Monday, April 29, 2013

Don't Scratch the Itch

Don't Scratch the Itch

2 Timothy 4:1-5

 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In the world of celebrity pastors, there is sometimes a temptation to draw a crowd and in doing so, try to make the "Good News" as appealing as possible.  Some leaders have unfortunately turned from "preaching the Word." to marketing a brand of God that will fill seats to arenas.  While they are tickling ears, placating emotions, and building churches, is this watered down approach to the Gospel doing anything to advance the Kingdom?

The method is as old as the New Testament itself.  Paul spoke vehemeantly against this kind of teaching.  In the life of the early church, there were false teachers who would draw followers based off of false doctrine that satisfied the crowds' curiosity.  In response, Paul exhorted Timothy to "preach the word." Likewise, we are to proclaim truth and speak out against heresy.  We are to live with a sense of preparedness and courage; not being afraid to speak up and out when it is inconvenient, or uncomforable.  We are to build up the Body of Christ by helping one another address sin and inconsistencies.  However, are are to to so with tenderness and commitment.

The world is not inclined to hear this type on instruction.  Objective truth is no longer a reality to many.  Rather, people want to hear what makes them feel good.  Therefore, with a plethora of "teachers", they can simply turn on the television or pick up a book that affirms their current line of thought.   Some leaders have sought to meet these "seekers" needs by appealing to their senses and offering simple "how to" sermons that give steps instead of Truth. They come inside a worship service that has been produced to be like that of a modern rock concert.  Yet they are supposed to see the difference Christ has made?

Unfortunately, some pastors have offered the solution that "God" brings personal happiness, which is a theological falacy that will ultimately bring about disappointment.  They do not deal with the problem of evil in the world.  They do not adequately address the problem of sin out of fear of offending someone.  Truth is whatever makes you happy.  Jesus is one of many options rather than the only option.  Scripture is roughly paraphrased rather than expounded.  And as long as those who hear come away satisfied, all is well.  After all, the parking lot is full.

The Church must stand up and fight against this way of solicitation. The message of Christ is not one of prosperity, self-fulfillment, and personal blessing.  Rather, it is one of sacrifice, abandonment, and obedience.  To think of Christ as a way to personal enlightenment, destiny, and power is to miss the entire message of the kingdom of God.  As disciples, we are called to follow, to pick up our crosses daily, and to die to self.  If we think of Jesus as OUR Savior, we reverse His Lordship over us. 

The way to fight against the Celebrity Church mindset is by embracing 2 Timothy 4:5.  We must stay focused on that which Christ has commissioned us to accomplish for His sake.  As a result, there will be harship that we must endure.  We will not be seen the same.  We will be criticized.  We will be mocked.  We will be scrutinized. However, our goal must remain; reaching this world for Christ.  We do this not by making Jesus attractive to them, but by helping them truly understand God's plan for them through Christ.  When we do, we will fulfill the ministry God has called us to and be the Church God wants us to be. 

I am so grateful to be a part of a church who takes 2 Timothy 4:1-5 seriously. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

For Him Each Moment

For Him, Each Moment
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Colossians 3.  Paul recognizes the dramatic change in the person because of Christ and then encourages that they should live out that change in every aspect of how they live. 
If it is true that we have been raised with Christ, i.e., that we have been transformed by his death and resurrection, then we are no longer the same person.  Therefore, our wants and desires should be different from when we did not know Christ.  In Colossians 3:1, Paul exhorts the believers to seek the things above, referring to that which builds the kingdom of God.  This is a pursuit of the heart that is continuous and active.  Our affections are to lie on what lies beyond the present and earthly.  Our thoughts are to be actively and constantly set heavenward rather than to the things on earth. 

The reason for this new pursuit is because we have died to our old ways and we are now hidden with Christ.  No longer is the world to see us, but rather they are to see Christ through us.  The result of us remaining hidden is that when Christ is glorified, we will be revealed in glory with him. 
I think many times, people forget that a commitment to Christ is a change in identity.  It is a dying to self and being united to Christ.  We try to compartmentalize religion to make it fit into what makes us feel comfortable rather than allow Christ to transform who we are from the inside out.  We feel good about ourselves if we give an hour to God on Sunday mornings.  Yet, we miss the point.  Christ wants every breath, every moment.  He must become greater and we must become less.
However, when we begin pursuing the things of this world instead of the things of God, we are not allowing ourselves to remain hidden.  We are not remaining united with Christ in his resurrection.  Instead, we are walking in the way we used to live.  Often, we think that this will lead to self-glorification, but that glory is futile and fades.  It does not satisfy. 
So how do we do CONTINUE to seek the things above, especially when our lives are so BUSY?  Do we clear out the schedules?  Do we incorporate Christ into them? How do we CONSTANTLY think about the things of heaven and not the things of earth when the demands of earth threaten to dictate our lives. 
I want to dialogue about this issue.  As women, how do we give each moment to Christ, while at the same time balancing the roles of career, girlfriend, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc.?  Please comment.  In the following weeks, my desire is to tackle the issue of being whole-hearted devoted followers of Christ, as women, in a world that conflicts with this idea.  I ask that you join me in this endeavor of prayer, dialogue, and study as a woman, no matter where you are at relationally, spiritually, professionally, etc.  Will you join the journey?
Seeking Him,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Is the Message of Foolishness Gaining Influence over the Power of God?

Is the Message of Foolishness Gaining Influence over the Power of God?
First Corinthians 1:18 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
There is a side to Christian Scholarship that seeks to prove the inconsistencies and fallacies of the claims of Scripture.  These scholars are professors of religion at some of the top institutions in the country.  They have written New York Times Bestselling books.  They lecture all over the world, giving “incite” about the “truth” of Jesus of Nazareth.  Their claims use textual, historical, and contextual criticism of the New Testament.  They list problem texts and give long arguments about why the manuscripts of the New Testament cannot be trusted.  And many evangelicals have no idea they are out there.
For example, UNC Professor Bart Ehrman, graduated from Moody Bible Institute and then Wheaton College (two of the most conservative evangelical Bible Colleges in the country).  He grew up a fundamentalist conservative.  However, throughout his doctoral studies, he denounced the faith he had previously claimed.  Now, as the head of the religion department at UNC, Ehrman seeks to enlighten young, impressionable students who simply want to learn more about the Bible.  Like a wolf in sheep’s clothes, he leads the class through “reasons” why Jesus was never meant to be seen as God. 
Ehrman is only one of many of these scholars around the country, proclaiming the foolishness of the message of the cross.  Yet, they are making a lasting impact on today’s college students.  The Church must be become proactive. 
For those being saved, the message of the cross is the power of God.  As Christians, we should not cower from hard discussions.  Rather, we need to become educated and teach the next generation to truly understand what the message of the cross is.  Television loves to promote the agenda of skeptics.  However, when an evangelical has something of substance to say, they are willing to listen.  I used to love to listen to my professors Darrell Bock, Daniel Wallace discuss these topics because they always noted that it was in the study of God’s Word that their faith was strengthened.  I believe that sometimes, we want to simply look to Scripture as our “How to” guide instead of looking at it for what it is: the revelation of God. We therefore neglect to see it in its original context.  Then, when critics come, we have no answers.
We cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer.  We must study the text of Scripture, with the historical setting in mind.  We must read the verses in their correct context.  We must become familiar with what opposing views are surrounding us and then come to an understanding about what the truth is.   
For an article about Bart Ehrman, please click the link below.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Encouraging Christ Confident Kids

Tonight, I asked my son who his best friend at school was.  He told me a name and then I proceeded to ask if they played together on the playground.  He said, "no, he already has friends."  I then began to pry a little farther and asked who he DID play with on the playground.  My kindergartner nonchalantly responded, "well, everyone already has someone to play with, so I play by myself."  In that moment, I felt a part of me wither inside.  I immediately started going into action mode, thinking of the letter I would write to the teacher, making sure that my son was included in activities.  I then stopped to pray.  I asked myself, "Is this really the crisis you are making it out to be?"  Your son is confident, happy, and feels secure in who he is. We have worked hard in our household to let our children be who they are and tell them to live as Christ wants them to live no matter what.  Yet, I was tempted to make sure that my son was popular. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized we as parents WANT our kids to be popular.  We want them to be accepted and on the in crowd.  Mostly because, at some point in time, we experienced the pain of the outside.  However, what we want for our children is completely contrary to Scripture.  John 15:19 says, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

What we, as parents, need to learn to do is teach our children to find their confidence in their relationship with Christ.  We need to help them find avenues where they can find like-minded friends. We must also encourage and love them through the lonely times, especially as they grow older.  I remember one Saturday night as a teenager, hanging out with one of my friends and crying out to her saying that I simply wished to get drunk just so I could be like everyone else.  The moment passed, but it left an impact. 

As I pray for my children, my prayer is not that they will be accepted, but that they will find friends who will encourage them and will have the same beliefs they will have.  I pray that they will be strong in faith and that they will use adversity to cling to the cross. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Christians and Controversy

Christians and Controversy
I was browsing some Christian blogs the other day and I noticed a trend among some of the blogs that receive high volume: many of their topics are controversial.  I began pondering this coincidence.  I have never considered myself a person who revels in controversy and I tend to minister with the same frame of mind.  I then began thinking about how Jesus dealt with controversy while He was here on earth.  
Jesus never directly confronted political or divisive issues.  The Pharisees contently tried to trap Jesus by forcing Him to give an opinion on controversial topics (Matthew 17:24:-27; 19:1-12; 22:15-22).  However, his responses were decisive, yet brief.  Jesus did not come into the world to debate the world, but to save the world.
Regarding social issues, Jesus’ philosophy was love the sinner, hate the sin.  He was notorious for dining with “sinners”, tax collectors, and other social misfits.  He was not afraid to speak with a Samaritan woman, which was the ultimate social taboo for a Jewish man. Jesus was not afraid to get involved.    
In Luke 5, Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector to be His disciple. At that time, a tax collector was one of the most hated people in Judea because they exploited their neighbors for personal gain.  However, Jesus approached him, and told him to follow.  The publican got up, left everything, and followed Jesus.  Later, Levi held a banquet for Jesus and His disciples at his home where other tax collectors and sinners were present.  When the Pharisees and teachers of the law confronted Jesus about his selection of table fellowship, Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32).
I think we can learn a lot from Jesus’ example in Luke 5.  Rather than debating how “tax collecting” infringes upon the commands of Scripture, we should be reaching out to the tax collectors.  Instead, we plaster our beliefs via a wall post on Facebook or a bumper sticker of a car as if a tag line will bring about repentance. 
I personally would have loved to have witnessed the exchange between Jesus and Levi.  The only words recorded in Levi’s calling are, “Follow Me.” It appears from the context that this is the first exchange that the two had ever had.  However, I would conjecture that the publican had seen the miracles Jesus had been performing in Capernaum and he recognized that there was something different about him.  The fact that Jesus approached him, spoke to him, and wanted him impacted him.  And the tax collector was forever changed.  If we could only think beyond ourselves and want to embrace the “un-embraceable,” we might actually have a chance to show them that there is such a thing as grace.  Yet, our approach is often to “save them from their SIN”, rather than to show them the love and grace of God.   Jesus confronted sin, but it was only AFTER He had shown love to the sinner.

We then immediately see Levi respond in hospitality.  Not only does He host His new Teacher, but he begins to reach out to others who need Jesus.  This is the first “evangelism meeting” recorded in Scripture.  Levi understands Jesus’ approach and begins to embrace it as his own.

When the scoffers denounce Jesus’ interaction with the sinners, Jesus is quick to correct their wrong thinking.  He had no intention of hanging out with the “religious elite.”  Rather, He knew his mission was to lead people to repentance. In thinking about this story and asking myself how much time I spend in the “Christian bubble” verses in the field, leading people to repentance, I am a bit disproportioned.  We often feel more comfortable being around people who are “like us” and simply talking about people who “do those other things.” Yet, this is not the Gospel.  We will never reach the world for Christ if we are not in the world, being salt and light.