Friday, March 23, 2012

Once Again, I'm Tired

I find myself tired a lot lately.  Maybe it's a sign of my age, or just general crankiness.  I don't know.

I don't mean physically tired.  I mean mentally tired.  I mean Spiritually tired.  I mean emotionally tired.

The latest thing that is taxing me (other than taxes in general) is this:


Note: If I knew how to make that last sentence flash in neon lights, I would.  I'm totally sick and tired of being told what being a Christian means.

This came up recently as Tim Tebow again was in the news.  It seems he's always the poster child for people to decide what it does and does not mean to be a Christian, or maybe more precisely how a Christian is or is not to act.

Believe it or not, but the Bible actually has quite a bit to say on what Christianity is. But I guess actually reading the book would be too much work, so it's easier to just make up your own definitions.

Definition #1- real Christians should be more tolerant.  If God is love, then Christians should realize that everyone is just fine the way they are. 

Response: Umm, false.  In the 3rd chapter of the 1st book of the Bible (i.e. REALLY early in the book) we find this little concept called sin.  Sin is so serious that it sent the entire world into a tail spin which will not end until Christ returns.  This is a message that needs to be told!

Definition #2- if so-and-so is a Christian, they wouldn't be so "sinful."  Christians are all hypocrites because none of them are as perfect as they say they are. 

Response: Umm, once again false.  One, if you know of a Christian who calls him or herself perfect, please send them to me.  I'd love to meet someone like that!  Two, because Christians are not perfect and remain human, they will sin.  Our goal is to become less sinful, but until we reach heaven there will be times when we don't measure up.  We rely on God's grace, through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross when we sin, confess, and repent.

Definition #3- Tim Tebow (and others) should keep their faith to themselves. 

Response: The Bible teaches the Christian that we are to tell the world of the good news of Jesus Christ; that without Him you cannot know peace with God, but that through Christ you can be a son or daughter of the Almighty.  I understand that it's uncomfortable for a non-Christian to hear about Jesus.  However, that does not make it the Christian's responsibility to keep this good news away from them.  If I'm asleep during a movie, I probably don't want anyone to wake me up by yelling, "fire!"  But if it saves my life I'll be grateful.

Definition #4- Christians should all be poor.  

Response: Christians should not worship money or the things that money buys, but having money in and of itself is not sinful.  If we hoard it and don't give to the Church (as taught in the Bible), to the poor and downtrodden (as taught in the Bible) or care for our families (as taught in the Bible), then we are not living as Christians should.  But assuming that a Christian uses money in God honoring ways, if God blesses and he/she has money left over, then he/she can celebrate with a clear conscience.

I could probably go on, but by now I hope you get the point.  If you are a Christian and as tired as I am of these types of arguments, we need to ask for patience and grace to realize that the non-Christian may not be malicious.  They may just be ignorant.  If you are a non-Christian, I ask you to simply do some research before you go on the attack and tell us how we fall short of your standards for a Christian.  Honestly, your standards for my faith mean less than nothing to me anyway.  God's standards for my faith are what I need to focus on.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sustaining, Celebrating, and Starting Life

How cool would this title be if "celebrating" started with an "S"?

Remember that I'm a Pastor, and along with my ordination certificate came an obsession with alliteration.

Alliteration aside, this has been my week.

After searching the corners of my mind for a topic to address this week, I looked at my calendar to see if anything sparked an idea.  After all, part of the whole blogging experience is sharing one's life, right?

And here is what I found.  My week could be summed up by the words "sustaining, celebrating, and starting life."

Sustaining Life- this past Tuesday was our 19th wedding anniversary.  Our life may not be perfect, and maybe it's not the life YOU want, but it suits us pretty well.  And you have to admit that these days for a marriage to last 19 years it takes some pretty serious sustainability (keep an eye out for a future post on inventing words).

Nineteen years brings a lot of change, and it takes commitment to keep it going.  I gladly say that in many ways the word "commitment" seems inappropriate, as it makes it seem like I had to white-knuckle my way through, and that is far from the case.  I honestly love my wife and enjoy being around her much more than anyone else I know.  But to sustain a marriage does take commitment.  You have to remember that "til death do you part" means sticking it out through job changes (and more job changes), moves, wallpaper removal, torn up lawns, flooded basements, house additions, house sales, house purchases, wisdom teeth removals, ER visits, funerals, weddings, dog messes, dog deaths, etc., etc., etc.  What is the secret?  I'm not entirely sure, but check back with me at the end of this post.

Celebrating Life- Wednesday night/Thursday morning our church family said a final goodbye to a long-time member, servant, and brother. Deacon Ira Queener met His Lord, and I attended his visitation Wednesday night and his funeral Thursday morning.  I never had the opportunity to know Ira, as he was in failing health and resided in a nursing home when we moved down here, but there are few people in this world of which you never hear a bad word.  By all accounts, Ira was a faithful servant of Christ for many years, served anyone in need, and fully lived the life he was given.  So although his death is a somber event, in many ways his funeral was a celebration of his life.  Perhaps not in the balloon and iced cream sense of the word "celebrate", but certainly in the sense of the "we are all so glad to have known him" sense of "celebrate."

Starting Life- finally, last night we attended a fund raising dinner for Mosaic Pregnancy and Health Centers, a local facility that provides counseling and healthcare to women facing unwanted pregnancy, with the two-fold aim of sharing the gospel with them and swaying them to allow their baby to live.  The event was a very classy affair, with Pam Tebow (mother of QB Tim Tebow) acting as the keynote speaker.  Whether from Mrs. Tebow or any of the other speakers, we heard amazing stories of babies who were allowed to live, women who were helped and needs that had been miraculously provided.  I for one came away with an unbelievable awe of how powerful organizations like this can be.

So what's the common thread that has run through the tapestry of my week?  Jesus Christ.  With Christ in our marriage, we both have not just the will but the desire to love one another, not only in the good times but maybe even more so in the bad. With Christ in Ira's life, he had not only the will but the desire to serve others and make a lasting impact on those around him.  And with Christ at the center of Mosaic's ministry, they have not just the will, nor just the desire, but also the ability to reach out and help those young mothers who have been fed a line of evil nonsense that tells them their only option is abortion.

When I looked at my calendar on Monday, all I could think was "good God."  Looking back, all I can think is "what a GREAT God!"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Isn't the Gospel More Offensive?

Boy I've stepped into it lately.

At least twice I've waded into Facebook battles over the current contraception argument.

If you've missed it, in January Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced a government enforced mandate that would require all employers, including religious institutions to provide free birth control to its employees.  Predictably, the Catholic Church (and others) protested, arguing that it would force them to violate Church teaching.  Three weeks later the Administration changed its mandate to require insurance companies to cover these costs, in their view thus insulating religious institutions from being put into such positions.  When this change failed to satisfy the Church and Conservatives, the Administration deftly made the argument into pro vs anti-women rather than religious freedom vs entitlement.

And immediately the pill hit the fan.

Whatever your view on this, the question from my title remains.  Why isn't the gospel offensive enough to generate such controversy?  Why does the idea of who pays for birth control more controversial than ideas such as heaven and hell, sin and forgiveness, and religious exclusivity and tolerance?

Can it be that Christians have done such a poor job of getting the message out there that the world no longer pays attention?  Can it be that we've been so bad at explaining the truth that the world no longer believes truth exists?

I don't know the answer.  I just know that I get no arguments when I post about Jesus (even from my non-Christian friends) but I see battles reminiscent of Gettysburg when I question the facts of the birth control battle.

I'd be happy to hear any thoughts that anyone has.

Friday, March 2, 2012

God Left His Anger at the Foot of the Cross

Isn’t it funny how God speaks to us through His word?

How many times have I read the book of Colossians?  Hundreds? Thousands? Yet this morning as I sat, bible in hand, dog in lap, one phrase struck me as if it was something totally new and completely unexpected.  In my mind’s eye I almost see it like one of those news scrolls at the bottom of the TV screen.

For in (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20 ESV) 

As a worship leader, I almost always plan at least one song each Sunday that refers to the cross (and frequently several songs).  We sing of the forgiveness we find at the cross.  We sing of the power of the cross.  Yet I had never really made the connection between God’s wrath and the cross.

Now hear me out!  Intellectually I knew it.  Intellectually I believed it.  One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Romans 5:1-

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But this morning as I read, I could actually picture God’s anger dissipate with each drop of Jesus’ blood that hit the ground.  As Christ’s blood flowed out, so too did God’s wrath.

What a tragically gruesome but magically awesome thought!

As the Easter season sneaks up on us, think about this and see if maybe your worship doesn’t change.  I don’t mean switching services, but will the songs we sing (in either service) be a little bit different?  Will the gospel that we hear be a little more real?  Will the love we preach be a little more personal?

The most cruel, unjust crime ever committed calmed wrath and induced love.

Shouldn’t that impact how we look at, sing of, listen to, and talk about the cross?