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!)

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.

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.

Church, Be Like Jesus!

Church, I believe there is still hope for our nation.

Okay, call me an optimist, or maybe even delusional, but I truly believe that America can turn around and experience an earth shattering revival that reaches the world.  Why?

Because hope has a name, and His name is Jesus.

As you all know, there have been tons of stories and issues in the past few weeks from the news and social media:

  • ISIS continues to persecute and kill Christians and those who do not adhere to their radical faith and beliefs.
  • The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • The debate of the Confederate Flag; is it relevant, offensive, and necessary?
  • SCOTUS’s decision to legalize gay marriage in every state in the nation in spite of individual state views.
  • Stories of police brutality.
  • Stories of riots.
  • Instances of racism, whether real, perceived, or made up.
  • Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner
  • The Patriot and Freedom Acts

There have been a lot of contention and heated debates everywhere on social media, resulting in choice words, unfollowing, unfriending, and just flat out name calling.  People are slashing and wounding others within the safety of being behind their screens while the rest of us watch and weep as we attempt to make peace and seek unity.

There are also Christians who insist we are in the end times, that the events of Revelation, 1 Thessalonians, the Gospels, and Daniel are coming to pass.

“The Antichrist is soon coming,” they say, “and it’s (insert person here and reason why).”

“America is becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“This nation is going to hell in a handbasket!”

“There’s no more hope for America!”

But I believe that there’s hope for this nation, and His name is Jesus.

American Church

Church, we forget (and often!) that Jesus has already won.  Instead, we have a tendency to complain and speculate about the current events and issues in our nation.  We withhold love and grace that Christ and instead Bible bash.  We have these unrealistic expectations for nonbelievers and even fellow Christians to be holy as we, not Christ, are holy.  We get all uppity and hurt because sinners are acting like sinners; it’s in their nature.  In our pride, we tell God that we can do His job better than He can.

We mercilessly and remorselessly limit and manipulate the power of God to make it only “effective” through our “spiritual checklists.”  We make others put on a show to please God as we do the same thing.  Our testimony becomes irrelevant as our works and deeds seem to show a Christian life, but our spiritual and moral lives are bankrupt. It is a religious circus doomed to fail.

We judge others because they sin differently than we do.  We try to take the speck of sawdust out of other people’s eyes when we have enough planks in our own eyes to build a log cabin.

I’m working this summer at a Christian camp.  Here, we meet kids and staff members who have great relationships with Christ.  But we also have those who come from deep, dark stuff bringing stories of abuse, addiction, insecurity, and love withheld or revoked with them.  The staff and I encounter real questions and legitimate concerns.  Their brokenness breaks my heart, but we get to show them Jesus, the Healer of our hurts, the only One who can put us back together into something new.

All of a sudden, the desire to be right fades away.  Contention and chaos cease.  People are now seen as God sees them, as humans with flaws who have been wounded and are looking for answers and in need of a Savior.  This, Church, is where we can save the day, by bringing them Jesus.

Bible

Take a look with me to Matthew 9:10-13.  Here, Jesus reclines with His disciples as well as tax collectors and sinners:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when He heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus enjoyed having company with sinners…and we should too!

Would you look at that?  Jesus hangs out with the outcasts, the undesirable, and the lowest of the low.  Tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners are some of His favorite people.  If Jesus was born and living in this day and age, I think He would be in a homeless shelter, talking with the people there.  He would have coffee and conversation with someone in the sex industry.  I would even say that He would share a meal with corrupt business men.  He would be the one who would hug people at a gay pride parade/festival.

I would go even further to say that you would rarely see Him at church.

Before you dismiss me, let me clarify.  The church in the Greek does NOT mean a building.  The church is a living and breathing organism of a people called out that meet together to build one another up and to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus often went to dark places to shine His light.  I mean, He cast out demons for crying out loud!  Now that Jesus is not physically on this earth, we as the Church (universal) have a responsibility to go to those dark places and do what Jesus did; love what He loves and to be the light of the world.

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

Church, darkness rarely finds its way to the light.  Let’s stop praying for people to come to church and instead be the answer to that prayer by doing something!  Let’s go into those dangerous places and shine our God-given light!  After all, if Christ is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31)

The religious took notice…and asked “Why?”

The Pharisees are interesting people.  They know the Word, they’re zealous, follow the commandments, and are often leaders of their time.  In a way, they’re just like you and me.

They’re also like you and me in the sense of hypocrisy.  Some of Jesus’ harshest words were for the Pharisees and religious officials.  These guys upheld the rules (613 statutes of Mosaic Law) and traditions of men over love, justice, and mercy.  They honor God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him.  They shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  They are blind guides leading the blind.  They withhold love and grace from other people and expect them to act according to their standards of holiness.

Want to take a quick test to see if you’re a Pharisee?  Replace the mention of Pharisees with yourself.  Take some time to reflect, pray, and repent.  I’ve been guilty of this as well.

The religious look at those who are living for Christ and ask others, and God, “Why are they doing this?  Don’t they know about this person or that place?  God won’t even go near them!”  They claim to be God’s spokespeople.  Don’t be that person.  Ever.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. — Galatians 6:1

Who needs a doctor? The well…or the sick?

It’s interesting how Jesus presents this statement in verse 12.  Obviously, you need a doctor when you’re sick.  If you have the life-threatening sickness of sin, then you need the Great Physician, who is none other than Jesus.  The people Jesus built relationships with were sick:  the demon-possessed, the prostitute, the dishonest, etc.  The Pharisees were sick as well, but with a different and dare I say worse illness.

Self-righteousness.

The Pharisees thought they were the special group that’s going to get all the glory from God when they passed away.  They kept the law and saw themselves as more righteous and holy for keeping the law than the layperson.  They looked down on sinners.  They were prideful and competitive.  They had the whole “holier than thou” mentality.

The similarity between the sinner and the self-righteous is that they are both sinners, sin has made them sick and they need the healing power of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

The difference between the two is that the sinner acknowledges their sin and seeks Christ while the self-righteous deny that anything is wrong with them.

It’s amazing to know how sinners can see the face of God and repent while the self-righteous see the face of God and not even feel remorse.

Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him.  And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. — Matthew 21:31-32

Mercy, or Sacrifice?

The Pharisees were notorious for stepping over people to accomplish the Law.  In essence, they sinned while trying to get people to not sin.  They tie up unbearable burdens on other people, but are not willing to lift a finger to help them (Matthew 23:4).  They think that God wants sacrifice over mercy and that justify their actions.  In other words, God will grant you mercy if you follow the Law and traditions of man with no help from us.

But Jesus flips it.  Instead of forcing people to conform to our expectations, we should see people as God sees them and have compassion on them.  He gave us love, grace, and mercy in our brokenness and sin; why not do the same thing to others?  It’s God’s job to remake us into His image and set us apart.

So what?

With the nuttiness going on around this nation, we need to stop living our couch-potato, lukewarm, defeatist, fatalistic, and self-righteous “Christianity”:

  • We cry “Injustice!” but do nothing else.
  • We are “slacktivists,” where we throw some of our money at a cause, but do nothing else.
  • We obsess over the end times and wait for Jesus to come back, but do nothing else.
  • We debate over doctrine and theological issues while attempting to shun heretics, but do nothing else.
  • We read the Word of God, but do nothing else.
  • We obsess over getting ready for Christ to return, but do nothing else

As Christians, we are called to be Christ-like in everything we say and do.  When we meet people, they should encounter Jesus who says, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).  We need to get up, repent, and get our hands dirty as we win souls for Christ.  Let’s jump into this harvest.  Let’s venture into the dark places.  Let’s get out of our hypocrisy, get away from our computer and phone screens, and make disciples.

Don’t. Give. Up.

People should hate you because of their hatred for Jesus, not because of you being a jerk.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see this nation have an encounter with Christ and for true revival to break out!  Who’s with me?

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

Jon Pannell

P.S. — Enjoy this song from Casting Crowns. Also, let me know if you have any questions!