One Job

My heart is heavy of late.

Jesus’ bride, the Church, has done so poorly at the primary job He gave her:

As you go about your world,  teach people about the real nature of God, helping them to be imitators of Christ; loving, doing good, and being holy.


There are some 7 billion souls on this earth. About 330 million in my country. Maybe 4 million in my state. Roughly 100 thousand in my county.  5 thousand in my town. 500 Facebook friends. A few dozen in my sphere of influence. And only a couple hands worth in my inner circle.

And so few, at least in my culture, are living as an all in, fully committed, no holds barred, disciple (follower) of Jesus.

Research tells us that for those who claim the name of Christian (in the U.S.) there is statistically no difference in the way they live compared with those who don’t claim Christ. They talk the same. They have the same morals and ethics. They enjoy the same entertainment. They have the same numbers of divorces, affairs, abortions; the same use of pornography. There are the same numbers of liars, and cheaters, and abusers inside the church as outside.

According to research, many people who regularly attend church have a dismal lack of understanding (or acceptance of) basic historic biblical doctrines: Who is God? Who is man? What is salvation and regeneration?

 

The church is to be a hospital full of healing and new life, a seminary filled with God’s teaching and hope, and a banquet table filled with spiritual meat that builds the soul.

Instead it’s become a first aid kit offering quick fixes that don’t heal, a kindergarten room full of shiny toys, and a buffet where you get to pick and choose what you like.

Is it any wonder then that we have such an ever decreasing impact in the world?

Are we stuck in our (not so holy) enclave,  preaching to the choir, and making Christ a laughingstock or worse, insignificant, to the world?

What can we do to be the Church God wants us to be, and to impact the world for God?

It starts with each one of us. As the man or woman of God grows, so grows the Church. As the Church grows, so grows the world.


5 Steps


Be. Learn. Model. Proclaim. Teach.

 

Be

Be a Disciple. Make sure you have actually bent your knees in submission and reverence to Jesus and His authority.  Let Jesus change your heart, your spirit, your mind. Part of that means the willingness to give up anything that He has said is wrong for you.



Learn

Learn from the scriptures who God is and what He wants. Find out what the consensus of the historic Church has been in understanding the more difficult parts. If what you learn doesn’t challenge you to be different, you probably don’t understand that part.

Model

This is the hard part. Actually start to act like Jesus. Do the things He said. Love. Forgive. Don’t sin. Be Holy. Find the parts in the bible that describe God And describe what a Christian looks like. Find the representative lists in the bible that teach which thoughts and actions are right and which are wrong, and follow them. As you let Christ lead you in goodness you will soon find He is adding particular things to your list.

Only after were have learned from and modeled Christ will we then be able to effectively do the next two things.

.

Proclaim

When people ask why you’ve changed, why you’re different, then you can tell them about Jesus and what He’s done.

Teach

According to Jesus, even after they’ve seen miracles, many will still turn away disbelieving and unwilling to change. We must accept that. But those  who respond must be taught the whole cycle.. Be. Learn. Model. Proclaim. Teach.

P.S. You’ll notice I haven’t written anything about the role of God’s grace and power in all this. That’s because He is the Author and Perfecter of all:

He draws us to Himself, and saves us by himself, so that we may BE.

He teaches us by His Spirit so that we may LEARN.

He empowers and changes us so that we may MODEL.

He draws others around us so that we may PROCLAIM.

He fills and guides us so that we may TEACH.

While God’s grace enable all these things, they won’t get done if we don’t follow His leading and act.

God’s grace is not opposed to effort.

God’s grace is opposed to earning.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas is about giving.

  • A gift is received… not earned. That’s a paycheck.
  • A gift is accepted… not ordered. That’s shopping.
  • A gift is given… not demanded. That’s robbery.

Quid Pro Quo or this for that has no place in giving. That’s trading. That’s business.

No. The only thing you must do for a gift is to accept it with grace and use it with thanks.

A gift that sits on the shelf is no better than no gift at all. It may even be worse.

  • Have you ever given a gift that was ignored or rejected?
  • How did you feel as the giver?
  • What did it do to your relationship? 

God gave us a gift. His name is Jesus. Not just the baby we celebrate today, but the man he grew into, and the events we’ll celebrate in about 4 months: Crucifixion. Resurrection. Pentecost.

The truest and best gift in all of history is the offer of friendship with God through Jesus.

  • The gift is the promise that He will never leave us or abandon us in our pain and trouble. He may not take us out of it, but He’ll take us through it. 
  • The gift is the promise that He will make us into new creatures, actually able to live the way He wants us to. He’ll transform us bit by bit into the people He created us to be. 
  • The gift is the promise that  He will live in us and we will be in His Presence now… and forever.

But the gift is only good if we choose to live as though it’s true.


The gift only works when we take it and use it.

Come to Me

Jesus’ message of hope seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle lately. Between this church fighting with that church, that tv preacher saying just pray this prayer (or send me twenty bucks) and everything will be fine, follow this list, don’t do that, follow this program, or just love everybody, how can we possibly know what’s right?

 
Jesus makes it simple; just come to Him.

 
To those who’ve been abused and believed the lies of their abusers, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those trapped in addictions, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those searching for their identities in alternate lifestyles, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those full of themselves,  pretending they are their own master, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To the self righteous, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those damaged by broken relationships, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those who seek satisfaction in work or money or possessions, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those whose hope is in religion, or a church, or a program, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those who seek lasting comfort in food, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those crushed by hopelessness and depression, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those who fear and lash out in hatred, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

 
To those who are just tired of life, He says…
“You’re broken, Come to Me because I love you, and I will heal you, and make you fit for My Kingdom.”

Choose Wisely

Recently, I was asked by a small group leader to rate my level of confidence in Jesus and salvation with a number from 0 to 100.

 
After mulling it over for a few minutes, I answered 99.99, with the explanation that while I do indeed believe completely that He is real, and that the Bible is true, I must leave open the miniscule possibility that I could be wrong.

 
My friend (the leader) suggested that I read ‘Faith and Doubt’ by John Ortberg. That it would help alleviate some of the doubts about having doubts. He was correct. I’m only two chapters into the book and I feel the weight I have secretly carried from the nagging doubts lifting.
From the book:

“Pascal said…evidence alone cannot clearly indicate that God does or does not exist. However, we must choose whether we will seek him. Not to choose is its own choice. Your wager began the moment you were born. You were “launched.” You will bet your life one way or the other. God either exists or he does not. Heads or tails—no third option. If God does not exist, we lose a life devoted to seeking to love, to live generously, to speak truth, and to do justice. But if God does exist, and we choose not to follow him, we lose everything.”

 
So I would like to change my answer… with an explanation:

 
I will believe in God, Jesus, His salvation, and the Truth of the Bible with every fiber of my being, heart and soul, mind and strength, lock, stock, and barrel….

 
I will live as though Jesus is real and lives within me….

 
I will seek to obey the principles found in the Bible, and follow the teachings found within it…

 
And even if it turns out I was wrong,  I win.

The Choice

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. ”

Matthew 25:31-33 (ESV)
There will be many who think they are Christians that will stand before God and discover to their horror that they have followed their own lie and it has led them to hell.
The lie is as wide as a freeway. The truth is as narrow as a footpath.
Or a single person.
Jesus. Real, historical, biblical, supreme, holy, crucified, resurrected, glorified Jesus.

Ordinary Time

My bride and I are fast approaching an important wedding anniversary. (Just never mind which one.) As we prepare and plan for our annual celebration, my thoughts wandered to why we’ve made it when so many haven’t.

There are two major celebrations of love during the year, the anniversary and Valentine’s Day. But if that’s the only time you pay attention to your marriage you soon won’t have a marriage worth paying any attention.

So let’s step up the game. Once a month (or so) we’ll go somewhere and ‘commune ‘. Say my favourite fishing spot or maybe a movie. That’s good enough. After all, we’re spending quality time, right?

No? 

Ok, I can schedule once a week, maybe Thursday morning from eight to nine. Aww heck, let’s make it nine thirty, she’s worth it. We can sing love songs, read old letters and feel good about each other. The rest of the week is mine to do with as I please. 

Does this all seem silly?

Of course. It is. 

What makes a marriage strong is time every day, talking with and listening to each other. It’s learning each other’s desires and wants… And seeking to fulfill them. It’s caring about the other as much as about yourself.

It takes time.

Ordinary, everyday time. 

Ok, you ready? Cinch up your seatbelt, hard right turn ahead. 

Life with God is similar to a marriage. It takes time together. 

We’ve just come out of the holiday season. Many people said some flowery words at Thanksgiving dinner, squeezed in a candlelight Christmas Eve service, got all dressed up for Easter morning, and think they’ve done their duty for God.

Some people go out to the lake or the woods once in a while and call it good. After all, I can worship anywhere right?

A lot of people head to church every Sunday, sing some songs, listen to some (maybe) good words, and leave feeling good about themselves and God,  then live for themselves the rest of the week. 

A life truly lived with God takes time.

Time spent listening to Him.

Time spent pouring out your heart to Him.

Time learning to do what He loves and avoid what He hates.

Time spent loving the people He loves. (By the way, that’s the poor, the down, the hurting, your neighbour, your co-worker, the store clerk, other drivers….)

You can’t do that one hour every Sunday or out at the lake. And you certainly can’t do it just three times a year. 

Go. Spend time with God. 

Ordinary, everyday time. 

Two Things

Two things that truly irk me.
Dishonesty and Avoidance. 
Dishonesty. Shading the truth. Hiding the truth. White lies.  All these say you don’t trust me enough to be straight up fair with you. You feel you need to tell me what you think I want to hear. 
Avoidance. Passive aggressive. Hiding. Silence. All these say you fear me and what I might do if you were honest.
All I can say is that you don’t know me as well as you think you do. And for that I am truly sorry, for I have failed at letting you see who I really am.