Monday, October 21, 2013

The Prodigal Father

Ever read the Prodigal Son story in Scripture?  The word prodigal means lavish so we could rename this story the prodigal father as it was the father's lavish love upon his backslidden son that comes to the forefront.  This captures the gospel in a nutshell for both you and me!  God didn't send his Son to die on the cross to turn us from bad people into good people (behavior modification).  No, God sent his Son to die on the cross to turn us from dead people into alive people (spiritual transformation). 

Why then, having so much to celebrate (forgiveness of sin, eternal life, relationship with God, etc.) do we party so little as believers?  The prodigal father (representing Father God) is a party throwing father.  He threw his son a party when he came back home!  Likewise, when we come to repent of our sins and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the angels in heaven throw a party!  At the opposite end of the spectrum sits the world.  The world has so little to celebrate (whatever can be found in this temporal life) yet parties the most - Just observe a normal weekend.  When will The Church recognize that we have so much more to celebrate or party about than just meeting together and eating ham and cheese sandwiches and oreo cookies in the fellowship hall?

Captured in this great love story of the prodigal father is the fact that the Father was found "going after" his lost son.  Are we "going after" lost people - how about just one?  Until the one matters to us, the many never will.  All 7 billion people living on planet earth at this moment are valuable in God's eyes and was worth Him sending his only Son to die for their sins.  Father God showed us what it means to "go after" the one when He came running after us. 

This is a story we need to share in our postmodern culture.  Many people are at the end of their ropes and need to hear about a God in heaven who is chasing after them despite the fact that they have run away from him.  They need to hear the gospel answer for their life that their is someone who can relate to their story and who lavishes his love upon them despite their shortcomings.  Perhaps we would share the gospel more with lost people if we partied more.  Need to party?  Watch this video and get lost in the chorus!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cold Christianity

In the book of Revelation, Jesus makes reference to spitting a church out of his mouth because they were found to be neither hot or cold.  My fear is the lukewarm spirit Christ referenced matches well with the spirit found in many of our churches found in America.  Cold Christianity is simply not living out what The Bible says to be true.  It is giving verbal accent to the claims of Christ yet not seeing them at work in our own lives.  Cold Christianity is saying Jesus died for our sins yet living day to day like we will not have to give an account on the day of judgment of our every thought, word, and action.  Cold Christianity includes skipping over the reality of hell, forgetting lost people exist, and becoming so preoccupied with self to the point that truth is ignored.

Does reading this bring a reverent sense of fear in your spirit that one day we all will have to stand before a Holy God.  Are you devoted to Christ or are you devoted to the things of this world?  Is your life leading others closer to God or closer to the things of this world?  Radical Christianity (as if there were any other) is not taking a Bible and shoving it down another person's throat.  To the contrary, Radical Christianity is simply living out your life as if what the Bible contains in it is actually true.  We sometimes reference this as having a Christian worldview but what does this actually look like.  The best illustration I have heard comes from David Nasser, a well known youth speaker.  In making life decisions, we use the Bible as a sieve, sifting out everything that doesn't match with what Scripture says to be true.  Think of flour.  Flour is composed of a fine coarse material.  If it's not flour, it doesn't make it through the flour sieve.  David says we often use a coffee filter to explain this illustration but that does not adequately capture the true picture because how many times have you used a coffee filter yet found coffee grounds in the coffee you are drinking.  A sieve is much better in describing how certain life choices that are before us looked at through the lens of Scripture are completely sifted away forever.  In looking at the totality of Scripture, many of our daily choices can't even be forced through the Sieve of Scripture and must be tossed to the wind. 

In his book Radical, David Platt offers a 1 year challenge for believers to 1. Pray for the entire world 2. Read through the entire Word 3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose 4. Spend your time in another context and 5. Commit your life to a multiplying community.  Is this what a radical Christian looks like?  No doubt, these are good things to do and I am a big fan of David Platt's teachings.  However, we can't check these 5 things off a list and say that we have arrived.  Following God's Spirit is much more important in our life than checking off a list.  If you want to be a Radical Christian, simply do your diligent study in The Word and then do what it says in your life!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Political Answer

Well, here we are again.  Republicans vs. Democrats.  More name calling, blame casting, finger pointing, on and on, etc.  Both sides remain in a stalemate and the country remains in a shut down.  We are a little over 24 hours from hitting the debt ceiling and from having things go from bad to worse.  National politics are extremely important and do effect our everyday lives.  National media from both sides continue to portray the opposite side in the wrong light and move forward with their own agenda.  What should our response be as believers in Christ?  Our there lessons we can learn from our elected governed officials?  Better yet, are there lessons our national leaders can learn from us?

The Bible is God's playbook for life.  One book found in the OT in particular, I like to refer to as a Coach's handbook.  The book has 31 chapters, 1 for each day of the month!  Even Billy Graham said he read one chapter a day from this book so he would know how to treat his fellow man.  The second greatest commandment, Jesus said, was to love your neighbor as yourself.  If you have not guessed it yet, I am talking about the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs is full of principles that man can follow which will allow him or her to gain wisdom in this life in relating to people who come from different backgrounds and perspectives. 

Here are some words of wisdom that politicians and believers could both use:

Proverbs 3:29: Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
Proverbs 4:24: Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Proverbs 11:12: Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent
Proverbs 14:34: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
Proverbs 24:17: Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles
Proverbs 24:28: Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.
Proverbs 27:1:  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

30 years ago, we embodied these principles as a nation much more than we do today.  The Bible and the name Jesus Christ both had more relevance.  How nice it would be if we could return to our national roots.

Unfortunately, I think words from Proverbs 6 capture more where we find ourselves today:

"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers."

Pray that our national leaders might look up for guidance so they can learn how to relate better to others down here.  Even Jesus, when crucified, looked up in his spirit so that he could say this about those who were crucifying him, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Don't pass me by!

If Jesus were in front of you right of you, what would you do?  In Mark 5:27, a woman in need of healing expressed faith in the power of Christ and received from Him what she was seeking.  She reached out to touch the hem of His garment.  In Mark 5:34, Jesus says it was her faith that healed her and not anything magical in his clothes.

What are your expectations, your dreams, your aspirations that you have for God-sized movements to take place in your lifetime, in your city, in your nation?  If you have low expectations of Christ, don't expect anything great to come from Him.  The great missionary William Carey said, "Attempt Great Things for God, Expect Great Things From God!"  Will you be like the lady who did not let Him pass her by or will you let Him walk on by? 

E.M. Bounds in his book, The Power of Prayer, talks about how our prayers made in faith move the hand of God.  Will you take the time to tell Jesus what you would like Him to do for you?  A local pastor in our area J.D. Greer has done just that.  He said he has asked God to plant a 1000 churches out of his church, The Summit, in his lifetime, to send out 5000 missionaries from his church in his lifetime, to be able to minister in the Raleigh-Durham area for 40 years, to baptize 50,000 people in his city either in his church or the churches that his church planted in the city, to start 100 community blessing organizations that come out of his church, and to be a part of a great awakening that will effect the Raleigh-Durham area for 100 years to come. 

When Jesus sent out the apostles, He told them, "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.  And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."  Every day, it is as if Jesus is passing by our house.  In the early church days, opening your door to an apostle was like opening the door to Christ.  What Christ began to do in his earthly body (read the book of Luke), he continued to do using the early church (read the book of Acts focusing on the word "began" in Acts 1:1).  In the early church, apostles and prophets were heavily relied upon.  Today, Christ has given the church pastors, teachers, and evangelists.  How often though are these ministers overlooked or uninvited when people truly need the Lord.  I ask again, will you let Him pass you by?

Have we gone too far?

The gospel shines brightest amidst the backdrop of darkness and sin!  The last days are usually not the best days.  A cloud of unbelief and darkness will come to rest over cities in the end times.  Disbelief among the nations will increase. However, portals of God's glory will also come beaming down brighter than ever before on pockets of people in places who continue to be His Church.  I am reminded at this point of one of my favorite movies, Independence Day.  Major cities have a alien spacecraft hovering over them and at just the right time a beam of light comes lightning down on these metropolitan areas.  This light represents the attack of the aliens right before it happens.  In the same way, we see a dark cloud over our cities in the end days.  However, I believe the Church will experience times of revival like never before as the end approaches!  The gospel light will come beaming down on those found seeking His face! 

Let's go back to the founding of our great nation.  Times were tough for the early American settlers.  They faced death, persecution, and criticism.  However, they did not give in and say let's become complacent since The Lord's return must be drawing nigh.  No, they dug in and became fighters for their faith and for their country.  Where is that spirit in The Church today?  The church continues to look like the world because all too many Christians have given up the fight.  These kind of lukewarm Christians see no hope for the world and think the best thing to do is to either follow suit or isolate themselves.  They look up waiting for a return instead of looking out to help their fellow man.

God has a different view and take on things.  Yes, this postmodern - post-christian culture is a dark place in time.  The mindset from many that absolute truth does not exist or the mindset that you can believe what you want or do what you want as long as you don't impose those beliefs on others does make reaching others for Christ a harder task.  However, we as believers seek our encouragement from the One who gave us His written Word to communicate with us in times such as these.  God says in Isaiah 59:1, "The Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear."  God is keenly aware of what is happening on our planet and He is still in the saving business.  His mission will prevail!  One day, individuals from every tribe and language and people and nation will be worshipping God in His throne room!

This is why Jesus came to us and the reason He was sent.  He came to live the life we couldn't live, to die the death we deserved to die, and to rise in victory over the enemies we could not conquer - sin and death.  He died for all and this includes any kind of category you want to classify people in today!  The postmodern soul needs to know Jesus has come to give them meaning and purpose in this life.  Will you tell them today?