone into falling in sin and are judged more harshly when they do.

You see, every hero has a hidden weapon, and it packs quite a punch.  It’s simply the word “No.”  One word, two letters.  Simple, yet highly effective.

Some of you fear the word “No.” I understand that.  You’re afraid that saying “No” means rejection from your peers.  The arch-nemesis of every superhero is the fear of man, who constantly assaults us with his telepathic attack on our love for others and our willingness to serve them.  People are our fatal flaw.

However, you don’t have to be a jerk and say no to everything.  Being a hero is an extraordinary gift, but you need to use discernment in what you say yes to.  After all, you can’t split yourself into multiple people.  When you say “no” to someone; most of the time they understand and move on.  Others may whine and/or complain, but they’ll eventually get over it.

**By the way, if someone is trying to guilt trip or manipulate you into saying yes, it’s a sure sign that someone only wants you for what you do for them.  Do some reevaluating**

Now, for the quote at the beginning of this post.  I was stressing over some decisions I needed to make.  I told a good friend about the struggle of always wanting to save the day.  That was her response to me; I would even have her periodically remind me of this.  It put my situations into focus once again.

Beloved, know that you are liked, loved, and appreciated for who you are and not just for what you do.  If your health is at stake, you need to say “no” and step back.

Also, you need to rest.  I cannot stress this enough.  Rest with Jesus.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30 (emphasis mine)

Are you exhausted and carrying a burden?  Come to Jesus and He will give you rest.

Are you overworked, stressed, and/or anxious?  Come to Jesus and He will give you rest.

Are you paralyzed by the demands on your time? Come to Jesus and He will give you rest.

That is a promise, and God fulfills His promises.  Don’t ignore the warning signs.  Pull back on your superhero duties and come to Jesus.  He is not a taskmaster, nor will He condemn you if you need to step back.  Walk with Him, hang out with Him, learn from Him, and you will be restored.

If we go so long without resting and staying plugged into Jesus (cliché, I know, but track with me), we will burn out.  We’re human, not gods.

But we think we can keep pushing.  One of my close friends calls it “giving out of a deficit.” What is there left to give to others when you are past empty?  It’s like trying to get a car to run when it’s out of gas.  It is important to push yourself, but only when you have enough in your tank.

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When you come to Jesus with your burdens, pains, problems, and burnout, He will give you rest; no ifs, ands, or buts about it! Don’t try to explain your way out of resting.  Like I said before, what Jesus said is a promise; He is faithful, He will do it (1 Thess. 5:24 — He who promises to sanctify you is also faithful in giving you rest).

Friend, superhero, here’s my encouragement and challenge to you. Say no, come to Jesus, and He will give you rest.  It’s that simple.  Grab a friend, therapist, pastor, somebody if you need to.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe – Proverbs 29:25

I’ve heard it said this way.  Your “no” now can lead to a greater “yes” in the future.

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

 

Jon Pannell

A Rainy Evening in Narnia

Hey all!

I’m thrilled to announce that I officially have my Master’s from Seminary!  It was a tough journey, but I made it, but not without the support and prayers of great friends, a great church, and a great family.

I was a part of another play.  This time it was C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, a classic tale and battle between good and evil.

Lamp Post

If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a crash course:

The four Pevensie children stumble upon a wardrobe in the professor’s house that leads to the land of Narnia.  They encounter creatures of every sort such as talking beavers, fauns, and werewolves.  They meet the great lion Aslan and the terrible White Witch who makes it always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas.  A large battle eventually ensues and Aslan is victorious.

I was going to talk about my role in this production as the Centaur, but there is a situation that happened that I want to bring to attention.

Edmund and Centaur

I got you, Edmund.  The White Witch won’t come after you while I’m around.

We performed this show outdoors for one weekend, so we prayed and prayed for good weather.  We only got rained out for one practice.  Everything was going according to plan, even with one day predicting a forecast of rain, but it didn’t arrive.  The final performance was the “problem.”  While we were setting up, we heard thunder and saw clouds starting to roll in.  The rain came despite our prayers.  Those who were waiting had to return to their vehicles until the rain let up.

We waited in the Green Room for a while hoping for the rain to stop, but it showed no sign in breaking.  We decided to move the show to a small, quaint chapel on the end of the property.  We braved the rain and moved our props and costumes there.

More “problems” arose.

  • The chapel was small and could only fit a fraction of the intended audience. Some people ended up leaving because there was no room.
  • The “stage” of the chapel was probably 1/8 of the space of our original stage.
  • There was no air conditioning in the chapel. It was stuffy and hot.
  • Due to the small space, we had to work with minimal props and some of the scene details were cut.

I’m going to get a little transparent with you guys.  I did not think it was going to work.  How could we put on this show with these sudden changes and uncertainties? What was God thinking? Why would He allow this?  Why didn’t He answer our (my) prayers (the funny part was that it stopped raining as we started the show.  It didn’t rain for the rest of the evening).

But guess what?  The show was a success!

God revealed to me another piece of my heart, the part that likes to blame God whenever an inconvenience comes my way, usually stemming from moments when a plan I’m involved in suddenly explodes and falls flat in front of my face.

But what if a prayer goes unanswered or what if He said “No” because He has a bigger plan in mind?

See, as God’s children, we are to grow and walk in love as we imitate the Father (Eph. 5:1).  God grows, disciplines, and shapes us into His image as we go through the continuous process of holiness; sometimes meaning that He says “No” to the things we want.  Yeah, it hurts in the current moment, but think of the everlasting joy that happens as a result!

The shake-up on the final performance brought out people’s gifts and talents; others may have seen or used their gift or talent for the first time.  The Stage Manager and her assistant formulated a plan and prop list for the limited stage.  The Director helped guide us to what we needed to do. Fellow cast members pulled together to improvise and change up fight and dance choreography.

This happened all while I was freaking out.  That was convicting, yet encouraging.

Take this lesson from me, friends. When you are inconvenienced or when God says no to your prayer, don’t blame or run from Him.  Instead, take a look around and ask God to be glorified in and through you and the people with you.  Ask Him to reveal your heart to you and watch as He opens your eyes to what He is doing in your life and in the lives of others.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen — Ephesians 3:20-21 (emphasis mine)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. — Romans 8:28

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings and long live the true King!

— Jon Pannell

The Struggle and the Blessing

I just had a very wild first half of Spring semester.  I just finished and passed my online class while still going through two residential classes; I am also working part time and I was a part of a local community theatre’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. To say I was stressed out is a little bit of an understatement, but it was an adventure.

Spring Break has just ended and our production finished its run.  I breathe a sigh of relief, even though being a part of the performance was a huge blast (more on that in another blog).

I was cast as Napthali in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, one of Joseph’s 11 brothers.  I wore that name with pride.  Looking into the Scripture, Napthali is the sixth of Jacob’s children.  Rachel speaks of him:

With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed. – Genesis 30:8

I would spend a lot of time giving you background on the story, but I trust you are reading your Bible.  Background scripture is Genesis 29-30.

Napthali is understood to mean wrestling, strife, or fight.  When I look back over the past two years of my life, I have been going through a lot of wrestling, though not physically.  I had been battling stress, self-worth, anxious thoughts, worry, “conflicting” theology and how God and I viewed each other.  Priorities were competing with my life: God, work, school, friends, productions, and other things were all vying for my devotion.  Yes, I put God as one of the things competing for me; that’s not a mistake.

I’ve struggled spiritually, but God is forever gracious and patient with me.

God has a tendency of adding pressure in our lives and allows us to struggle; not so He can take pleasure in seeing us flail and fall, but to show us that we are imperfect beings, that He is jealous for us and that He wants us to turn to Him in these moments.  He knows, and He has the best solution.  After all, He is God.

Beloved reader, God blesses us in the struggle.  We cannot fight on our own power; we will fail every time unless we call on Him.  Fights begin and continue until someone is victorious.  If you’re fighting against the world, cling to God.  Seek His face and direction.  If you lose the fight, get back up, breathe, and come back another day.

Jacob would later wrestle with God; he would not let go until God blessed him, which He did (Gen. 32: 22-32).  I submit to you that it’s perfectly fine to wrestle with God; just don’t give up the fight as He wants to bless you.  When you give up the fight and walk away, you miss out on what God has in store for you and a deepening of your relationship with Him.

May we in the same way cling to God as we wrestle with Him and the world around us, never letting go until He blesses us.  Fight, but ultimately submit to God; remember, He is for you, not against you.

The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. – Exodus 14:14

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” – Hebrews 12:3-6

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. – James 4:7

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings.

– Jon Pannell

Disclaimer:  God blesses us and provides what we need, not what we want.  If we are contending and fighting for the wrong things or with the wrong motives, He will say no.

To Christmas Sunday, or not to Christmas Sunday?

Alright folks, it’s almost Christmas.  You guys are shopping, doing Christmas parties and wearing ugly sweaters; I won’t keep you for long for this post.

A few days ago, a person I follow, Jon Acuff (@JonAcuff), tweeted:

Shoutout to churches cancelling services this Sunday. We pastor’s kids often leave faith because the church stole our Christmas every year.

A lot of people, myself included, found a lot of humor and appreciation in his tweet.  But others didn’t and lit him up like a Christmas tree.  The 6-7 Year Debate as begun again:  Should churches have services on Christmas Day?  It’s shocking to see how Christians strongly defend having church on Christmas Sunday to the point of arguing against those who don’t.

People tweeted against Acuff, calling him an idolater and offering to pray for his salvation.  I saw an article’s comment section (Pro Tip:  Never go to the comments section. Ever.  Avoid it like sin) saying that churches that don’t do Christmas Sunday should not be called Christians.

I get it.  Christmas is a time for family and friends and most importantly,  for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  What message are we sending to people when we say we are celebrating one of Heaven and Earth’s greatest moments but at the same time trashing other Christians and churches for not having Christmas Sunday services?

I advise that we check our hearts.  We act like not having church on Sunday is going to rob us of Jesus for that week.  Think about that for a second.  Is this the state of our Christian faith and our hearts, that getting Jesus once a week for a few hours is sufficient?  I think not.

So family, go and celebrate our Savior’s birth, whether you have a Christmas Sunday service or not.  You won’t get any judgmental looks or words from me.

Until next time, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with who he is pleased!” — Luke 2:8-14

Dear Christians, whenever atheists say we’re unloving, this is why.  We do this to each other.  We’ve become the people Christ fought against most, the self-righteous religious who have all of the rules but none of the grace.  Why do people who don’t know my Lord show me more forgiveness than those that do? — Jon Acuff

Stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,

– Jon Pannell

Prayer in the Midst of Politics

Alright folks, let’s cut to the chase.

Election Day is on November 8, and this is the day we exercise our right to vote and make our voice heard.  I don’t care if you’re jaded to politics or if you’re deeply passionate about politics.  I don’t care if you want to Make America Great Again or if you say “I’m With Her.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or part of the Pizza Party, you have the responsibility to vote.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sick and tired of all the political posts and arguments on social media and like me, you’ve thought at least 1,000 times a day to deactivate all your social media accounts until a month after Election Day.  You know through my posts on this blog that I hate politics with the passion of a thousand suns and I especially hate the fact that we have frivolous and petty arguments that lead to unfriending, unfollowing, and blocking our former friends and acquaintances.

We just want peace, not strife.  Unity, not division.

I want to share 1 Timothy 2:1-5 with you.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The Apostle Paul writes this letter to Timothy around AD 62-64 in regards to instruction and conduct in the early Church.  This was during the reign of the Emperor Nero and before the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.

In this passage, Paul urges the Church to pray and intercede and be thankful for all people, especially those in places of authority.  Read the first sentence in that verse.  Slowly.  Multiple times.  Meditate on it.

Regardless of who is and who will be the President, we as the Church need to pray and intercede and give thanks.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Obama, pray for him.  If you hate Trump or Clinton, it doesn’t matter; pray for them.  People in authority that you respect and/or dislike?  Pray for them.  No exceptions, no excuses.

When you pray, it takes your focus off the worldly and engages you with the heavenly.  This world is not your home, and your Heavenly Father is available 24/7; why not pray?  Feel hopeless? Pray.  Need someone to talk to? Pray.  The next time you want to blast someone or complain about politics, use that energy to pray.

Prayer leads to a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Think of it as a diagnostic; a prayerless life leads to an absence of peace, a life full of loveless shouting, ungodliness, and a lack of respect or dignity to yourself or towards others.  How is your life right now?  I’m going to be honest; my spiritual life isn’t that great, mainly because I haven’t been living a life of prayer.  As a result, I’ve been stressed out and I haven’t had much peace (be praying for me).

Praying for the authorities pleases God.  And guess what?  Prayer is the driving and aligning force of His will.  He desires all people to be saved and to come to truth.  God can open Heaven on the people and situations you pray and intercede for.  Plus, God is God; He can do whatever He pleases and will even work despite your disobedience.

Think about it.  What would happen if instead of fighting with each other and complaining on social media, we prayed and lived a peaceful life instead?  We could possibly see those in authority figures come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior!  Sounds crazy, right?  Imagine if Trump or Clinton or anyone else came to know Jesus!

Jesus is still saving and transforming people.  What are we doing to encourage or hinder that?

AD 64 was the Great Fire of Rome.  All fingers pointed to Nero, but he instead blamed it on the Christians, leading to intense persecutions and horrific martyrdoms.  And guess what?  The Church still grew as her people prayed and lived peacefully.  I would submit to you that they even prayed for Emperor Nero as they were persecuted.

If our religious liberties are taken away, we must know that God is still good and on His throne, that we should still pray for the authoritative figures in our lives.  But seriously, you act as if the next Presidential candidate is going to put an end to Christianity.  Have you forgotten who really is in charge here?  God is not tied to a political party. He doesn’t take sides; He’s here to take over.  He wants to be glorified in the things we say and do.

Church History tells of what happens when Christianity becomes non-persecuted and protected by the State.  But that may be a post for another day.

So here’s my challenge to you.  If you have burned someone with your words and actions, repent and seek forgiveness.  If you have been burned, know that there is healing through Jesus Christ.  And pray, pray, pray for those in authority of our nation instead of complaining and debating all the time.  Live a peaceful and quiet life, and be clothed in dignity and godliness.  Now go and pray.  Hang out with Jesus.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! — Psalm 46:10

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. — 1 Corinthians 13:1

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. — Romans 12:10

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

Jon Pannell

The Otherworldly City

Hello reader!

I ask that you would pray for me as I am going through this semester.

The media has been talking about injustice and protest lately, and the stories seem to be dividing us more and more each day.  Also, the current election season is more bizarre than ever (the first presidential debate was like watching a train wreck.  Loaded with fireworks).  But of course you know that this is a tactic of Satan, to have us living and getting used to continual darkness.

Division is profitable, but to whom?  Think about that while I continue this discussion.

Church, I’ve reminded you in the past to be like Jesus.  Now, I want to tell you this:

You are a Christ follower first, American (or other nationality) second.

You are first a citizen of Heaven, then an American (or other nationality) citizen second.  Don’t let patriotism get in the way of your mission (the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20).  Smash that idol to pieces.

Turn with me to Matthew 5:14-16.  I pulled from this chapter in one of my previous posts:  The Salty Christian.  In that post, I said that we are salt.  We are to have a zesty, flavorful life, and even preserve and heal with the truth.  Now, I want to focus on Part Two:  We are light.

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

You are the light of the world.

You read that right.  We, as Christ-followers, are light.  The day you received Christ meant the end of your life in darkness.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a world where darkness is all around us, we are called to be the light.  Darkness is exposed by and flees from the light.  As a matter of fact, Miles McPherson said that the only thing faster than the light was the darkness running away from it.

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Most children are afraid of the dark; they sleep with nightlights, or they do what I do, which is cut off the lights and then run to the next room with light.  Light gives us a sense of comfort and security.  It shows us what’s in front of us or around us.

We as sons and daughters of the King of kings, this is our charge, to shine the light given to us into those dark places.  This is not an option; this is who we are!  We get the opportunity to show others the light we have by the Gospel!  For we were once citizens of darkness, but Christ broke through and shown us the light.

A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

A city set on a hill is noticeable to everyone in the surrounding areas.  We Christians, the Church, are that city.  We are seen and heard.  Are our actions prompting people to come and move in or do they stay away from the city?  Does our city flow with love, hate, or indifference?  How do the neighbors of this city interact with one another?  How do they respond in a crisis?  These answers reflect the city’s reputation.

Don’t fail this city.  (I just put in an Arrow reference because I can!)

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Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.

If I was in the woods with only my flashlight in the dead of night, I would first question my life choices leading me to that moment.  Also, I wouldn’t dare turn my light on, then cover it.  It would be a waste of both battery and time.  I need the light to guide me through the twists and turns of the forest.

In the same way are we to let our light shine around us.  I honestly think a lot of us are afraid to shine our light.  We don’t want to see what’s hiding in the darkness.  We are scared of people’s reactions to the light.  We also don’t want persecution on us as that would risk having our light snuffed out.

Think of it this way:  Why would you turn on a light, cover said light, then complain about why it’s so dark?  In the same way, why would you become a Christian, hide that fact, then complain about why there’s so much sin in the world and “waiting” for Jesus to come back?

A flame requires oxygen to survive.  Keep the flame under a concealed container and it will go out within seconds.  If we cover up our light, the darkness will still prevail and we will also burn out.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Christians shouldn’t just be vocal, they must also be practical.  James said that faith without action is dead (James 2:14-26).  If you pray, go and do something about it.  Be examples of Christ in this world.  Don’t be jerks.

Shining your light also includes your behavior on social media.  Do people online see the love of Jesus, or do they only see drama, discontentment, resentment, division, etc.?  How do you respond to stories, posts, other people’s opinions?  In real life, how do you respond to rulings, protests, politics, differing beliefs and other people (whether as a customer or employee)?

Christ followers, people are observing your every move and listening to every word you speak (and I don’t mean the NSA).

Your good works bring glory to the Father.  This is what God wants, for the people He loves to love and glorify Him.

“What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” — Westminster Shorter Catechism

Church, be the city that glorifies God.  Shine your light.

Here is joy that cannot be shaken.  Our light can swallow up your darkness; but your darkness cannot now infect our light. — C. S. Lewis

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” – Isaiah 45:3

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,

– – Jon Pannell

Questions?  Comments?  Let’s talk about it.