Acts 19:29-31 and Christians Using Common Sense

Christians are supposed to use common sense. It is that simple. We are not called to be doormats or to turn off our brains as we deal with other people and the world at large. In Ephesus, as Paul was preaching and teaching, a riot broke out. Look at what happened next:

29 The city was filled with the confusion; and people rushed together to the theatre, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travelling-companions. 30 Paul wished to go into the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; 31 even some officials of the province of Asia, who were friendly to him, sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theatre.

Paul was prevented from confronting the crowd because the crowd would have pulled him apart. This also falls in line with what Jesus said in Matthew 10:23, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.”

There are Christians who oppose using common sense. Some simply do not want to think. Others want to take one aspect of the Gospel message and apply it to every single situation in the entire world. Life is more complicated than that. This is why Jesus also said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

If you are a Christian, THINK. Use your God-given brain. Use common sense.

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Christianity and Bars

There’s an old joke: What’s the difference between Methodists and Baptists?  Methodists will say “Hi” to one another in the liquor store.

For my particular branch of the Methodist family we would usually not identify with either, because no Free Methodist would be caught dead in a liquor store.  This was brought fully to my attention a couple of weeks ago.  We are looking for a musician for our church, and no one had any leads on one.  So, I said it may be time to go bar-hopping and find the local musical talent.  I mentioned this in several different contexts with different groups of people in our congregation, and each time I was met with the same nervous laugh that cautiously asked if I was kidding or not.

B0VoFAll joking about bars and liquor stores aside, Jesus was always caught with the wrong people in the wrong places.  He was constantly in the company of sinners, what today we would call those people.  And apparently, he was the life of the party.  Just look at the description the upright and religious folks had of Jesus that Jesus reports as a criticism of him from Matthew 11:16-18:

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard,a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

How have we gotten so far away from Jesus’ example that we would sound more like the Pharisees in this passage?  If we are truly followers of Christ, should we not be doing the same things in the same places that he said and did?

I think much of the core of our problem is that we are afraid.  We are afraid of sin.  We are afraid of being contaminated by sin.  We are afraid of sinners.  We are afraid of being associated with sinners.  We are afraid of what other people might think about us.  We are afraid that we might actually have a good time in a place that is associated with sin, because then we might be sinning or condoning others’ sins.

Isn’t it a good thing Jesus was not bound by these fears?  Salvation entered the world because Jesus was not afraid of being with sinners and in places where sin happens.  After all, he came into the world.  And while he was in the world he regularly went where he was needed most.

I think it is time we quit judging sinners and start judging ourselves for keeping the Good News of salvation quiet in the places where it is needed the most.

Oh, by the way, two men walked into a bar.  The third one ducked.

A Confession

Really?  Does this seem like a welcoming message?

Really? Does this seem like a welcoming message?

I have to confess, I love reading stupid church signs.  My wife says I can be obnoxious about it because I usually have a snarky comment about them.  This probably points to some deeper spiritual issue with which I have yet to deal in my growth in sanctification, and I will probably get over this fascination at some point in the future.  But right now I really like reading them.

I remember years ago, when I was serving a church in Kentucky, one of the local congregations, which was doing a very good job of reaching out into the community, put up a sign that read Whatever your question, Jesus is the answer.  Now I know theologically what they were trying to say: we all have a God-shaped hole in our souls and only Jesus Christ, God incarnate, can fill it.  However, my mind immediately went to the question Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?  Totally irreverent, I know.  But how many people came up with even more irreverent questions because of that sign?  The world may never know.

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Because easy spelling is the main reason to choose religions!

Yesterday, as I was coming home from a leadership training event sponsored by my Conference, I passed a sign on the interstate that read: Where will you spend eternity?  Jesus has the answer.  My first thought to that was, Then why are you asking me?  If Jesus has the answer, why don’t you ask him?  Again, theologically, the sign makes a point: Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead.  It is a hallmark of the Christian faith.

Both of those signs are based upon solid Christian truth, but if I didn’t already know that truth, how in the world would I ever understand the signs?  Like I wrote above, my comments about stupid signs can be snarky, but I know what the signs are trying to say.  Imagine what people come up with for responses to them when they don’t know the Christian message behind them.

Since the church is losing ground in the public square in America, perhaps we should use our signs as opportunities not to be cute or trite or judgmental.  We’ve done that in the past and it hasn’t worked.  Perhaps we should simply use our signs to proclaim good news to people:

Jesus loves you, no matter what.

God wants to hear from you.  Just talk.

Christ can save you from yourself.

Jesus overcame injustice.  He understands your life.

You are not alone.

God made you.  Nothing you have done would surprise him.

In Jesus there is true freedom.

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And why would anyone want to go here unless they love getting hurt?

My Favorite Religious Joke

This has to be my absolute favorite religious joke.

The local Baptist minister and Methodist minister get together each week to pray together for their town and banter with each other in a good natured way.  On this particular occasion, the Baptist brings up his favorite subject: baptism.

Baptist: I still just don’t understand how you can think that a little water sprinkled on the top of a head qualifies for a valid baptism.  Everyone knows you have to go all the way under the water and up again to really be baptized.

Methodist: So, what you’re telling me is that if I go in the water up to my knees that isn’t a valid baptism?

B: No, that’s not a valid baptism.  You have to go all the way under.

M: So, if I go in up to my waist that doesn’t count?

B: No!  You have to go all the way in.

M: So if I go up to my chest…

B: What part of this are you not understanding?

M: So if I go up to my chin…

B: All the way in.  All the way down under the water.

M: So if the water goes up to my eyes…

B: NO! THAT IS NOT A VALID BAPTISM!

M: That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along.  It’s that little bit of water on the top of the head that makes all the difference in the world!