Monthly Archives: February 2012

Real Faith ALIVE

There are two statements that have stuck in my heart this as I listened to Jesus Manifesto, a book I had previously read.

  • “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good.  he came to make dead people live.” -Jesus Manifesto
  • “It’s possible to serve God without loving him, but it is impossible to love God without serving him.” -Anonymous

 Our lives are a testament to the God we love and serve.  But the world is not always seeing the true testament of God through his people.  They only see a mere picture of our hypocrisy. What happens when we say we love God, but are afraid of taking scripture too seriously? The nonbelievers around us might never pick up a Bible.  They have only our lives as a window to the greatness and glory of God.  What do they see?  How do our lives translate scripture to the world?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -James 1:27 ESV

Instead of seeing James 1:27 lived out in our lives, does the world see something else?  Do they this:

Religion in its’ purest form before my neighbor is this: Dress up on Sundays, smile pretty and convince everyone that your life is a dream.  Carry a big Bible, sing and clap (but not too enthusiastically or they’ll think something is wrong with you) and attend church at least three Sundays per month.

OUCH!

The two statements at the top of this article remind me of what James says about faith.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,”  without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not  have works, is dead. -James 2:14-17 ESV

Serving God and loving others, is the natural product of a living breathing faith.  Because God loved us first, (while we were still sinners) and we are filled with his love (in Christ), his love will overflow and touch everyone around us.  If we love him, we will love others.

I want to be clear.  I am NOT saying that we work hard and discipline ourselves in order to prove our love for God is real.  What I AM saying that the more we fall in love with God, the more we will naturally obey and keep his commands – the more natural it will be for us to love others.  The anonymous quote above could be rephrased like this; It is possible to do good works without a living faith, but there is no such thing a living faith that does not produce good works.

If you are feeling that your faith is dried up or you feel burned out, then it may be that you have been attempting to do the good works on your own.  Perhaps you have previously thought of good works as a penance.  Maybe you thought you had to prove your love to God by doing good things for him.  There is a better way.  Fall in love with Jesus again.  Discover again in scripture how much you are loved and treasured by God.  His word is a love letter to you, not a check list of good works to do.  Let the power of HIS LOVE change you.  Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Let him do it.  Just as we can not save ourselves, we also can not transform ourselves.  You are NOT the potter.  You are the clay.  It is Jesus who has brought you from death into life and Jesus who makes you new.

Trying to do good works without a living breathing faith is like manually tying ripened fruit to the branches of a dead tree.  The work is laborious and exhausting.  The fruit quickly perishes and the tree is incapable of producing more fruit to replace it.  So you begin the laborious and exhausting work all over again.  Burnout is inevitable!  Real living breathing faith that naturally produces good works is like a tree, healthy and beautiful, planted by streams of fresh water, whose roots run deep into soil rich with the essential minerals to nourish it.  It produces the best fruit season after season – fruit that is a blessing to all who encounter the tree.

Discipline is good.  A living breathing faith that reproduces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is better!

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Does God Feel Worshipped?

When it comes to worship, everyone seems to have an opinion.  What are the best songs to sing?  Should the emphasis be on congregational singing or should we highlight a special choir piece or a solo?  Is it more important to be relevant or foundational?  Do we attempt to be more creative even if it is not practical?  We throw around words like seeker sensitive, seeker friendly, relevant, creative, diverse and intentional all in an effort to present services of worship that people will “like.”

Now, I will admit that I have also used these words and phrases in considering how to design meaningful moments within a worship service.  But I’ve learned that they are more appropriately applied as the second question we ask when we involve ourselves in worship planning, rather than the first.  The first question should look a little more like this: “God, how do You want Your people to worship You?”  Have you asked that question recently? Even if you are not the one responsible for worship planning, you are still a worshiper. Have you asked the Father; “How do you want me to worship you?”

Once we answer this question, the next after it can be; “Okay, now how do we do that in a way everyone can understand and identify with?” and “How do we help our people become the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?”

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:23-26 ESV)

I realize that this is written as a conversation for worship pastors, or those who plan worship.  But, as a worshiper, I would encourage you to pray that God would show you what kind of worshiper He desires you to be. Let this request include your public and private offerings of worship. As a starting point, read Romans 12:1.I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)


Stay Humbled, My Friends


It Is Better To Suffer For Doing Good!

It’s been easy for me to get discouraged lately.  I read the news and watch the holy ordinance of marriage attacked by a godless society.  I read further and discover that religious discrimination is thriving in New York. There, it is not only lawful to deny churches the ability to rent public school space for worship, but it is mandatory – punishable by heavy fines.  Yes, in New York, it is a state mandate to discriminate against Christians!  At the same time Christian organizations are being forced to go against their biblical convictions regarding abortion.  Faith based companies are being forced to pay for healthcare that provides coverage for contraceptives including the abortion pill – deceptively labeled “emergency contraceptive.”  Don’t be misled.  This is not just an attack on Catholic hospitals.  This creates a problem for ALL faith based organizations.

Do you see why it easy for me to get discouraged?  Followers of Christ, we can not ignore this!  But we must also not be defeated in our minds and hearts.  Jesus said “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Do not be overwhelmed by this temporary suffering.  God is not mocked!  Christian, do not lose heart.  Jesus has overcome the world.  This world is only our temporary home.  Our victory, in Christ, is certain and eternal!

For a long time in the United States, we have heard and even joined the mantra “God and Country.” Somewhere along the way this changed.  While we were looking the other direction, our Country has declared itself to be god.  Now, it seems the government tells the church what is right and what is wrong.  The government has made it clear that it has no use for God or His church.  Our most treasured freedom is being dismantled.  Freedom of Religion and the free exercise thereof, has no meaning if our government mandates when, where, how, and to what extend the Church may practice Biblical teachings.

To the Christ followers in America this is unfathomable!  However, Christians all over the world and all throughout history have faced oppressions far greater than these – Yet They Stand!

My heart is heavy that these circumstances seem so dark.  Maybe you are fighting the same sense of gloom in your spirit.  Take heart – Be encouraged.   I find clear instruction and abundant encouragement from the following words in Eugene Peterson’s The Message; from Ephesians 6:10-18

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Because the trials of this life never take a time-out, because the world’s bombardment against Christianity never takes a break, we can not abandon the struggle.  I encourage you to pick up His banner and serve within your churches in community.  Serve outside the churches; everywhere you are. Stand up for what is good.  Let Peter’s words guide us daily as we seek to love those who hate the God we serve.

13And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good?  14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor  the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  1 Peter 3:13-17


Football And Fun

Like most of the U.S. population, I watched the Super Bowl with some friends Sunday evening.  It was the first NFL game I had watched all season. This was not because I don’t enjoy sports, mind you.  But, because I LOVE sports, I determined that I needed to fast from watching the NFL this season.

Football isn’t my favorite sport, so don’t think this was a huge sacrifice.  I do enjoy football, but mostly it’s just something to cheer for in between baseball seasons.  The toughest part was breaking from my family fantasy league. Congrats, Corey.

But as we all know, the most important part of the Super Bowl is the commercials!  Most say that the commercials just weren’t as good this year.  That may be true, but perhaps our expectations are unreal because of the pregame hype regarding the commercials.  There were some really clever commercials.  Most of them I could watch with my children. A few, however, I’d prefer not to have those images in my mind.

These few commercials clearly believed that the best way to promote their product was to make the “potential buyer” think of sex – trigger the lust-fulness of the watcher.  Most, however, seem to have learned that what people really want to do during the commercial breaks, is laugh with their friends.  So, to go daddy, kia, and fiat, I’ll just say “not cool!”  And to the rest, I will say, Well Done and Thanks for allowing the Super Bowl to be an environment where youth pastors and parents don’t have to sweat it out during the commercials or show the game on a time delay through a DVR and fast forward the commercials.  We can’t proclaim purity to our kids out of one side of mouths and from the other side excuse what is on our TV as “just a commercial.”

Even if you don’t have a commitment to purity in regard to what you allow your eyes to see, wouldn’t you rather see a grandma slingshot a baby at a tree house to score a bag of Doritos? Or perhaps like most of the adult world you are tired of the “teen harlequin” vampire genre and you enjoyed watching vampire’s burst into ashes in the stream of some super bright headlights.  Maybe you’re like me and you can’t get enough of dogs, dressed like star wars characters, barking Darth Vader’s theme music.

I could be optimistic, but I felt like the commercials were, for the most part, cleaner this year.  There were a few extreme exceptions, but most of the commercials were pretty good.  What’s your opinion?