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When Your Enemy Falls

How should a Christian respond when an “enemy” falls?

Like any human being, a Christian is not immune to the temptations of gloating, celebrating, or even berating with an “I told you so” or two. Certainly we all will experience a heavenly moment when the wicked who have wronged us face a righteous judge (we will face Him too), but it is also possible that those who’ve wounded us will face consequences here on earth. It could be through prison time, termination of their employment, or public embarrassment. Or the “darker side” of consequences like physical injury, destruction of livelihood, or even death. In all of these, there is a part of our flesh that wants to pummel our enemies into oblivion. We want the arm they took from us, and then we want to take their legs too. For believers, this heart posture must be put in check.

I remember the moment a report came into me via text message. Not just any report, but a juicy report that fed my flesh the kind of a dish it loves; an “enemy combatant” from my past had experienced a painful and embarrassing event that exposed them for the person I already knew them to be. I felt vindicated — even, happy. I thought to myself, “Yes! finally! You got what you deserved!”

But the celebration did not last long. As quickly as my flesh fueled my prideful joy, The Holy Spirit rushed in with conviction and I was struck with a feeling that something was not right in my heart. I knew that I needed to hear from God concerning my reaction. I opened my Bible and Proverbs 24:17 did the talking.

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles”

I had read that proverb many, many times. Only this time, it hit like a ton of bricks. I quickly realized it was not time to throw a party filled with celebratory vindication. It was time to confess my sin (1 John 1:9), and pray.

When navigating these kinds of situations, self-reflection is vital. At least two questions can be helpful.

Am I Following The Model of Jesus?

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught numerous truths that helped to guide His original audience, and us today. At one point, His words cause us to pause and re-think justice when it comes to interpersonal relationships and conflict. He declared,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).

Jesus consistently taught and modeled self-denial. Any form of seeking revenge or gloating in the pain of others as form of retaliatory justice is not how followers of Jesus are to operate. Such behavior reveals a heart that is seeking “self.” He challenged both His followers and His detractors with this truth. To follow Him means you will be others-focused, and yes, even enemies-focused, in your prayers, reactions, service, and even in your love. The goal is not that you crush them in defeat, but rather, that they might be won over by our witness for the gospel or stand before God without excuse (Romans 10:14-21).

Am I Overlooking My Own Sin?

It’s one thing to desire justice to prevail and law and order to be maintained. That is good for society. However, there is a vein of our culture that demands justice for ourselves, and judgment on others, without ever looking in the mirror of our hearts. We are so quick to point the finger at those who hurt us, but is it possible that their moment of consequence is an opportunity for us to confess sin as well?

When our enemies fall and we desire to celebrate their pain and embarrassment, we are actively denying our own need for the gospel and our own need for grace. The Pharisees were experts at this.

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus warns, “Judge not, that you be judged. For the with the judgment, you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure, you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Jesus spoke these strong words to both His disciples, and the religious leaders who were experts at self-serving forms of justice and elevating their own righteousness. Without fear, Jesus confronted their hypocrisy and taught His disciples that self-denial is the very essence of what it means to follow Him. Self-denial includes looking in the mirror, facing your own sin, and being humbled by the downfall of others because it could have been you too.

It is impossible to say that we love Jesus and not obey His commands (John 14:15). One of those commands is to love our enemies — which is an impossible task to obey without Jesus’ help.

When an enemy falls and you are tempted to gloat, look to the gospel for humble hope. It is in Christ alone that you will find the strength to love your enemy, and to pray for those who persecute you.

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Dale Thackrah is the Senior Executive Pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He holds an M.A. from Biola University and is a certified biblical counselor who specializes in conflict resolution and financial stewardship. He lives in Queen Creek, AZ with his wife and two children. 

10 Commandments for Social Media

This article needs minimal introduction. Social media is ablaze right now and has been for some time. Rage is on the rise, wars are fought using words as ammunition, and aggressive debate takes its toll on even the most upbeat human souls.

How does a Christian resist the temptation to hurl verbal stones when it has become fashionable to do so? What stands in the way of us believing that launching insults and attacking others is akin to “fighting the good fight” of faith?

I find that the temptation to dive into the social media fray is ever-present, so during a recent vacation, I got off social media and prayed through some principles that I could use to redeem the use of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While we all fail at using proper social media etiquette from time to time (I am guilty of this!), these “10 Commandments for Social Media” may prove especially helpful during turbulent days like the ones we are currently in. If anything, using them as a part of your regular posting protocols may keep you out of a few more kerfuffles and offer more peace of mind.

  1. Thou shalt post scripture passages

Whatever happened to the good ole’ fashioned days of “posting a Bible verse” on social media? Try this one out and consider posting daily from the word of God. You may even want to only post a Bible passage some days. Thankfully, several Christian leaders do this regularly.

  1. Thou shalt post biblically-rich articles

When is the last time you heard of someone changing the world with an angry tweet, slanderous tabloid fare, or trashy news? It doesn’t happen. But what does change hearts and minds? Biblically rich resources — even if they pack a bit of a (conviction-driven) punch from time to time. People need solid writing that is loaded with practical and biblical teaching. Nothing feeds hungry hearts better than God’s will from God’s word. Point people to Jesus in biblical ways and help them practically apply divine truths. That will change the world.

  1. Thou shalt post expository sermons

It might get more hits to share gossip, but what people need is the gospel and deep dives into the Scriptures. In the long run, the amount of encouragement and edification that occurs when we share gospel-centered sermons that walk people verse-by-verse through the Bible will long outlive anything else we share because the results are eternal. Share your favorite sermons, recommend faithful pastors, and watch God use your efforts to draw His people home.

  1. Thou shalt post edifying videos (or GIFs)

We are living in a “video” generation. Social media sites optimize posts that use video, people devour videos, and millions share videos. Believers who want to redeem social media can do so by posting biblically-rich videos that edify and encourage people. And remember, sometimes brevity is best. Not to be outdone, the GIF has been a revolutionary little tool for social media use. In my humble opinion, there is no one better at the “Christian” use of these than my Twitter friend, Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell). He’s the GIF Pastor-Master and consistently edifies his followers by using videos (often funny) that illustrate serious and biblical truths.

  1. Thou shalt post God-glorifying quotes

Posting quotes is one of the best ways to share timeless truths and introduce people to influential theologians, pastors, and reliable sources. While you might think everyone will learn about Spurgeon by reading his pivotal 400+ page work, Lectures to My Students, it’s more likely that people will come to hear about him through Christian’s posting inspiring quotes. From voices of the past like J.C. Ryle, R.C. Sproul, G.K. Chesterton, Elisabeth Elliott, Corrie ten Boom, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Hudson Taylor, to faithful voices of today, quotes edify and educate.

  1. Thou shalt post doctrinally sound book recommendations

What an abundance of wisdom could be spread if we share what books have been impacting our growth? I think teaching people how to identify reliable books is akin like the old cliché that goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” You can share your opinion on a matter and trigger someone’s reaction, or you can share a book and change someone’s mind. Speaking of which, I’ve given you my opinion on this, so here are three books that will shape how you view and use social media: Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke, and The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.

  1. Thou shalt post using gracious and mature speech (Colossians 4:5-6)

While there is nothing wrong with speaking the hard truth, the Bible is clear that a Christian must still use gracious speech even when hidden behind a screen. For all his “telling it like it is” to the Galatian and Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that love was essential in all his efforts (1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:5). Far too often, people treat humans on the other side of social media debates as anything but human, and love is nowhere to be found. A simple question: would you speak and act the way you do online if you were in a group setting at church? With the way some of us operate, we would likely find our way into church discipline or out the door. Let Colossians 4:5-6 be a guiding lamp for the way you walk online.

  1. Thou shalt not engage in petty debate (Titus 3:9)

We’ve all done it. We’ve all regretted it. Petty debate is such an easy sinkhole to fall into online. Reject it, every time. Furthermore, let us never forget that many of the vain wranglers on Twitter and Facebook run monetized YouTube channels and websites. They have a machine — no, a monster — that they must feed. So, instead of making disciples in their local church, studying and teaching real people, and focusing on devotion to Christ and loving their family, they scour the online world looking for theological gnats to strain and molehills to turn into mountains. Back and forth they go, and they go, and they go. Ignore them. This isn’t to say that all “discernment bloggers” fit that picture or that you should never offer a gracious and explanatory response. Many people do a wonderful job equipping saints (Ephesians 4:12), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:16), marking dangerous teachers (Romans 16:17-18), and refuting destructive doctrines (Titus 1:9). They expose evil deeds in very helpful ways (Ephesians 5:11). But consider putting a cap on how many responses you’ll offer before taking it offline with a phone call, or leaving it alone.

  1. Thou shalt not vent in haste on social media

Nothing good comes from online venting. Even if you’re frustrated, “prudence” is a trusted friend that helps even fools remain silent, and thus appear wise (Proverbs 17:28). If we made a dime for every time we should have kept our fingers holstered on social media but chose to vent in haste, we’d all be rich. Some basic tips here: 1) Don’t post late at night, 2) Don’t post when high on emotion, 3) Don’t post if you have second thoughts, and 4) Use #10.

  1. Thou shalt run questionable posts by accountability partners

On a “Top 5” list of temptations for social media users, you’d likely find the temptation to ignore a spouse, a pastor, a friend, or a co-worker who says, “Don’t post that!” or “Don’t say it like that.” Nearly every Tweet I ever regretted posting has been one that my wife or a mentor said, “You really should’ve held off on that one.” Pride says, “I’m fighting the fight here, people!” or “Someone’s got to say tell it like it is and that someone is me!” Unfortunately, pride is rarely (if ever) right. And perhaps someone does need to say “it.” But “it” probably needs an “edit” button.

I hope these help you in some way, shape, or form. Until Christ returns or Twitter gives us an edit button, may we all fight the “online” fight the right way — in a way that honors God.

4 Ways to Leverage “Social Distancing”

COVID-19 has changed the way we can “do church” for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean pastors, leaders, and people can’t stay connected.

While some Christian leaders may get sucked into the vortex of social revolution or cavalier rebellion, Romans 13:1 reminds us to be law-abiding citizens by respecting governing authorities. This means that instead of reacting with anger or indifference, we bring the most glory to God by leveraging the situation for the gospel and the church; making the best of opportunities afforded to us.

Here are 4 ways that church leaders can leverage “social distancing.”

1. Go “LIVE” on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram
I am not certain we fully realize how powerful social media can be for the gospel. Hundreds of millions of people are at the tip of our fingertips on any given day, and content stays out there indefinitely. If you’ve never gone “LIVE” on social media to connect with people, now is perfect to learn how. There is no limit to how much preaching and teaching you can do. While COVID-19 can contain us, it cannot contain God’s word. Unleash sermons by using the “LIVE” feature on social media sites and get people together in real-time. Certain platforms like Facebook have comment sections that allow your team to interact with views during the message. Lastly, if you’re a small group leader, consider shifting to a “LIVE” model or another video platform to keep your group connected.

2. Produce that discipleship content you’ve been meaning to get to
Most church leaders I interact with have more ideas than they have time to implement them. With quarantines changing the way leaders spend and manage their time, now is the perfect opportunity to create content that will bless people now and in the years to come. Great leaders don’t wait for work, they create work! Be a self-starter and think of what could bless the people you serve in creative (long-term) ways. Short videos on giving, serving, evangelism, doctrine, marriage, parenting, and trials are all a fitting place to start. I genuinely believe that a church can still grow in times like these. The question is, will you keep coming up with excuses not to create content? 

3. Send personal, hand-written notes
This may not seem innovative or cutting-edge, but it is. Very few leaders do this anymore and even few would think of it unless “social distancing” forced us apart. People are so used to email, social media posts, and text messages that they might burst into tears after reading a note from their pastor. I’ve seen this happen before! In fact, just yesterday I received a hand-written note from another pastor in East LA. It was one of the highlights of my day! During the COVID-19 outbreak, most of us will e-communicate as much as possible, and that’s a loving thing to do for our neighbors. However, mixing in a personal touch (minus the touching) could speak volumes to people in need of personal and loving interaction. So, wash your hands, use stick-on stamps only, seal the envelop w/ glue or a sticker too, spray it all with Lysol (twice!), and send some love to those who need to know you care.

4. Start a Facebook support group
One of the best ways to share and meet needs during this season of social-distancing is to start a support group for your church or small group. This also helps work around Facebook algorithms which aren’t always promotion-friendly to religious organizations trying to reach an audience. Groups reach the newsfeed of participants much more than other posts on FB that don’t relate to a special group — especially from religious sources. Group interaction allows pastors, leaders, and people to share prayer requests, ask questions, and delegate needs and resources as needed. Best of all, you can use #1 here too and go “LIVE” specifically to address the group with important updates.

Perhaps COVID-19 will trigger new ways of thinking and a new perspective when it comes to using media to equip Christians (Ephesians 4:11-12). Or, perhaps it will remind us all how powerful a simple hand-written note can be for a lonely Christian wondering if anyone has thought of them.

Why not use this season of change to see what you can change? Who knows. You might even keep using some of these helpful tools after the virus has passed.