Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Christianity has a big problem in the US. On the rare occasion we lead someone to Christ we seem to usually seem to end up with a convert that really has little signs of a daily radical walk with Jesus Christ, but they are thankful for the fire insurance they think they now have for the afterlife. This struggle seems to in part come from two big issues in the US: (1) We don’t teach radical commitment to Christ, and (2) We don’t reach non-Christians well. So what do we do about these crisis points?

Why we have such a problem with radical Christianity. It seems one reason we don’t have a larger percentage of passionate Christians is we don’t really ever start new Christians out with a calling to be passionate. I have observed many churches use some sort of easy fix Christian prayer. It goes something like, “I am a sinner, and Jesus, I want to be a Christian.” That sounds good, but as it is currently presented, it seems to be more like a five year old being asked to say the magic word — “Please.” Christianity has not taught what giving our lives to Christ means. We have made it all about Christ forgiving our sins, which is only half of the message. The other half of the message is “Converting” to God’s plan for our lives.

Converting is easy in that Christ accepts our honest heart effort instantly. True, radical commitment also means we are making a lifetime commitment to learn to live God’s way. It is not something we should present to a non-Christian lightly but with authenticity. The church has a strong tendency to understate the reality that deciding to commit to Christ literally it means “dying to self". It means we are choosing to let God replace our self-serving life with His will. Do any of us completely do this the day we become Christians? No, that is why we have grace, but understanding at least at some level the radical commitment "conversion" means should be a given.

Commitment is something that should be taught at the pre-Christian level because what people believe they are committing to naturally produces the result of expectation. Do couples getting married normally understand what a lifetime of radical commitment to one another means? No, but we definitely communicate to the best of our ability what it means and set the standards at a high level. Many couples choose to rise to the standard set forth. If we said, “All you have to do is say, ‘I do’ and you are good,” what would be the natural outcome? Would we have more affairs, less commitment, etc. Of course! Why does the church feel the need to undersell what commitment to Christ means?

The church in the U.S. starts out with a half-truth about what following Christ means and then believes we somehow will accomplish two things down the road. (1) We will “disciple” the person and sort of correct our lowered “bait and switch” description of Christianity. (2) We believe the person who signed up for one thing will naturally somehow want to jump into another camp.

To make the conversion process even more confusing, many churches don’t even have a real plan to walk with a new Christian. They consider discipleship to be a fast four-meeting plan of church membership, or something to that level, effective. For some reason, the last of the four sessions almost always involves tithing, which we failed to mention when we talked about commitment. Further, we tell the new convert they should get into a “small group,” even though that is not their culture and history, and then tell them the small group can solve their problems and teach them everything else. Is it a surprise we have produced Christians who simply have no idea what radically giving their lives to Christ involves? Why do I bring up the discipleship point on top of the conversion issue? Well, they kind of go hand-in-hand. We fail to present commitment to Christ to the pre-Christian and then fail to teach it to a new Christian and then we wonder why our convert factory produces such low standards in our fruit.

In closing today, realize this is part of a multi-day series and I will offer answers  not just criticism. Still, maybe the question for today is, “What did we sign up for? Are we interested in radical faith? What is it and does it look like our commitment to Christ?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Well, I have not been posting for a long time. Essentially, my neck has just been too sore to justify extra time on the computer. However, with surgery in 14 days I can risk taking pain medicine that I normally avoid--don't want to become addicted. For the next week I really wanted to post some observations and research on "the church." Hope you enjoy these and find them helpful over the next week!

Through the years the "Evangelical Church" has often been defined by three traits:

1. Commitment to the truth of the Bible.
2. Commitment to personal salvation through a deliberate conversion to Christ.
3. Commitment to reaching others for Christ — usually described as "the lost."

I do not have a struggle with these basic goals, but in practice I perceive another agenda. I think it often looks like this:

1. Personal commitment to Christ that involves admitting sin, but doesn’t mean absolute rejection of our personal goals and radical commitment to Christ.

2. Find a church that presents a self-satisfying worship format and an encouraging message.

3. Little commitment to the lost, but significant voice service to the same.

4. Willingness to point out why others need to admit their sins — especially the ones we find offensive — and radically change or at least have them say a prayer to ensure they do not burn in hell.

Does my list sound like reality? Does it somehow raise some questions in your mind? Is it possible that despite our desire to obey and honor God's word, we have, in fact, created a self-serving narcissistic U.S. Christian church that is failing to show Christ to the world and is failing to actually live for Him?

Currently in the U.S, it seems about 12% of our nation is in church on a non-holiday weekend, despite almost 70% of our nation claiming to be Christian “in general."

Currently about 2% of our nation’s Christian churches are growing by "conversion growth” versus transfer from other churches. 
Less than 1/3 of our Christian churches saw a convert last year, and many say the number is much lower. 

Of the 2% of the Christian churches that are growing by "conversion growth," I see a huge push for "conversion" but a very low priority on converting to the “way of Christ” to the point that our lives are totally rerouted in a new direction.

I would suggest we need to re-examine Scriptures and ask, "What would our lives look like if we totally sold out to Christ? How could we effectively show that walk with Christ to the world?"

Monday, January 12, 2015

Proverbs 12:10

The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
    but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

This is a really interesting Proverb. Animals are rarely used in context with theology or God. The question is, "Why did this verse make the Bible?" I think it points out several key thoughts about God. 

1). He cares about the smallest needs and in our world animals at some level represent those needs. We serve a very loving God and if we want to mimic him than we too must show love 

2). This verse probably has some implications as to how God wants us to view his creation. Perhaps Christians spend too much time thinking of ourselves as having "rights" in God's creation and too little time thinking of ourselves as being charged with "taking care of God's creation."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Please pray this over Restoring Hope and your life today!--And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. I Chronicles 4:10

Monday, October 27, 2014

Heb 11:16

While I continue to recover from surgery Mike Lucas has agreed to do my devotional blog. Here is day 1's devotional


And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Ponder This a moment and ask yourself a question--"Do I believe in God?" Most of you probably are saying, "Yes, I believe in God." Next, do I believe He has all power? Most definitely! Now here comes the hard part. Do I believe He will do for me what you are asking? This is where Christians become shaky. We discount the eternal love of God and we also struggle with dealing with our past mistakes. We assume that our past deserves the right to control our future. However, your future belong to God and God alone! Your past has no claim over the blessing of God in your future!

As we look further into this scripture consider the words "...he rewards those who earnestly seek him." How can we focus on earnestly seeking Him daily? I pray, I go to church, am I earnestly seeking Him? When seeking after a relationship with someone how do you attempt to woo them? Regardless of the answer your base goal is to spend time with them. The time you spend is spent trying to please the other person you pursuit of them. In turn (ideally) the other person is enjoying "your company" and further hopefully they try and show you the best they have to offer. The fruit of this labor is the relationship that is built. Now, relationship with people return temporal rewards, but relationship with God yields blessing, promotion, protection, peace, love and much more. So seek God earnestly ( consistently, and with passion) and with an understanding He will do it for you because he loves you.

On a side note, when you pray keep in mind God answers all prayers. He knows what is best and may say no because He knows what we need and what is best for us. Also remember God honors His word more than anything else so check and reflect to yourself--Are my prayers in line with His will? We take a lot for granted, a lot of Old Testament prayer started by knowing the future is not promised. Instead of worrying about the future. Try starting " God willing, or If it is in your will bless me with ....." Always have faith, not just that He can, but that He will, and He will for you.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Proverbs 2

Because of the severe pain in my neck I have not been doing my blog. I thought maybe for a few weeks while it heals I will just cut a paste the scripture that is speaking to me for the day. Sorry I am not adding more comments for a bit, but I am trying to keep my sitting time very small!

Proverbs 2:10-12

10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
12 To deliver you from the way of evil,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Psalm 41 on 9/11

Psalm 41 begins with an interesting note regarding those who are facing harm — whether they are in the World Trade Center, Benghazi, Iraq, or just in a classroom like Columbine.

Psalm 41

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
    the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
The Lord protects and preserves them —
    they are counted among the blessed in the land —
    he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.

What does the above Scripture imply? Obviously, it does not mean we are always physically protected, though I know of many times we have been. It does not always mean evil people are forbidden to hurt the innocent, as we are especially aware of on 9/11. It does mean that God has a special place of blessing and protection for those who face persecution. "What?!!!", you may say. Well, I am not nuts, but I have learned that protection and blessing can come even during great pain and hurt — even death.

I have faced death on quite a number of occasions. Each time I have experienced a special touch or awareness of God's love. On several occasions, I figured I would not be alive long, but in each case I also felt a deep peace — almost joy! How could that be? Well, I am not sure I can explain it except to say I believe these verses because I have experienced them in "real time" and "real life."

Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-49: 

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I believe in a place called "Calvary." I believe in "eternity." I believe that with Christ hope always exists! I also believe that God is always on the side of good — even when we can't see it. No matter how dark a day, God's love is still present. Corrie Ten Boom, a famous Nazi concentration camp survivor, described the lesson she learned while being tortured and starved  in Germany as "No matter how deep the pit, God's love is deeper."

Today as we mourn the great loss in this world of the victims of 9/11 and Benghazi, as we consider people being killed in Iraq and Syria by ISIS as I write this, as we read of Saudi Arabia arresting all known Christians within its borders yesterday, as we look at North Korea with one concentration camp having over 100,000 residents — including children, as we consider school and theater shootings and bombs going off at the Boston Marathon and more, let us simply pray two prayers.

1. Pray for those facing great crisis in their lives today — survivors, friends and loved ones of the events described above, and our own fears and crisis. 
2. Pray that we will learn to accept the absolute power and hope of Christ as described in Psalm 41 and Romans 8:38-39.