American Christians are Soft and Weak

I had a history professor named Thomas Code. Professor Code was what I considered a hard man with a stern disposition. I took two classes from him in the early 1990s and I still think about a couple things he said. The first was that he challenged us as students to realize that college was one of the few things we paid more for and hope to get less out of. He used as an example how most folks were quite excited for classes to let out early. Another thing he said concerned the state of the American culture. He said we had all gotten soft and lost “the fire in the belly” we once had. Essentially, he was saying that in our current comfort and affluence we had become apathetic and complacent, more apt to obsess over our stuff and our status than champion a cause.

We had a guest speaker in church yesterday. He is a missionary that our fellowship has sent to work in Azerbaijan. He gave a great talk about what it means to be on the front line for the Gospel and He reminded us that there is a spiritual battle waging daily in the world. He used the Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi to challenge us to unity and to demonstrate how as Christians we are all soldiers with a mission to accomplish in God’s eternal plan. As I listened to the man challenge us I could hear Professor Code. We are soft. I am more concerned with my my job, my stuff, and what my next great tasting meal is going be than taking a stand for God’s advancing Kingdom. The missionary broke down at one point, sobbing over a lost opportunity to share the Gospel with a neighbor who suddenly died. It was foreign to me.

I know this post makes a blanket statement about American Christianity. I recognize that there are American Christians that are fully engaged in the battle, so forgive me if I have offended, but from my experience there are more folks filling the pews giving lip service to their commitment to Jesus and his Kingdom than actual warriors standing firm and taking a stand for the Gospel. I recognize them because I am one.

So what do we do? Do we even care?

 

 

 

Bucket List

Every since the movie “The Bucket List” came out people have been sharing their lists with others and even big cities like Atlanta advertise their own versions of the list. But I guess this is nothing new. I am sure ever since our creation man has been thinking of things they wanted to do before they passed on. While thinking about my own list I was wondering if I should make the list about myself or should I try to make it about others. Well I’m still thinking about that but what I have come to realize during my 44 years here on Earth is that life is not about possessions, money, travel or experiences. I think the most important aspects of our lives should be our relationships with friends, family and especially our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So how does that apply to your “Bucket List”? Well for me it would mean that I would take this list in reverse order and focus on my relationship with our Lord and Savior and my work spreading the Gospel. I would also reach out to family members whom I have lost touch with and try to strengthen the bonds I already have with my loved ones. Finally I would work on building lifelong friendships with others and try to be a good ambassador of the Kingdom.

Below is what former President Bill Clinton put on his list. What will you put on yours?

“I’d like to climb Kilimanjaro before the snows melt, I’d like to run a marathon before I give out, there’s lots of things I’d like to do,” Mr. Clinton said Monday in Vienna.“His more important “A” list, he said, includes living to see his own grandchildren (his daughter Chelsea is about to get married) and living “to know that all the grandchildren of the world will have the chance in the not too distant future to live their own dreams and not die before their time”

Daily Devotional – Jesus Said What? I Am!

John 14:6-7

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Out of all the things Jesus said I think the one above my be the hardest one for most people to accept. In these verses Jesus draws a line in the sand about humanity’s relationship to Him and to God. Also, in these verses Jesus reveals something about His very nature that is hard for many to accept, His divinity.

John 14:6

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Here is the ultimate claim of Jesus. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. No one will know God unless it is through knowing Jesus. There is one path. All other religions, all other schools of thought, all other philosophies, and all other causes will leave the seeker empty handed. Jesus is exclusive. The way to find God is not broad. It is narrow. One way. One path. One truth. One God. Jesus.

John 14:7

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

How can Jesus be the only way to God? I think verse 7 helps us out. Jesus is the only way to God, because He is God. Jesus says here if you know me you know God. If you have seen me you have seen God. Why is this significant? It is significant because God who is separated from humanity because of our sinful rebellion stepped into to time so that He could fellowship with us. So that He could teach us. So that he could lead us. So that he could become sin for us and save us.

What do we do with these verses then?

For me these verses take the Bible and the teaching of Jesus to the next level. Many in our world herald Jesus as a good moral teacher, and He is held as a Prophet in other religions, but at the end of the day Jesus boldly told crowds of followers and the established religious leaders and the Roman government that He was God and He was the only way to a life beyond this one. A bold claim.

Do you believe Him? You have to choose.

Matthew 7:13-14

13 “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. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Heavenly Father, thank you. Thank you that in your abundant goodness you have provided a way. Thank you for your truth. Thank you for this life of forgiveness and reconciliation. Father, help us to stay on the narrow path that leads to life. Father, give us a greater measure of faith and empower us to be bold witnesses for the Kingdom. Father, touch those today that don’t know you and don’t call you Father. Thank you for your unending mercy. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Daily Devotional – Jesus Said What? Give!

Luke 6:30 (ESV)

30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

I thought for the next few days we could focus on some teachings that Jesus laid out that might be hard to deal with practically. Luke 6:30 is one of those teachings.

Jesus says to give to everyone who begs from you and if someone takes from you don’t demand your stuff back.

Really? Come on now. What if the beggar is going to get drunk or buy drugs with the money I am handing over. Am I really being a good steward of what God has given me if I just hand out money right and left to anyone who asks, and what about justice? If I just let people take from me and I don’t expect some sort of retribution, how is that fair?

I think the key to understanding what Jesus is saying here is to understand the Father’s grace. The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Simply we are all at some point on the opposite side of being ok with God. We are all separate from God’s love and God’s blessings with no clear path to fix that relationship. No works that we can do will make it ok. Fortunately, God in His mercy and His desire to reconcile us to Him provided a path for reconciliation.  That reconciliation was achieved in the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ. Jesus became sin so that the punishment we deserved would be executed on Him. That is the Father’s grace. That is the Gospel, the Good News!

So what does the Gospel have to do with the beggar?  The ideal is that all who are Christians are disciples of Jesus and His teachings. All those who are Christians are benefactors of the free gift that God offered in Jesus’ sacrifice. All Christians are those who have begged for mercy from God to save them from their sinful condition. We have begged and we cannot repay. We have taken from the Father a possession He will not demand back, His Son.

What is the application of Luke1:30? For me it is a realization that grace abounds in all the teaching of Jesus.  The key precept we as His disciples must embrace is a lifestyle of grace and forgiveness for others. Does the beggar deserve what we give them? Is it right for the one who takes from us to do so without a demand of remediation?  I don’t know, but what I do know was that in a time where I didn’t deserve what I begged for and I took what would never be demanded back that the Father freely gave.

Heavenly Father,  thank you God for your grace and your mercy. Thank you God for the sacrifice of your Son so that we may be your sons. Father, thank you that when we were lost and separated from you, you gave us what we did not earn or deserve. Lord Jesus, help us today to apply your teachings. Give us opportunity to be forgiving and to model your grace. Help us remember from where we came and help see others as you see them. Help us to give. I offer this prayer in Your name. Amen.

Daily Devotional – Do not Run Aimlessly

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

 

Analogy is a literary form that an author uses to communicate a concept by presenting it in a form that is easily understood by the reader. The Bible is full of analogies. Sometimes it can be challenging to peel back the  surface of the analogy to really understand what the writer is trying to communicate. I think that is why one of the most important things we can do when reading our Bibles is to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to read along with us opening our eyes of understanding as we go.

I really connected with the Apostle’s Paul’s analogy of athletics from 1 Corinthians 9. The connection was not so much because I am an athlete but more so because athletics is featured prominently in our culture as it was in the Roman culture to which Paul was writing.

So what is Paul telling us with his analogy and what is the application to the Christian?

In verse 24 Paul asks the question. If you are going to compete shouldn’t you compete like a person who intends on winning. Isn’t the whole point of competing winning?

Continuing in verse 25, Paul points out that if you look at the way athletes train you will find a great deal of focus and self control. He also points out that the reason athletes are focused and self controlled is so they may obtain a simple trophy or prize that will not last forever. He reminds the Christian that the prize we seek will last forever.

In 26, Paul really starts to bring it home. His proclamation is that his work in the Lord is for a purpose. Would it make sense for a athlete to train day in and day out to never compete?

Finally, Paul reminds the reader that one of the reasons he is focus in his spiritual journey and in his spiritual disciplines to make sure that his example builds others up rather than causes them to stumble.

So what is the application?

For me this analogy really gets to the heart of how we are to approach our discipleship of the Lord Jesus. Paul sets a good example and exhorts us to:

  1. Be focused and live a life that reflects that we intend to win the race for Jesus
  2. Be disciplined in training (Seek God in the  Scripture, pray and fast, build one another up, participate in the fellowship of believers)
  3. Where it is possible don’t sin. Set a good example for fellow believers to follow. Don’t be a hypocrite. Walk the talk!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your communication to us. Thank you for allowing us to understand your Kingdom and your purposes through the Spirit and through the written word. I pray Father that my focus today would be on not only finishing the race but also on winning the race. Forgive me where my disciplines have been weak, where my training has not be focused, and where my actions have caused other believers to stumble. Help me Father to be a better witness of your Son and help me not to run aimlessly. I ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Daily Devotional – Where did that Come From?

2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Acts 17:10-12 (ESV, emphasis mine)

10The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

11Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV, emphasis mine)

12Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

  

In in a Bible study last week a friend of mine was asking about angels and demons. I explained to him what I knew but I could not readily point him to spot in the Scripture for further study. I have been experiencing this a lot lately. For example, many times I when I share with people about Jesus I use the kingdom language that Jesus and the New Testament writers used. I will often say that Jews were waiting for a king to come physically in the manner of king David and liberate them from the oppression of foreign occupation. Again I struggle to point to exactly where in the scriptures this kind of idea is laid out. I am left wondering sometimes if what I am saying is based on the teachings of others, sermons I have heard, conjecture, or hopefully the Bible.

Another aspect in this discussion is the role of the Holy Spirit in our speaking, in Luke 12:11-12 (ESV, emphasis mine) Jesus tells us:

11And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

Jesus is telling us here that there will be times where when we are talking about our faith that the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us in our conversations. I know from personal experience there are times when I have said things and I wasn’t completely sure from where I knew them.

So what is the application? Looking at the Scriptures above for me the application is to study the Scriptures more so that I may more fully grasp God’s revelation to us and that I may help point others to specific places in the Word when they have questions. I have never been great at memorizing Scripture but I definitely see the benefit of it. I think a dual application would be to go deeper in prayer to really press into the Spirit so that when the Spirit speaks through me I will recognize it as such and allow the Spirit’s truth to flow from me without imposing my own filter of speculation or conjecture.

What about you all? How do you know what you know?

Heavenly Father, thank you God that you left us instructions and truth in the form of written word. Thank you that you have not left us to wander around speculating about who you are and about your Kingdom. Thank you Holy Spirit for taking up residence in us and speaking for us in times when we cannot speak well for ourselves. Forgive me Father for the times where I have not spent time mining the deep riches of your Word. I pray Father that would empower us today to be like those in Berea who sought you in your Word so that we will know when it comes to you and your Kingdom, what the truth is. Father I pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.