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.

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Of Politics and Conversations

I’m not a big fan of politics.  I don’t like them.  At all.

There, I said it.  And I feel better.

Monday morning, March 23, 2015, the students walked into the Vines Center at Liberty University to hear Ted Cruz speak and announce that he will run for presidential candidate.

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The media blew up like the 4th of July.  The major news outlets were all over that one hour of a Monday morning like the white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm” (Major Payne reference, anyone?).  The media covered everything from Ted Cruz’s intention to run as candidate to the few students (some of them I know) wearing the “Stand with Rand” shirts to the fact that students were “forced” or “required” to hear this address during Convocation.

Social media displayed several sides of the spectrum.  My Libertarian and Republican friends are cheering, while others are combating the media statements, while others were giving more reasons why they hate Liberty University, as others are just sick and tired of the entire thing (like me).

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

There comes a time, actually quite often, where we seem to forget that Jesus is on the throne and that He is the One we must answer to when everything fades away.  We are called to be followers of Christ, but sometimes conservatism and politics become our god.  It’s funny how we are called to be the Church, but become so divided when it comes to something like politics.

A house divided by itself cannot stand…

I want to encourage you, brothers and sisters of the faith we share, that it’s okay to disagree with one another, but when you inject your disagreements with pure vitriol, you will end up doing more damage than good.

The best way to win an argument is to avoid it. An argument is one thing you will never win. If you win, you lose; if you lose, you lose. If you win an argument but lose a good job, customer, friend or marriage, what kind of victory is it? Pretty empty. — P. Paulraj

Folks, let’s have healthy discussions about what we believe in differently.  Let’s have discussions that break down the walls of stereotypes, beliefs, and insecurities.  Ask yourself constantly, “Am I bringing glory to God by my words, actions, and posts?”  Are your words edifying others?

Know this, my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. — James 1:19-20

Be quick to hear.  The best part of having a conversation is knowing when to shut up and listen.  One way of winning a brother or sister is by listening to their side of the story.  Don’t expect people to think and act the same way you do.  There is a reason why people say what they say and do what they do.  Listen and even have them rant.  And be attentive!  People are turned off by someone who is seen as uncaring.

Be slow to speak.  While you’re having this discussion, think about what you want to say.  Oh, and for the love of all that is Jesus, don’t lose your testimony over your quick mouth.  Don’t say things that you’ll regret for the sake of being right in an argument.  Thinking about what to say doesn’t make you a bad “debater,” it makes you a thoughtful one.  It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers.

Be slow to anger.  Anger is a God-given emotion that can bring glory to Him if used correctly.  If mishandled, people can get wounded almost instantly.  Be careful with your words and how you say them.  Nobody wins in an argument when anger is used incorrectly.  You may apologize, but nothing can be done to take back what was said or posted.  It will take time to heal verbal wounds.

Whenever we engage in any kind of discussion (not just political), we tend to do the exact opposite of what this passage of Scripture says.  We become slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.  Instead of responding with careful words and consideration, we instead react with careless thoughts and become defensive.  Don’t get me wrong, we are all called to defend our beliefs (1 Peter 3:15); but how we defend determines the outcome of our message.CoffeeSpeak

Let’s engage the world with gentleness and respect, folks.

And PLEASE, don’t argue on the Internet!  I can’t stress this enough!  People will hide behind the egos of their screens and Internet life.  Plus, there are trolls that will bait you into a reactive response.  It’s better to have discussions in person or maybe even over the phone.

You may disagree with me, and that’s fine.  I’m more of a peacekeeper first anyway (not the Hunger Games kind) and a fighter against the enemy and his schemes second, not the other way around.

Folks, you are Christ-followers first, and politicians second.  Don’t ever forget that.

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

Jon Pannell