Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our life is one big commercial or is it?

I just wrote on the distracting vice of entertainment that often pulls us away from the Main Thing.  Remember that old youth camp line – “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.”  It was a call for believers to remember what truly should come #1 in our lives.  In this second part, I would like to write about two more American idols:  Commercialism and Materialism. 

It appears our nation and our lives are turning into one big commercial.  It is 2013 and marketing has taken on a fresh meaning.  Think about a football game.  The game is sponsored by a company.  The halftime show is sponsored by a different company.  And then the play of the game is sponsored by yet another company.  I can’t wait until individual quarters and then every down is brought to us by Taco Bell, Citgo, or some combination of the like.  Today, anything and everything can take place online.  VistaPrint is mass marketing business cards and signs for individual businesses and people to advertise their products.  I, myself, have purchased two 12” by 18” magnetic signs to put on my car to advertise www.allsportstalk.net, an online sports magazine that I write for.  I also purchased a polo shirt and a keychain flashlight. 

Materialism is an idol just the same.  I just watched a video clip where a man is telling another man they already have 4 smartphones, 3 tablets, 2 flat screens or something like that (you catch my drift) and the man is worried about security for all these items.  That’s just the thing.  We become obsessed over the wrong agenda.  Jesus told us to store treasures for ourselves up in heaven where moths and rust would not destroy.  We have come to a point where we value things more than we value the condition of a lost soul. 

It is so easy for the church to buy into this trap.  We adopt a consumer mentality and then the focus comes on pleasing ourselves.  But wait a second…..life can’t be a commercial and neither can church.  Think about it.  As much as we detest commercials, they only last for a brief second.  We pass by a billboard, hear a 30 second radio ad, etc.  But life isn’t like that.  Life has meaning.  Unlike TV shows such as Seinfield and Frasier whose shows were all about the meaningless of life, the Bible says we sow what we reap.  That is why one person can sow eternal life and another eternal destruction.  And as for the Church…..Jesus told Peter he was the rock and that on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (MT. 16:18).  According to Jesus, the Church was not an afterthought. 

Let’s become like Josiah (read my blog entry entitled “Gospel Recovery”) and let’s tear down the high places and idols we see warring within us.  Let’s put Jesus back in his proper place in our life!

The Land of Fantasy

We live in a world that exists within blurry lines of distinction.  Reality has become fantasy and fantasy has become reality.  I even know of a girl whose name is Anastasia.  Disney is just one means of entertainment and leisure that we enjoy in today’s society.  Other means include hunting, sports, shopping, listening to music, surfing the web, and of course watching television.  Not to say any of these distractions are wrong in themselves, but when we become oblivious to reality, something is wrong.

Reality is this life is all we have to make one decision that will affect our entire eternity.  That decision boils down to whether we will choose to follow Christ with our lives or not.  The truth is we make hundreds of choices every day that will also affect our eternity.  Reality is there is a heaven and there is a hell and many believe there are degrees found in both.  In other words, heaven will be cooler and hell will be hotter for some compared to others.  I do believe some in heaven will have more jewels in their crown than others but that when we lay our crowns at the throne of his feet, we will all be on level ground.  The Crown Jewel in Heaven will be Christ Himself, not the number of jewels in our crown.

This all begs the question as to why we spend so much of our time, thoughts, and money on the temporal.  These things will not last.  If hundreds of millions of people all around us were living in poverty and were hopeless without Christ and we had one mandate to go and share the good news with them, what should we do?  Should we add more programs, add another staff member, build another building, schedule another meeting, or should we drop all of that and do what we were commissioned to do:  GO! 

In our land of fantasy, we have become oblivious to our lost neighbors, classmates, employees, family members, and friends.  And this has occurred all at the expense of things that will not cross over from this side to the next.  Let us be honest with the Lord and confess we have become complacent over lost souls.  We have stopped praying for them and long ago we stopped kneeling and crying for them.  I will be the first to say I am guilty.  It probably wouldn’t hurt if from time to time I literally pinched myself to serve myself as a reminder to this wake up call.  We forget we really are in a cosmic battle at this very point in time where spiritual warfare is ever before us and over 7 billion lives on planet earth are at stake. 

Nowhere has the land of fantasy become more apparent than in America where the adult entertainment industry has taken over American lives.  People are consumed and addicted to this Fantasy Land and everyday it costs us our national stability as families are torn apart from the inside out.  It is high time not only to pray for lost souls but also for our country.  There is an answer in the midst of all the chaos.  His Name is still Christ and in Him rests the full gospel answer!  The gospel is not just for conversion.  It is for every area of our lives!          

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gospel Recovery!

What the nation and the church are in most need of today is a gospel recovery.  In 2 Kings 22-23, we see how things play out in a nation and a church when a gospel recovery begins.  In OT times, Israel was set up as a theocracy.  Unlike our nation today, there was no separation of church and state.  Josiah became King of Israel when he was 8 years old.  At the age of 26, the high priest reported back to Josiah that during the temple renovation process, God's Word had been found.  Can you already see what had happened.  The temple building, think of the church house today, had been given more priority than God Himself.   Finding this out, Josiah was torn on the inside.  He acted immediately and gave God's Word prominence by reading it aloud.  He then acted further on it by destroying the national and religious idols that his people had previously set up.

In other words, God's Word was first found and then given proper authority to work in the lives of God's people. As a result, real revival broke loose.  Foundational to all theology is the fact that the Word of God is without error (inerrant).  It is unblemished and the Holy Spirit superseded the scriptural inspiration process as He carried imperfect men along to write down perfectly what He spoke.  Many have attacked God's Word throughout the years but The Bible has stood the test of time.  Over 24,000 copies of ancient manuscripts have been found over the years giving the Bible surmountable external evidence as a valid and reliable historical document.

Many church members in our country seem to have not only misplaced or lost their Bible.  They seemed to have lost themselves.  On a weekly basis, 10 million Southern Baptists are unaccounted for in their worship services. Biblical illiteracy rates have skyrocketed both in and out of the church.  To further complicate things, many of those who have somehow found themselves and their Bibles do not give the Word of God the authority or the time it deserves to work in their own lives. We are malnourished at best.  The Bible itself claims to be a believer's life and a believer's food.  Bible intake is just one way a believer survives and grows.

When a person, church, or nation decides not put the Word of God in its proper place, chaos ensues.  Church discipline seems to be a relic in today's church, yet we find this practice all throughout Scripture.  The practice of church membership may be argued by some to have not been a early New Testament church criteria, but what I find worse today is how so many churches in our denomination accept anybody and everybody without giving any credence or proof from the individual of first being a fruit-bearing follower and a disciple of Christ.  And lastly, preaching has fallen on hard times.  A Pastor who is willing to preach the whole counsel of God is indeed a rarity for the American Church. When it comes to preaching and teaching God's Word, church leaders can't be beggars and choosers.  Highlighting one verse, chapter, book, or testament to the neglect of another does a disservice to God's people.

However, the neglect of getting the good news to the nations has been our greatest sin.  We have set up our church houses as attractions and destination points rather than missions mobilization units and launch pads for believers to go into the world.  We have mistaken and substituted our model of worship with the OT model which was for God's people to come to the temple against the NT mandate of sending God's people out from the church house to reach the nations. It is a sad indictment on us to see that we have only sent out .03% as missionaries out of our 16 million roll and that as a denomination only 1 penny out of every dollar given actually makes it to the line item international missions.  In essence we have done exactly what Christ commanded us not to.  We have made converts, not disciples.  So that you don't catch me quoting half a verse, hear what Jesus had to say to this in Matthew 23:15 (look it up if you don't believe me) - "Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you Hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are."             

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Where is the love?

Acts 2:42-47 is a classic passage of Scripture often used to describe what a healthy New Testament church should look like in today's world.  In the passage, we find what many call the 5 purposes or functions of a healthy church: Evangelism, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry, and Worship.  Others have substituted words like Service for Ministry or Teaching for Discipleship.  Within  the scope of church history, the Reformation marks of the church included the right administration of the sacraments and the pure preaching of the gospel.  In modern times, some have adopted the mindset that a church must have 9 marks to be considered a healthy New Testament church.  These 9 marks are discussed in detail under the topics of preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship, and leadership. 

These are all great and acceptable ways to define a healthy NT church, however, all are lacking the most important ingredient.  One can be found doing all of the above items yet not figured out what it is that is missing.  Christianity is not a checklist.  You cannot check all of the above items and say ok, everything is good.  While on earth, Jesus told the Pharisees "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life yet you refuse to come to me."  On Judgment Day, he will tell many who did good things in his name to depart from him and that he never knew them.  This is because Jesus always has and will continue to look into our hearts.  He weighs and knows our every motive. 

In this famous passage of Scripture where the early church is devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, Paul's main point goes way beyond what a healthy church is to do.  Paul gives us the how and the why!  Have you ever read this passage of Scripture and just noticed the love that was present in this community of people. They genuinely enjoyed being in each others company and more importantly in God's presence.  They considered the people sitting beside them more important than themselves.  The gospel had so much effect in their lives that they had placed others above themselves and put themselves last.

In Revelation 2:1-7, we see what it looks like for a church be considered healthy on the outside, yet Christ condemns the church for what it looks like on the inside.  He says they are to return to their first love.  Newlyweds are madly in love with one another.  How is it then after even 20 years of marriage, some couples are at each others throats?  It is because they are like the church at Ephesus.  They have forgotten their first love.  They may do the right things and even say the right things but inside, the love is missing. 

The main mark of a healthy NT church always has been and always will be love.  Without love, a person and a church is nothing.  Faith, hope, and love remain but the greatest of these is love.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  But if love is greater than faith, how much more impossible does it become in order to please God?  As I look around the world today, I ask the same question the music group Black Eyed Peas ask, "Where is the love?"  Ultimately, God is love and love in people and churches spring from the gospel activated in our lives.  Watch this music video and listen to its words:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpYeekQkAdc.  You may ask how could I show a secular video to talk about God's love.  My answer to you is that although I may not agree everything that the group has said or done, I am commanded to love them.  We are to do good to all men, believer and unbeliever alike.