Jesus is offensive

Sometimes Jesus himself, is offensive to people and they will turn away. Understanding the truth, some will refuse to follow Christ.

Often ‘the church’ can say and do really stupid, even horrible, things in the name of Jesus. Individual Christians do the same. Whether by word or behaviour individuals and churches can put others off Christianity. This is a bad thing.

Yet Jesus himself offended people, he appears to have even done so on purpose:

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66 ESV)

In the discourse of John 6:25-58, Jesus had spoken words of truth to a large crowd of people. What he said offended them, not because it was hard to understand but because what they did understand was offensive. Jesus fully knew it would offend them and he would lose followers but spoke the truth to them anyway. He had no problem with a huge crowd turning away from following him, leaving only twelve disciples.

We must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), but there will be some occasions when the words of Jesus, in fact Jesus himself, is offensive to people and they will turn away. This is heartbreaking, I don’t care how much of, or what kind of, a sinner anyone is the last thing I want is for them to be eternally excluded from fellowship with God. Yet even comprehending the truth – understanding the meaning of the words – some will refuse to follow Christ.

Theology lets us down on the topic of predestination, but Jesus makes it clear enough that unless God enables it to happen, nobody can come to Jesus. So in those awful times when somebody is offended by Christ and cannot see his beauty the most useful thing I can do is pray. I can pray fervently, desperately, that God will grant for that person to see the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)


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Image: iStockphoto

Suppress the Santa cynic

On Sunday we took the kids to the Santa parade – the very name of it has put me off for years (yes, I deprive my kids!), but it was not as bad as I expected.
While it was very secular (only one or two floats mentioned Jesus), it was not as tacky or commercialized as I had expected it to be. Maybe living in a very small city at the bottom of the world has kept us more colloquial than I thought.

My reason for going along was for the kids – the idea of standing in the hot sun for several hours with cranky kids and several thousand other people was not really my idea of a good time. But I recalled similar parades that I went to as a child and how much I enjoyed them. This offset my self-righteous disapproval of the whole concept of a Santa parade masquerading as a celebration of Jesus’ birthday.

And it was fun, people were friendly, the floats were interesting, kids were happy and we didn’t get too sunburned. When considered simply as a representation of the Kiwi cultural norm in which Christmas is a family time with some fantasy fun for the kids to liven it up, the Santa parade is an enjoyable community event and cynical Christians like me need to extend the grace to others of accepting their beliefs (or lack thereof).

I am the odd one out in our society in that I have a very strong and deep conviction that God exists and Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified for my sins and bodily raised from the dead on the third day – this is sheer nuttiness to most New Zealanders. I am a religious nutter and have to be comfortable with that.

Once I accept how odd I appear to most people it becomes a lot easier to enjoy the good aspects of my own culture.

Three-in-one, burning for Christ

Shan-Tai prayer month 2011, day 25

small row of coffee beans with SDOF on white backgroundLikening herself to a three-in-one coffee mix that is popular in Asia, a young Shan woman describes the call on her life to use her gifts as a Bible teacher, social worker, and rock singer to bring the message of hope in Christ to her people.

Although raised in the church, she came to saving faith while attending university through the ministry of a global parachurch organization.  Now planted in her “Jerusalem” for the short-term, she is ministering in her home church, whose acceptance of her has been less than embracing.

The majority of the 15,000 or so Christians among the more than 6 million Shan are third and fourth-generation adherents, with few true believers among them.  They have so separated from their ethnic culture to the point of irrelevancy in their ability to identify with their Buddhist brethren and don’t really even consider reaching out to them.

For the most part, the Shan church is cold and dead, but God is stirring embers among their membership and has already set this three-in-one girl ablaze with the desire to reach her own.  So she identifies with her people in their shared ethnicity, to the point of reaching out through welfare, educational and music programs run by local monasteries that are the center of Shan village life.  But as indicated by the stage name she has adopted for her singing career, she is fully Shan and fully belongs to Christ, and that is the message she longs for her people to understand, that they can come to the One who created them as the Shan race.

Pray for

  • The embers among the Shan church that God is stirring and has ignited, that He would strengthen and encourage their resolve as they seek to reach out despite the lackadaisical, and even sometimes antagonistic, attitudes of the congregations they come from.
  • Their personal worship to be pure and vibrant.
  • Spiritual fortitude and protection from spiritual attacks on them and their families that seem to be prevalent when they are encroaching into enemy territory.

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Download the Shan Prayer Guide:

30 Days of Prayer for the Shan
Image of coffee beans: iStock

The harvest is ripe

How can a handful of Shan Christian workers save millions? The most needed
in Shan mission is not money but human resources (shan-missions.com).

Shan-Tai prayer month 2011, day 24

The harvest is ripe

Shan who become Christians often have to bear a high cost for their faith. Those who proclaim the Gospel to them also pay a high price in hardships, dangers and toil to get to the places where Shan live.

Some Shan live in Thailand where access is less difficult, but still not easy. The working conditions of Shan people in Thailand mean that outreach to them must be persistent and flexible to follow them as they move from job to job. For westerners, even Thailand can be a culture shock. For locals, finding support for ministry can be difficult.

Then there are the millions of Shan who live in Burma, in remote villages, within war zones, cut off by landmines and jungle. Just because it is difficult to get there does not mean that God does not want them to hear the Gospel. Of course they must hear.

How will they hear unless people take the message to them? How can people go unless many others at home are praying fervently for them and giving resources to support them?

The task is huge and difficult. Our God is mighty and compassionate and wants these people to hear His word. He has chosen a people for Himself, set them apart to be holy, and commanded them to go.

What part are you playing in God’s mission to the lost?

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:2-3 ESV)

Pray for

  • More people to be willing to take risks, doing whatever it takes to bring the Good News to those who have not heard in difficult to reach places. Praise God for those who are already doing this (Romans 10:14-15).
  • Peace and infrastructure to reach the Shan (John 16:33)

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External Resources:

Download the Shan Prayer Guide:

30 Days of Prayer for the Shan
Image of rice: Tianyake