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

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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.

1262927_10201789120160734_149970948_o

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!)

city

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.

On Candidates and Forgetfulness

Hello reader!

May the Lord shine His face upon you and those you know in 2016.  May He do something so mind blowing to you this year.

This past Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  This was also the day that Donald Trump came to speak at Liberty University’s Convocation.  If you’ve been living under a rock under all this time, let me fill you in.  D. J. Trump (shortening his name just because) is one of the Republican candidates running for the presidency.  He’s a very wealthy businessman who is…quite interesting.

He’s known by social and mainstream media to be a misogynistic, racist, xenophobe who has no filter and offends anyone and everyone he talks to with his words, even standing behind his idea to build a wall to seal off the Mexican border and to make Mexico pay for said wall.

DJTRUMP

“I should call my campaign ‘Playing the Trump Card…'”

The reaction by students and alumni were…quite interesting as well.

Some students decided to protest the Convocation, even making their presence known on social media (powerful tool, isn’t it?).  Others made fun of his use of “Two Corinthians,” while others expressed their shame of being Liberty students/alumni.

Convo

Liberty University Convocation.  Look at all those people!

Oh, I forgot to mention that some didn’t like Jerry, Jr.’s introduction of him, which paints D. J. Trump in a very different picture that the media.  People were wondering why would Jerry, Jr. give a very warm welcome to him (My opinion: he kind of has to).

The big question was:  Why would Liberty invite a “known racist” to speak at Convocation on MLK, Jr. Day?

Now, I don’t care if you support Trump or not.  This post isn’t about him.

Forgetfulness, I believe, is one of the most powerful and potent weapons in Satan’s arsenal.  You would have moments with God where it seems like you and He are like best friends.  Then you have those dark moments where it seems that God is absent and nowhere to be seen.  You rail against Him, shout at Him, become angry with Him.  The enemy pours more and more lies in your heart and mind, tempting you to walk away from Him, to resent Him.

The enemy uses forgetfulness in multiple ways.  He’ll have you forgetting His promises to you, His promises in His Word, the times where He has forgiven you, the times where He delivered or healed you.  He’ll have you forgetting your mission to make disciples, to love one another, and to love your enemies.

So many of us, myself included, are forgetful.  Take this past Monday, for example.  We forget that D. J. Trump is a human, just like us, created in the image of God, just like us.  We love to point out his flaws and even the flaws of others, but we forget to check ourselves AND forget to love and pray for them.

Think about it; instead of complaining about D. J. Trump, have you ever thought to pray for Him, that He would get rocked with the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ?  Or is he beyond help?

Let me tell you this, friend.  No one is beyond help.  Not him, not Bernie Sanders, not even Hillary Clinton.  The Gospel is for everyone.

MLK

Don’t let someone keep you from celebrating a legacy.

Satan had us forgetting that Trump is created in the image of God and needs Jesus just as much as, well, all of us.  And guess what?  He succeeded.  And another thing as his added prize:  We started to worship politics and our self-righteousness instead of Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong, there are reasons to protest and be concerned about certain people, places, and things, but if Jesus is not in your words and actions, then what are you trying to prove?  What kind of change are you trying to make without Him?

Some people are like brick walls, which can only be broken down with Jesus holding the sledgehammer (don’t run that with Scripture).

Peter wrote that the God of the universe has given us divine power through knowing Him, and this power helps us to live godly lives.  When He saved us, we become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire,” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christ followers and partakers of the divine nature, we must hold to these qualities and increase in them, so that we may be effective in our lives and have a closer relationship with God.  But, there’s a consequence if we don’t hold to those values.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Satan, your nemesis, wants you to lack in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  He wants you to question your identity in Christ, as well as make you ineffective and unfruitful.  You were blind, now you can see, but Satan wants to blur your vision so you can’t see clearly and eventually wind up fighting the wrong target(s).

He will stop at nothing for you to forget why you are following Christ and completing His mission.  He will turn your attention to vilifying and berating others instead of encouraging and loving them.  He will get you worshipping other things, politics included, instead of God.  He will get you to engage in questionable and sinful behavior instead of seeking after God.

But let this be an encouragement.  Whether it’s someone like D. J. Trump or your next door neighbor, treat them with a Christ-like love.  Treat them the way you want to be treated.  Pray for them like you would desire to be prayed for.  If you protest, remember to do it out of love and not to fulfill some kind of agenda.

Don’t let the enemy injure or kill you with forgetfulness.  Know who you are, whose you are, and what you are meant to do in this life.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life… – Philippians 2:14-16a

Don’t be like the Israelites, whom after escaping from Egypt, longed to go back, forgetting that they were once former slaves.

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

Jon Pannell

P. S. — Disagree with me? Let’s talk about it.

Pre-Gifted: The Gifts of the Wise Men

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Solstice!  Season’s Greetings!  Happy Whatever-You-Celebrate-In-December!

I want to wish you an awesome holiday season full of joy, peace, and good tidings, and hopefully no fruitcake.  I don’t think anyone likes fruitcake.  But that’s beside the point.

Social media has become a place where the loudest argument wins, where we have the option to hide behind the safety and security of our screens and proceed to rip apart every statement that comes our way, even if it doesn’t concern us.  We react violently instead of responding gracefully.  We get offended by everything.  We would rather unfriend and unfollow someone instead of discussing our differences over food and coffee.

The truth?  It’s one huge distraction.

This month of December is a time where we are supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  This season is supposed to be a time of cheer and selflessness, Christmas caroling, Kevin saying, “Merry Christmas you filthy animal,” and Buddy the Elf shouting out “SANNTAAAA!”   But I hardly see that nowadays.

Buddy

Yep, I put that here because reasons.

Call me an idealist (ironically I’m an INFP), but we’re missing Jesus.

I was involved in this year’s Annual Virginia Christmas Spectacular by Thomas Road.  During our Nativity scene, I had to introduce the band of scholars, the wise men, who followed a star until it led them to Jesus.

Turn with me to Matthew 2.  After Jesus was born, the wise men (Magi) were summoned by King Herod to find the child so that he could worship Him (Spoiler alert:  That wasn’t Herod’s intention!)

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

I want to talk about the three gifts here:  Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Gold – Jesus as King

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain,

Gold I bring to crown Him again,

King forever, ceasing never over us all to reign.

Gold is a precious metal and is often used as a status symbol for those in royalty.  It’s dense and very weighty.  The elements of the tabernacle mentioned throughout Exodus and Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6 has elements created from pure gold or overlaid in gold.

Gold is incredibly valuable, but it’s also very soft.  It can be bent, twisted, and beaten down, but that doesn’t change its identity.

Christ the King lived a life that we couldn’t live.  He experienced good times and bad, joy and sorrow, trials and temptations.  He was beaten down, attacked, and broken, but His identity as the Son of God never changed.  He who knew no sin became sin so that we could become His righteousness.

Here’s the thing.  There is no amount of gold that can even compare to the kingship of Christ.  His kingdom will never end.  His love and justice has the final word.  You can mock Him, claim He doesn’t exist, challenge Him, but He is still God.

Christ is King forever and ever!  Hallelujah!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. — Isaiah 9:6-7

Frankincense – Christ as God

Frankincense to offer have I

Incense owns a Deity nigh.

Prayer and praising all men raising, worship Him, God on high.

Frankincense is a high quality composition.  Some of you burn incense in your homes and it gives off a distinct fragrance.  During Old Testament times, incense was burned daily and nightly as a constant offering to God.  It accompanied sacrifices and was burned by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on the annual Day of Atonement.

Incense represents the prayers and intercessions of people to a spiritual power.  In this case, it’s the saints (Christ followers) to the Almighty Father, with Christ as the mediator.  We offer our incense to God whenever we pray to Him.  Did I mention that prayer is a weapon against the enemy?  When you pray, God is working on your behalf.  He will guide you, protect you, sustain you, but only if you call out to Him.

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You!

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! — Psalm 141:1-2

And when [the Lamb] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. — Revelation 5:8

Myrrh – Christ as Sacrifice

Myrrh is mine: It’s bitter perfume

breathes a life of gathering gloom.

Sorry, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

Myrrh served a few purposes.  It was an ingredient in anointing oil, it was also an embalming agent, and a perfume.

Well, if myrrh seems like a good gift, then why is it associated with death per the last verse?

Take a look at Mark 15:23.  This is where Jesus is being crucified.  The sinless Son of God whom the Pharisees demanded His death is being forced to carry the cross to Golgotha (Place of a Skull).  They nail Him to a cross.  The suffering is excruciating.

Look up Roman crucifixion in your spare time.  That’s what Christ went through for you and I.

And they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it.

According to Jewish custom, those sentenced to crucifixion were given this mixture of wine and myrrh to deaden the senses, to make the pain more bearable.  Jesus didn’t take it.  He went through hours of pain with the weight of the sins of the world upon Him.  When He died, they laid Him in a tomb, embalmed with spices and myrrh (John 19:39-42).

But that’s not the end of the story.

Three days later, the tomb is empty and Christ has risen in glory!  The Son of God conquering death so that all who would believe would be born again!  He has given us the task of spreading the good news of the Gospel, that He died for us, killing our sin, so that we can live with and for Him in this world and for eternity (Matthew 28:19-20, John 3:16).

The wise men’s gift of myrrh was a prophetic indication that He would be the great Sacrifice, the one who would give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Wise Men

Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and Sacrifice

Alleluia, alleluia!

Earth to heav’n replies

For this Christmas season, remind yourself.  It’s not about Santa Claus, the presents, or the jaded commercialism.  Instead, it’s about one night in Bethlehem that changed the course of history; a prophecy hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the making.

The Baby Jesus, born of a virgin in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

The angels heralding of Christ’s birth to nearby shepherds.

The wise men a time later presenting their gifts to the future King, God, and Sacrifice.

Reflect on that, my friend.  Read the stories for yourselves.  Slow down and appreciate what God has done for you and I on this one particular, holy night.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:14-16

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

Merry Christmas and an awesome New Year!

-Jon Pannell

Disagree?  Let’s talk!

On Unity in the Face of Adversity

Friday the 13th of November.  A tragic day for the world.

Terrorists opened fire and set off bombs in Paris, France.  Terror group ISIS admits involvement and says that this is only the beginning.

There were earthquakes in Japan and Mexico.

There was a bombing in Baghdad and a suicide bombing in Beirut.

It was said that “24 hours and we lost 115,200 heartbeats.”

In the past 24 hours, I have never seen such unity across the internet and social media.  I see people with France’s colors over their profile pictures.  I see the hashtag #prayforparis or even #prayfortheworld.  People are quoting Les Mis and standing in solidarity for the world.  Places around the world are lighting up in the colors of the French flag.

We're with you, France!

We’re with you, France!

The world it its brokenness, is coming together in sympathy and empathy.

It’s beautiful.

I love seeing people are putting their differences aside and coming together and fighting for a common cause and common good.

In a world where we get offended by just about everything, we forget the importance of unity.  We find solace in our criticisms, disagreements, and divisions.  We are addicted to drama, gossip, and dissension.  We’re losing friends, burning bridges, and building barriers through our beliefs.  Yet it takes a tragedy of national or global proportions to bring us together.

I’m going to geek out for a brief moment.  One of the games I have, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, involves the heroes and villains of two worlds, Marvel and Capcom, fighting against one another.  But they realize that something greater, Galactus, is about to destroy the planet they call home.  The two worlds seemingly drop their differences and band together to defeat Galactus.

I think that when the common good and the essence of life and freedom are threatened, that’s when we draw the line.  This is where we drop the things that divide us and wage war against the enemy.  We need to see this type of attitude in our nation and in our churches.

There are people out there who hate unity.  They will do whatever they can to make and maintain division in this nation, world and our churches.  They are addicts and drama is their drug.  They make mountains out of molehills, reopen wounds, and bait unsuspecting people into their agendas.

But I digress.  Let’s look at Psalm 133.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!  For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Whenever the word “Behold,” is mentioned in the Bible, it usually means to pay close attention to what is being said next.  It is used to point out something of importance.  In this case, it’s the goodness and pleasantness of unity.

Now, I want to tell you that the goal is unity, not uniformity.  Unity is coming together despite our differences.  Uniformity is coming together in the name of sameness.  Unity is based on love; uniformity is based on coercion.  Unity celebrates the unique pieces that make the big picture of a puzzle; uniformity celebrates the whole puzzle as the parts that have been manipulated to fit.  Unity is individuals with one mission and one cause; conformity creates mindless minions.

Unity is a beautiful thing, people!  Embrace it!  Be civil about your differences, but come together when it matters.

Unity

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

Oil is required when someone is to be anointed.  Being anointed means you are set apart for a purpose.

In Exodus 30, there is a section on the anointing oil and incense.  This is also the part where Aaron and his sons are anointed to be God’s priests.

You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. and you shall say to the people of Israel, “This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations.  It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition.  It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.  Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people – Exodus 30:30-33

Earlier in the chapter (verse 22-24), we see the composition of the anointing oil.  Everything said oil touched became consecrated and holy; sacred and set apart, giving off a pleasant aroma.  It’s serious.

See the connection?  There is a holiness, a sweet sacredness, something ordained by God in unity!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!  For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Geography lesson:  Hermon is the highest point in Palestine, capped in snow and can be seen from miles around.  The dew flows from its peak to the mountains of Zion.

So, what does the oil on Aaron and the dew from Mt. Hermon have in common with unity?

It’s the flow.  It starts from the top until it flows down to the bottom most part.  The anointing oil of Aaron went from head to toe.  The dew of Hermon went from top to bottom.  In the same way is unity.  Unity is a blessing of God from Him to us.

Unity must come from Him, or else it can be easily corrupted.  Now, I must stress that unity has to come from God, or else it’s going to fall apart.  We’re human, I understand.  But this gives us all the more reason to lean on God.

There is life in unity because it is a connection between God and His people, Christ and His Church, Holy Spirit and the believer.

So when we unite, what is the goal?  Does it give glory to God?  Is the goal to work together or create minions?

I think it’s time to stop listening to those who are intent on dividing us and instead start joining forces to go on mission.  This world is broken, and only God Himself can restore and revive.  He’s chosen us to bring that message, this Gospel, to the world.  What are you doing with that message?

When our enemies join us to fight the greater enemy, it’s an opportunity to engage in the Great Commission!

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. – Jesus; John 16:33

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

-Jon Pannell

P.S. – If you disagree with me, let’s talk and be civil about it.  Unity is a desire that God has placed in my heart to see happen across the globe and in our churches.

The Salty Christian

Hello friends, once again I have the opportunity to write to you guys.  I hope your month/week/season/semester is going well and that you are spending quality time hanging out with Jesus.

It’s been a while since I have written on this blog and I didn’t have the time or the idea to write, until now.

As most of you know, Joshua Feuerstein encouraged Christians to have Starbucks baristas write “Merry Christmas” on their red cups.

You’re probably wondering, “Oh no, not another red cup post.  Can’t we just drop it already?” And then proceed to close my blog post.

Darn you Starbucks for making me be vocal about my faith!  *sarcasm*

Darn you Starbucks for making me somewhat vocal about my faith! *sarcasm*

I’m not going to touch on this issue that much.  Honestly.  Keep reading.

In my opinion, we as Christ followers tend to get upset when companies and corporations wage a “war on Christmas,” and that the secular liberal progressives are ousting God, like that is going to hurt His feelings.  Let me tell you folks something.

Christ will still be in Christmas and He will still be involved in America as long as there are people in those arenas who are devoted to Him.  He is still on His throne, and He will be reigning there forever.  He conquered death, hell, and the grave.  So, why do we feel the need to be upset over something as a silly red cup?

The word “salty” has become one of my favorite words to use in today’s day and age.  It means to be angry, upset, agitated (thank you, Urban Dictionary!).  Most Christ followers aren’t salty about the red cups, but they are salty that other Christians are salty about the red cups.  We’re saltier than a Salted Caramel Mocha with extra salt (which is probably definitely not good for you, with so much salt).

Mmm...delicious.

Mmm…delicious.

BUT, What if I told you that we as Christ followers are supposed to be salty?  And no, I’m not talking about the angry and upset kind of salty.  This is a different kind of salty.

Turn with me to Matthew 5:13.  This verse is at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says this:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the salt of the earth.

Salt had incredible value and revenue before and during Jesus’ time.  Soldiers were paid in salt and it accompanied sacrificial offerings.

Salt is a mineral that adds flavor.  Salt makes food interesting.  Do you have bland food?  Put a little salt in it!

Christ followers are not meant to be bland and boring!  Your life should make people wonder how you still hold on in difficult situations, how you still have joy even in the direst of circumstances, how you were RESCUED from a life of sin and TRANSFORMED by the power and love of Christ.  Your saltiness should come out as a testimony of God working in and through your life through your words, actions, and character.

Salt also preserves.  There were no refrigerators or many preserving agents in biblical times other than salt.  If you had food, you better cook it or handle it as soon as possible or it will not bode well for you.  Salt helps preserve food to make it fresher longer.  The food will not spoil or rot for a while.

Salt represents endurance and protection from corruption, dear Christ follower.  In your saltiness, are you persevering in your daily life?  Are you staying strong?  Are you fully equipped with the armor of God so that you can stand after you done all you could (Eph. 6)?

Salt also heals.  If you have a wound, you will need to put something on it to keep it from getting infected.  Salt is an antiseptic that does just that.  It’s painful, but it will do the job as true healing takes place

Christians are meant to be healers.  We heal by speaking the Truth of Christ and from His Word.  We can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be healed.  It involves confronting sin, but also provides an eternal remedy.

But if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

If salt doesn’t get used, or if it’s contaminated, it goes bad; there’s no use for it.

As Christ followers, we are meant to live out and be vocal and unashamed about our faith.  When we are not committed to God, one another, and our neighbor and engage in the spiritual disciplines, we start to atrophy.  We weaken.  We get stale.  It’s the same when we compromise our beliefs.

Salt and sand are both minerals, but salt brings life and zest.  Would you rather have salt in your food or sand?  Christ follower, if you lose your zest and zeal, what will make you different from a nonbeliever?  If you lose your savor, of what purpose will you serve?  It will take a miracle, a revival even, for you to be salty again.

So yes, brother or sister in Christ, let’s be biblically salty, but not in the contemporary sense.  Let’s not be upset and offended over the small stuff; instead continue to live life with Christ as your Savior and Lord and to tell others about Him.  Remember, the “attacks” on Christianity and the negative events of this world do not excuse you from fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:6

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

– Jon Pannell

P. S. – Got questions for me?  Let’s talk about them.