“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Trust?

I find it telling, during these serious economic times, that many Christians are spending more time watching CNN Money and reading the Wall Street Journal than they are praying and reading the Scriptures. I know, I know, that sounds like some type of religious prudishness, but it truly is not...

I am not oblivious, or unconcerned about the economy, but we also need to remember that our trust is not in man, but in God - a SOVEREIGN God, one who is completely in control of the situation. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." -- Psalm 20:7.

We also need to remember that many of our economic situations are caused by taking on debt that we cannot pay - an unchristian practice. I am not talking about taking a loan out - I am speaking of getting into debt up to our eyeballs, eventually causing default.

The materialistic, commercialized, greed-based mentality that pervades our society is as prevalent within the church walls as it is outside. Christian churches are filled with 'stores' nowadays that sell 'merchandise'; from pictures hand-painted by the pastor (who cares!), to gaudy trinkets and 'Jesus-junk'. I am not talking about having a place to purchase books and Bibles for the congregation, I am talking about the tawdry 'dime-store' type of venues that I have seen in several places.

And the church itself is placed deep into the debt-based environment by building colossal monoliths to the success that they have experienced. Why would one need hundreds of thousands of dollars of monitors, lights and sound? Why is it necessary to have high-dollar restaurants within the walls of the church?

We, the church, have turned Jesus' statements regarding His disciples on it's head: In John 17, Jesus says that we are not of the world - however He does not pray that we will be removed from the world - in other words, we are called to be IN the world, but not OF the world. Instead, we are now OF the world (practicing the same behaviors and mores as the lost), but not IN the world (we have separated ourselves from the very lost and dying people that we are supposed to be placed amidst, in order to shine the light of the gospel into the world!)

What do I mean? Well, we live according to the same sexual, social, and economic practices as the world does, but we do it in a 'Christian ghetto', made up of Church mega-complexes, Christian big-box stores, and Christian entertainment facilities. We go into debt the same way, we sleep around the same way, we laugh at the same trash on TV, but we do it in the safety of a Christian cocoon.

At this time in the nation's history, the Christian community ought to be shining the light of the gospel and showing that we do not trust in chariots, but in God; that we do not practice the same economic and social patterns that the rest of the world does, that we have the Truth contained within these clay jars. We ought to be living in such a manner that the truth is breaking out through us.

Now, as a final caveat - I know that many of us have gotten ourselves into debt - I have, you have, we have all heard the siren song of materialism and reacted inappropriately; but now is the time for that to change. Church, now is the time for us to rise and show the world the greatness of our God - that our contentment is found within Him, that our joy is found within Him, and that our love and care is found within Him.

What would be wonderful is to again have the church be a place where those stung by the times could come for solace, hope, love and charity; hearing the Good News of the Gospel, that there is so much more to this world than their next purchase! May we be a light to this world in which our God has placed us...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Here it is

I told you in my last post that I was going to get something off my chest. Well, here it is. In my studies, I have been doing a lot of reading about great men of the Faith - how full of grace they were, how they were known for their kindness. (John Newton comes to mind).

This has spurred me to go back into the Word (which is always a good thing), and do a bit more of an in-depth study of this. What I found, and continue to find, is disturbing to me.

Here it is: I am, many times, FAR too many times, graceless and unkind in my dealings with people. I can be contentious and self-righteous, and it is very disturbing. As I read passages, such as Romans 7, passages which used to be of comfort to me, I fear that now I only use them to rationalize that I am just as human as Paul. Sadly, this is not what my focus should be - rather, as Paul admonishes the Corinthians church to do, 1st Corinthians 9:24 -- Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, I should be running to receive the prize, NOT rationalizing, and justifying my behavior.

There are times when I feel that I started the race fairly well, but I began to slack off about halfway through it, and I would love to place blame on any number of reasons, that are not 'my fault'; but the bottom line is that this is slothfulness.

Here are a few passages that have brought me to this place of repentance and (hopefully) improvement:

1st Corinthians 9:24 - 27 -- Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1st Timothy 1:15 -- The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:8 -- Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ...

I coudl go on - but I think you get the picture - I also have read John Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and as mentioned Letters of John Newton.

My God give me the grace to continue to be conformed to the image of His Son!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hello World!

I have been absent for quite a while. It is good to see that some folks periodically stop by and see me, even when the Out to Lunch sign is hung out. :-)

I have been in a crazy state of hyperactivity as the eye situation has stabilized. The eyes have now been corrected, with glasses to, believe it or not, 20/20!! (NOTE: The above picture is of me in my new glasses). My job has picked back up to pre-surgery levels, I am traveling quite a bit, and the church has grown a bit.

My wonderful friends and family that help me shepherd the flock that Christ has entrusted to us, has gotten me into the 'hi-tech' world of burning CD's for my messages (replacing a very tired old cassette duplicating machine).

We also have a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University scheduled for a September 9th start, and we are having a Wycliffe speaker at the church sometime in the next few months.

There has been much going on with me -- I have not simply neglected this blog!

I am putting together a post about something that has been on my heart lately -- a thing that I have realized about myself that has made me really take inventory of things. It is nothing earth-shattering for the readers of this blog, I don't have some skeleton in my closet which I am going to reveal - well, actually I do, but it is not something that will make the headlines on the National Enquirer. It is just something I want to get out in the open.

Stay tuned!