Tag Archives: Micah 6:8

“What should we do?” (Part 3 of 3)

what-should-we-doIf we have power, we must use it to help the powerless.

While John was preaching hot and heavy about what authentic repentance looks like, three groups of people approached him with the same operative question, “What should we do?” Okay, Messiah’s coming and God will judge the unrepentant. His ax is ready for swinging, so what do we do to escape its cut? John tailored his responses to each group a little differently.

He told the hyper-religious group to share their food and clothing with the poor and he commanded the tax-collecting shysters to stop robbing their neighbors. The last baptismal candidates were soldiers. To them the prophet said:

“Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

These mercenary soldiers likely operated as the tax collectors’ muscle in their shakedowns of helpless fellow citizens. The Greek term that John used for “extort” means “to rob with violence.” They were so discontent with their take home pay that they resorted to leg-breaking for the IRS of the day. The preacher told them to live within their means with their state-issued paycheck and refrain from manipulating the powerless for extra cash.

I warn you not to dismiss John’s word just because you’re not in the Army or an enforcer for the mob! Like the soldiers, most of us have some power of some sort over someone, and how we steward that power says more about us than our possession of the power itself. How we use our power is reflective of have truly repentant we are. Continue reading

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Buying and selling humans?!

trafficking picI have a t-shirt that says, “Ban Slavery” and some middle school aged kids on their bikes waiting at the corner for the light to change looked at my shirt and said, “There are no slaves in the world today! Are there?”

“Yeah, about 27 million they say.”

“No way!”

“I know, shocking, huh?”

“Where are they?” they asked.

“On farms growing our vegetables, in sweat shops in Cambodia making our clothes, and here in the City being raped by men who pay their pimps by the hour!”

They rode off without a reply. I think I freaked ‘em out. Either that – and even worse than that – they downloaded what I’d said in a folder on their heart-drive in a place they never look. I have a few folders like that, full of stuff I either don’t care about or don’t want to think about.

Had the light afforded us more time I might’ve told those kids that people selling other people is the fastest growing criminal industry, generating $32 billion around the world annually. I would’ve said that after drugs and guns, trafficking in humans is the third most profitable international crime and that there are more than twice as many enslaved people in the world today than were abducted from Africa and brutalized during the entire 350 years of the Atlantic slave trade. I could’ve mentioned that the average age of a girl forced into prostitution in this country is 11 to 14, and some 9 years old! I might have mentioned that at any given time there are 50,000 predators prowling the Internet for children. I could’ve given them more factoids about human trafficking, but since factoids don’t usually lead to action, it’s just as well. Continue reading

I hate your worship! (Part 2 of 2)

I concluded Part 1 with: “The point I’m compelled to make is…” Let’s take it from there.

The point I’m compelled to make is … that whholyspirit-450x450en we obviously don’t care about anyone but ourselves, God is not impressed in the least with our worship – whether traditional or contemporary, accompanied by professional musicians on a stage or by a guy with an out of tune guitar on a stool. The kind of worship that God hates is the kind that comes from people who have no concern for justice for the “oppressed, the fatherless, and the widow.”

——————-

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs!
 I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:21-24

“Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me… Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:13-17

“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
… He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
 And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23

——————-

What these ancient worshippers neglected was compassion and just treatment for the marginalized. This isn’t the only thing that disqualifies one from worshipping well, but in each of these passages the common theme is injustice. God requires us to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” Treating people fairly and mercifully should be as natural and as unstoppable as the flow of a mighty river. We can sing jaunty songs, dance with abandonment, and shout his praises till we’re hoarse, but if we fail to take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow our worship can never be thought of as “good.” Continue reading

I hate your worship! (Part 1 of 2)

holyspirit-450x450“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs!
 I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:21-24

“Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me… Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:13-17

“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
… He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
 And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23

——————-

“I hate your worship!” is not exactly what you want to hear at the end of an otherwise sweet worship time at your church. How could God be so unappreciative, so fierce in his evaluation of anyone’s sincere praise? Apparently he cares about, not only how we worship, but the way we live in between worship times. Continue reading

Outer Circle Churches (Part 7 of 6ish)

[As you can see, this is a multi-post theme and you might find it helpful to begin at the beginning.]

Those of you who have more brain cells than me might notice a discrepancy in the arithmetic above, yet I’ve got that covered in the “ish” part of the “6”. I always have more to say than I originally plan, and have therefore become quite appreciative of the “ish”

An Outer Circle Church targets the poor, and if the rich come, they teach them to serve the poor.

Someone said, “There is hope for the rich if they are willing to repent and live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, to be converted to God and to each other… Jesus didn’t neglect the rich, he evangelized them to love and give to the poor.”

New churches often target wealthier communities thinking that when they have a critical mass of bodies and bucks they’ll form a committee or a program to reach out to the poor. But it’s a curious reality that wealthy people and large congregations give proportionately less to the poor than the churches more meager in numbers and income. Wealthy churches tend to spend a higher percentage of their income internally – on staff, buildings, advertising, programs and events. They’re busy maintaining the machine that covertly hijacked them like Hal in the movie, 2001. They have no time, money, or heart left for those with the greatest needs. Continue reading

The Missional, Merciful, Worshipful Christian (Part 3 of 4)

[If you haven’t seen Parts 1 & 2 I hope you’ll take a quick look at them for context. These posts are a cursory glance at Luke 10 and three key components to a balanced walk with Jesus. I introduced it in Part 1 and talked about being “missional” in Part 2. Based on the Good Samaritan Parable in this post I talk a bit about being “merciful.” Hope it’s meaningful.]

I’m embarrassed to admit that while as a pastor I had taught the Good Samaritan Parable  on several occasions over the years, I had very little understanding about how to apply it in my top dog social status as a white middle class American male who’s never faced a day of injustice in my privileged life. I simply had a blind spot in my view of one of the things that is quite important to the Lord – there was a hole in my holiness (probably tons of them). I’ve learned that, like the Pharisees, I should never underestimate my power to be wrong about God and what he wants. Continue reading

What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #16

[This is the 2nd half of a brief chapter on God’s justice. You might benefit from reading the 1st half first.]

He’s compassionate in distribution

Among us Evangelicals it’s a well-known fact, if not a particularly well-appropriated reality, that God is “consistent in retribution.” We know that his justice is retributive, and when he forgives, he’s being consistent with himself and forgives on the basis of a satisfied justice. Yet, at least in my circles, we haven’t been nearly as familiar with the theme, every bit as prominently taught in Scripture, that his justice is also an expression of his compassion. Continue reading