Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A fine mess...


"Two men went to church on a Sunday morning.  One was a deacon and the other a closet homosexual.  The deacon called the service to order and prayed, "God, I thank you that we are a strong and growing church that is unashamed to take a stand on abortion, X-rated movies, and divorce.  We fear for our country, Lord, with all the blatant homosexuality being glamorized in the media and defended by our politicians.  I'm truly grateful for the youth ministry here and that you have taught us to be generous enough to send our teens to help rebuild a school in quake-ravaged Haiti."

Meanwhile, the gay man was sitting toward the back of the sanctuary and didn't think he was good enough even to join in the prayer.  He was so miserable over the conflicts in his heart and life that he could only whisper, as a tear rolled down his cheek, "God, have pity on me!  I am such a sinner.

Then Jesus said, "When the two men went home that day, it was the homosexual and not the deacon who was pleasing to God.  If you put yourselves above others, you will be put down.  But if you humble yourself, you will be honored."

This is Rubel Shelley's paraphrase of Luke 18:10-14 (I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian, 2011).  Yes, it offends our modern (Christian) sensibilities.  I think probably the original offended the Pharisaically modern sensibilities of the day.

Imagine, the scandal of the gospel, that sinners could be made right with God under the blood of Christ, and can continually be brought to humility and repentance until that day when the faith will be made sight.

If that is the hope we communicate, then the 25000 reasons in our county that are walking without or away because they misunderstand the gospel of peace will be drawn back by messengers (us'n's) who are transformed by the message - or, even better, have become the Message.

If we remember our first love (Jesus), we can't help but get that message out there.  But if our message is simply, "You can get socially acceptable and cleaned up by respectable society's standards," we've lost the heart of the gospel - that The One True God reached into us and said, "I want you.  I call you Sonny not because you shine, but because you are mine," (James Ford, Jr.).

So - this is not a blog about gay rights (the homosexual was repentant), church piety (the deacon was puffed up), etc, this is a blog about you and me being the transmitters of eternal hope.  Evangelism isn't a program for participants to choose, its life to the lost, and each of us were that at some point.

Grab hold anew of the life raft, and extend a hand to others!

in Christ,

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Adjusting Jesus

Ever think Christianity just doesn’t work?  Have you ever, deep down, didn’t want to share your
faith, because you weren’t sure you had any, really?

There’s a series on RightNow Media, 8 Reasons Why I am Not a Christian, that has, as its first session, a clip titled, Christianity Doesn’t Work.  It got me thinking about a couple things I want to share with you.

First, when we think about what Christianity promises – peace, blessing, hope, etc – and we compare it to our lives, we often find what we think of as Christianity to be sorely lacking.  Sufficiency?  Don’t talk to me about that when I can’t make my mortgage payment.  Peace?  In the face of my diagnosis?  And even that – why do I get sick?  I’m basically a good person.  Hope?  For what?  Heaven someday, because if there is a God, He’s letting me go through hell right here.

We wouldn’t say those things out loud, but they float around in any given Christian’s head moment by moment.  Why?  Could it be that we’ve missed the heart of the gospel?

John 3:16, you say.  Yes, but what about Matthew 4:17?  Ever heard of it?  “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”

You see, we start adjusting Jesus when He doesn’t meet our expectations, because our expectations are born of a desire for salvation without repentance.  But foundational to the gospel message is the idea of turning from our old way of life to grab hold of a new way of life.  Life without end.  But only in repentance, only in submission to God, can we find the gospel to “work”.

Now, the “work” word can be a taboo in our church culture of 2015.  It should be, if work is understood to be the means by which we gain salvation.  Jesus finished the work of salvation, but it doesn’t absolve us from following Him.  Maybe though we don’t gain salvation by work, we find our salvation in work.  Meaning and purpose come from turning from the old man and grabbing hold of the new.  But we can’t hang on to both.  Something has to give.  And that is the point of frustration for many of us who would utter in our minds, “Christianity doesn’t work.”

If you find yourself just like “everybody else”, then maybe you haven’t given your foundation adequate thought.  Maybe what’s missing is your participation in your own salvation story.  Maybe you are desiring redemption without repentance.  So while you can pray a prayer, be baptized, go to church for a month of Sunday’s, serve at a mission, etc – without repentance, you are left with empty religion.  And that, for sure, doesn’t work.

So – re-read Matthew 4:17.  Read the first 7 chapters of Matthew to get a really good feel for what is important to Jesus.  Then get on board.  You won’t do it perfect, but He has, so you are off the perfection hook.  He says repent, then tells us how to live.  Let’s do it!

Peace in Christ,